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A Bunch of Hypocrites

As I engage the younger generation, who we are training to manage Barbados after we have gone to the great beyond, I am normally impressed with their general boldness and ability to articulate their concerns.

I recently saw a young fellow who appeared to have just graduated from secondary school selling newspapers.  I bought one and encouraged him to keep doing the right thing.  I was impressed by his politeness.  He should do well in business, because he was selling a high-demand product in a high-trafficked location, and he was polite – which is a valuable asset.

I also encountered persons selling mangoes.  Some had no fear about explaining that they had picked them from a neighbour’s yard.  They felt justified since they did not pick all, but left some, that were harder to reach, for their neighbour.  They also felt entitled to the mangoes since they previously chased the monkeys from stealing the fruit.

They asked me what I will do about police coming into their community and taking bribes for looking the other way.  They laughed when I informed them about the Police Complaints Authority, saying that it is a joke.  I asked them whether they had ever made a complaint, and they admitted that they had not because it is a joke.  I explained that they should first make a complaint, and then observe the response before they conclude that it is joke.

They agreed that this was a rational approach, but then countered by stating that they were tired of all of the hypocrisy in Barbados.  Why is everyone preaching “do as I say but not as I do”?  They then asked some pertinent questions.

Why are obese health officials preaching that the public should not enjoy the unhealthy foods that they seem to be enjoying in abundance?  Why are people with high salaries telling those who are barely getting by to tighten their belts?  Why are people who are always drinking preaching that others should drink responsibly?

When I asked about their choice of job, they tried to justify their choice of employer.  What is the difference between having an employer who tells you to use substandard materials and methods, and having a gang lord who tells you to sell drugs?  In both cases, the employers are doing wrong, customers get hurt, and if they get caught, you will be out of a job.  So what is the real difference?

Why do the police leave the men who pay and receives bribes, and the restaurants that dilute drinks, and contractors who do bad work, and shops that sell defective products, and supermarkets that sell expired food alone, but want to arrest the fellows who are selling drugs?  How is that right?  I agreed that it was not right, and that in a Solutions Barbados administration, they would all be treated equitably.

This brings us to the political poster issue.  The Barbados Light and Power formally requested all political parties not to place posters on their poles.  One reason given is that they can seriously injure workers.  Respect for private property is a basic human right in Barbados, and is protected by our constitution.  Politicians who want to write our nation’s laws, but unashamedly violate constitutional property rights in full public view, are extremely poor examples for our youth.

Fortunately for all of us, there is an upcoming general election and an opportunity for us to select better political models for our nation’s justifiably cynical youth.  Your responsibility in this regard is to simply note every political candidate on a utility pole, and do not vote for them.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and the founder of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

Put Up or Shut Up

This is the most crucially important general election that we have ever had since our independence.  We are so much in debt that we are facing economic ruin.  If any successful political party fails to significantly improve the economy within their first year in Government, the majority of Barbadians will suffer unimaginable harm.  We are realistically looking at most of the middle-class being reduced to poverty within the next 3 years

With so much to lose in this general election, voters need to examine each Party’s economic plans.  However, that is clearly asking too much of voters who have more immediate concerns.  In recognition of this, the US has a non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that examines political plans and determines their effect on the economy.

For this critical general election, Barbados desperately needs a set of non-partisan accountants and economists who are willing to put aside their political biases, and honestly examine the effects of each Party’s plans on the national economy and society.  I am calling on the Barbados Economic Society and the Institute of Charter Accountants of Barbados to form a joint committee to do just that – for all of our sakes.

The criteria for membership of this committee should be agreed with all political parties.  The joint committee should critically examine each assumption used in each Party’s economic plans, because we cannot afford to get it wrong this time.  It is in all of our interests to know whether a Party’s plans are likely to work, and any deficiencies in a Party’s plans that need to be corrected before they are implemented on the public.

While this can serve to protect the public in some way, it is not fool proof.  Despite all political parties knowing full well that there is no more money left to pay for reckless political promises as in the past, some Parties will continue to make them, because that is the only way they know of getting elected – but this time, they know that they will be blatantly lying to the public.

Since we have run out of time for any more political games, Barbados needs a guarantee that we can return a political product if it is found to be defective.  One such method is to allow voters to recall all members of Cabinet after their first year in office, if their economic plans fails to meet the measureable improvements promised.  With this method, politicians are less likely to make reckless promises and are more likely to keep responsible ones.  It is much better to hold by-elections in those constituencies than to put Barbadians through any more unnecessary suffering.

