Politics in the Balance

(Written Wednesday 14th May 2003) 

Dear Readers:

Barbados has inherited an adversarial system of politics, which has resulted in a measure of accountability due to the tension of opposing ideas, and has served us well. However, this system lends itself to several inefficiencies. With elections being held next week, it seems an appropriate time to suggest improvements to this system.

Politicians who find themselves in opposition are paid to govern Barbados. Governing in opposition includes supporting good and improving deficient cabinet proposals, and proposing beneficial ideas for their constituents and Barbados. The inefficiencies associated with automatically opposing every cabinet proposal should be avoided. So should the un-productivity associated with keeping beneficial ideas secret for years until elections are called where they can be revealed in a manifesto.

Politicians who find themselves in power should not be ashamed to develop good ideas and policy improvements offered by the opposition, and the un-productivity associated with not sharing government information with opposition parliamentarians should be avoided.

As I listen to and read the political statements, I am concerned that so many politicians are boasting about the number of roads that they are responsible for repairing in their constituencies. I am also slightly embarrassed for such politicians. As roads age and are trafficked, they deteriorate and require maintenance. The Ministry of Public Works has a plan for building new roads and repairing and maintaining existing roads in Barbados, and they seem to be following their schedule with the resources available to them. Hence, every road in every constituency in Barbados is scheduled for repairs.

When politicians claim that they were responsible for the road repairs in their constituencies, are they admitting to influencing the process to have their road repaired ahead of schedule? Are they inadvertently boasting about indirectly depriving a more deserving community by jumping the queue? A similar concern exists for claims of installing BL&P streetlights, BWA water lines, NPC gas lines, and UDC and RDC house repairs, where persons are already being paid to schedule and carryout such work.

The question that begs an answer is: what would political candidates have to boast about during an election campaign? They could boast about their proposals to benefit their constituents and Barbados. However, they should avoid making hasty promises that may tempt voters because of the short-term benefits, but which are unsustainable for Barbados. Sustainable proposals can come from their well-designed plans to:

· improve existing infrastructure;
· build new infrastructure;
· improve the efficiency in the delivery of various government services;
· improve the effectiveness of various government services;
· facilitate further growth in the national economy;
· improve the management of conflict within the community;
· influence the regional and international community on sustainable management practices including governance.

There are political candidates in both political parties who seem to understand the benefits of a less adversarial system of politics. I would like to take this opportunity to recognise one candidate from each political party whom I have interviewed and who appear to have the potential to pursue a less adversarial approach to politics.

The first is Lynette Eastmond, who has demonstrated the capacity to direct workable trade related policies for the benefit of Barbados as we prepare to face the challenges of world trade with limited protective trade barriers. She has a refreshing commonsense approach to a range of issues, which should be a benefit to any Ministry to which she is assigned. Her greatest assets include her approachable manner, willingness to seriously consider opposing views, and articulation in explaining how conflicting views can be effectively resolved without compromising her responsible principles.

The second candidate is an Engineer and a businessman. Richard Sealy understands the challenges of having to complete work by a deadline while continuously looking for new work to support his employees. He shares an unselfish vision for Barbados, and seems to understand the basic infrastructure required to support a service based economy. He also appears to be guided by responsible principles.

I wish these two candidates well, and I hope that their presence in parliament will lead to a less adversarial system of government for the benefit of us all.

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