Solutions Barbados is the only party offering to do what the other parties have not done, namely, properly manage public services, reduce our national debt, allow public workers to be promoted on merit alone, and root out corruption.  Our plans have been published for the past 2.5 years for rigorous public scrutiny, and we welcome having them scored by any non-partisan group.  It is now time for every political party contesting this important election to either ‘put up or shut up’, because we simply cannot afford anymore broken political promises.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and the founder of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

They Know Not What They Did

If there was not a clear reason to vote for Solutions Barbados in the upcoming General Election, then our recent vote at the UN should be the final straw.  Our politicians have once again recklessly put us in grave danger.

The US decided to locate their Embassy in Jerusalem.  Barbados was thinking about publically criticising that decision with our vote in UN.  So the US Ambassador, Nikki Haley, gave us citizens a clear warning. “On Thursday there will be a vote at the UN criticizing our choice. And yes, the US will be taking names.”

The warning did not seem to deter our politicians, so Ambassador Haley made her statements even more explicit.  “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out in this assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” and to ensure that we would be without excuse, she added, “We will remember it when, once again, we are called up to make the world’s largest contribution to the U.N., and we will remember it when many countries come calling on us to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

Our politicians could not be dissuaded from adamantly angering the US and potentially harming Barbados for symbolic reasons.  Ambassador Haley explained that the US will put their embassy in Jerusalem regardless of how countries voted.  She also stated “But this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN, and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN.”

While our politicians were praising themselves for their principled stand, Ambassador Haley identified the countries that would remain under their good graces – Barbados is not listed among them.  She noted “We appreciate these countries for not falling to the irresponsible ways of the United Nations” and included the following Caribbean countries: “Antigua-Barbuda, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, and Trinidad-Tobago.”

Did these Caribbean countries vote with the US?  No. They simply abstained from participating in an exercise designed to embarrass the US at the UN.  We are a friend of the US – well, perhaps until that last reckless vote.  Barbados frequently opposes positions supported by the US without our friendship being put at risk.  However, the US suggested that our friendship would be put at risk if we voted to embarrass them on this occasion.

There may come a time when all responsible Barbadians will fully accept the consequences of our politicians’ attempt to publically embarrass the US at the UN.  However, such action should only be used as a last resort when it is the only remaining option.  Because friends try moral suasion first, not international disrespect.  Further, the offence would need to be grievous, like genocide, or killing people because of ideological differences – not their decision to locate their own embassy.

Our politicians are supposed to represent our interests.  It was not in our interests for the BLP to recklessly borrow in our names to the point where our debts became unsustainable.  It is not in our interest for the DLP to have brought us to the brink of economic ruin.  It is not in our interests for our politicians to have made us one of the most economically vulnerable nations on this planet.

Other countries with our level of debt have devalued their currency long ago.  We have had 20 Government bond downgrades.  We are desperately selling every national asset of value before we will be surrendered to the IMF.  We have been blacklisted by the European Union as a tax haven.  Now, our politicians are trying to get us blacklisted by the US.  Why?  What was so important for our politicians to risk our children’s future?

Our politicians have recklessly chosen to place Barbados in a conflict that they have not demonstrated any level of understanding whatsoever.  The Arab-Israeli conflict is primarily a religious conflict, and not a political one for politicians to get themselves involved in.  It is rooted in Mohammed’s final command that “Two religions should not be allowed to remain in the peninsula of the Arabs.”

Islamists on the peninsula will never violate Mohammed’s final command, regardless of any type of political compromises that their politicians reach.  As long as the Islamic nations teach that Israel is part of the peninsula, then it does not matter what Israel does or does not do, Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state will never be accepted by the surrounding Islamic nations.

One non-military route to a sustainable solution is through meaningful discussion, by Islamic religious leaders, on whether Israel is situated outside of the geographic and political boundaries of the Arabian Peninsula.  If Barbados has a burning desire to enter this conflict, then we can play a meaningful role in this solution by facilitating such a discussion – not by putting our economically vulnerable population at risk by attempting to publically humiliate the US.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer, an analyst of history, and the founder of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

Find Redemption like Scrooge – Christmas Message

Dear Fellow Barbadians:

Sometime during the Christmas season, I normally find myself watching a movie of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.  The story describes the reactions the selfish Ebenezer Scrooge to visits by ghosts of Christmas’ past, present and future on Christmas Eve.  However, his redemption only happens after he sees the impact of his selfish actions on others in his likely future.

This Christmas, each of us need to see whether our planned actions will harm or benefit our fellow citizens.  For the first time since our independence, we can accurately predict the type of Christmas that most of our fellow Barbadians will have next year if we do not change.  That is a future with the IMF dictating our economy.  So let us get to know our planned new masters.

Before the World Wars of the last century, if a country could not repay its debts, the lender could invade the country and plunder its wealth in order to recover the debt and the cost of the invasion.  After World War 2, the principal lending nations decided to establish a bank of last resort from which indebted nations could borrow in order to repay international creditors.

As a condition of the IMF’s loan, indebted nations first had to agree to inflict severe austerity measures upon the population.  One reason is to punish citizens for electing politicians who would take out unaffordable loans in their names.

A former Prime Minister asked the now famous question “How did we get back here?”  We got back here because the last punishment was not memorable enough.  The most memorable IMF austerity measures are reserved for those countries who have run out of all good options, like us.  Guyana is another country that had run out of all good options, and their experience with the IMF is instructive.

Within one year of being surrendered to the IMF, Guyana had fallen from being one of the richest Caribbean countries to one of the poorest.  Guyana’s politicians became overseers who oversaw: a 70% devaluation of the dollar, doubling of income tax rates, a lack of supplies and maintenance parts, reduced social services, mass emigration of professionals, and 75% of the population in poverty.

Our Christmas next year may be similar because our dollar will likely devalue.  The obvious result is that everyone with a mortgage who is not earning foreign currency will likely lose their homes, our infrastructure will not be properly maintained, and the cost of imported products will be unaffordable for most.

Like Scrooge, we can ask “Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be?”  We can also learn from Scrooge’s insight that if you do not change your behaviour, then your future is predictable.  However, you can change an undesirable future by changing your behaviour now.

If you thought that your only option was to vote for severe austerity for your fellow Barbadians, then be assured that you can vote for Solutions instead.  Austerity can be avoided by: reducing taxes, depoliticising the public services, rooting out corruption, and properly managing public services.

All Barbadians can finally experience: a fair economy where everyone can participate based on merit and not whom they know; good quality public services delivered in a timely manner; and significantly more income left after paying their normal monthly expenses.  If you truly want to give all Barbadians that bright future next Christmas, then vote to give them Solutions, and not austerity.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and the founder of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

The First Domino has Fallen

The Government has decided that after 3 years of sewage problems in Worthing, the solution was beyond the capabilities of the Barbados Water Authority.  This is not surprising.  The Government has been degrading Engineering posts for some time.

Barbados came to a crossroads over 40 years ago.  We could have continued with our highly professional civil service that others wanted to copy, or we could copy the example of failed states and politicise ours.  Our politicians chose to politicise it.  But it was the degrading of the engineering posts that was most harmful.

The Government started putting non-engineers in engineering posts.  When Engineers complained, our politicians permanently solved this problem by abolishing all engineering posts and creating a new post called Technical Officer.  This is a root cause of Barbados’ poorly designed and high maintenance infrastructure.  Barbados needs to care about the professional development of public sector Engineers, since their work affects us all.  They can demonstrate this care by facilitating their route to Chartership.

The Ministry of public works used to have 6 Chartered Engineers, who ensured the proper design and maintenance of our roads and drainage systems.  Barbados’ water authority used to have 3 Chartered Engineers, who ensured the proper design and maintenance of our water and wastewater systems.  By 2004, there was not a single Chartered Engineer in the entire public service of Barbados.

A modern Barbados needs highly qualified Engineers to ensure that our infrastructure is designed to be as low-maintenance as possible, economically constructed with no defects, and effectively maintained to avoid customer complaints.  Without this professional management, we can expect intolerable infrastructure maintenance problems as a natural result.  This brings us to the sewage problems that have been affecting Worthing for the past 3 years.

The Government had two good options for quickly identifying and proposing a solution to the sewage problems.  They could have invited Engineers, both from within and outside of Barbados to tender for the engineering work, or they could have invited the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers to participate in the problem-solving process.

The Government chose to engage the services of consultants.  However, the final insult was to disqualify all Barbadian Engineers from tendering for the work, and exclusively select foreign consultants to solve a very simple problem.

The Auditor General keeps complaining about the audited accounts not being completed.  These accounts can be completed by any member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados.   How would accountants feel if the Government disqualified all of them from tendering for this work, and then engaged the services of a foreign consultant to displace them?

I am sure that all professions in Barbados would reasonably expect the Government, who is supposed to represent our interests, to include local professionals in the tender for any tax-payer funded work.  The Government should never be handing out no-bid contracts exclusively to foreign consultants in 2017 – we are no longer a colony.

Are the foreign consultants who have unfairly displaced Barbadian Engineers in this no-bid service to blame?  Of course not.  They are simply engaged to perform a service, completely oblivious to the harmful consequences of their engagement.  Persons who care only about their fees and nothing else are called mercenaries.

Since the Government has now embraced this path, then all professionals, especially those not yet targeted, should be very concerned.  If they choose to keep silent now, then when they are inevitably targeted, they will be no one left to speak for them.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and the founder of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com