Category Archives: Politics

No Referendum, no Republic!

No Referendum, no Republic!

I listened to our Prime Minister give an interview on ABC Australia, part of which was carried on CBC-TV news on 17 Sep 2020.  In it, the Prime Minister explained that Barbadians will not be allowed a referendum, to decide on whether they support Barbados becoming a Republic,

Our Prime Minister must know that she cannot do that.  Our Attorney General, all the lawyers in the BLP and DLP, our Governor General, and all our judges should know that she cannot do that.  Yet, she noted that she will follow NIKE and “just do it”.

Our Prime Minister is not a dictator, so she must have a proverbial ‘Ace’ up her sleeve.  In the interview, she revealed it.  She justified her approach by explaining her belief that Barbadians elected her to do it.  Let me quote her.

“We certainly campaigned on it in the manifesto, that while we committed to referendum on other issues, we did not on this one, and we made it clear that this is where we believe the country must go.”

WAS IT CLEAR?

As the leader of the third largest political party in Barbados, and on behalf of the thousands of Barbadians who voted for Solutions Barbados in the last General Election, I had to investigate this claim.  Because either I was suffering from some sort of memory loss and had to resign, or our Prime Minister inadvertently misspoke.

I reread the BLP’s 2018 Manifesto.  There was no mention of any plan to make us a Republic.  On the matter of referenda, page 45 states:

“Introducing National Dialogues, National Referenda and consulting with Barbadians on major national issues, such as the decriminalisation of recreational marijuana.”

Is changing our system of government to a Republic, not more of a major national issue than decriminalising recreational marijuana?

I then read the BLP’s 2016 Covenant of Hope.  Again, there was no plan to make us a Republic.  On the mater of referenda, Page 22 states:

“We support the use of People’s Initiatives, as well as the mechanism of Referenda, to ensure that our citizens may influence the work of our Parliament and our Executive. This permits our people, and not only Parliamentarians, to have an appropriate role in decision-making on fundamental issues affecting the stability and cohesion of our nation. This must always follow an intensive public education programme.”

If fundamentally changing our system of government to a Republic, does not qualify as a fundamental issue affecting the stability and cohesion of our nation, then what does?

WHAT WENT WRONG?

So, where could our Prime Minister have gotten the idea, that a Republic plan was in their campaign manifesto?  I decided to investigate.  I read the BLP’s 2013 Manifesto, but there is no mention of a Republic plan.  So, I read the BLP’s 2008 Manifesto, and there it was, on page 77:

“Update the Constitution Review Commission recommendations on replacing the Crown with a Barbadian President and proceed to consult the public fully by way of a referendum”

Clearly the BLP’s stated intent was to measure the public’s support, of our politicians’ desire for a Barbadian Republic, by a national referendum.  So, what happened?’

One possible explanation is that a plan to make Barbados a republic without a national referendum, was in an early draft of the BLP’s 2018 Manifesto.  Since the BLP cannot force Barbados to become a republic, that plan was abandoned.  Whatever the explanation, the BLP does not have a mandate to make us a Republic.

Without a mandate from the people to make us a Republic, the BLP needs to go back to the drawing board.  To become a Republic, there must be support from both the Government and the Public – there is no other way.  The public’s support is normally measured by a national referendum.  No referendum, no republic.

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

Note: The link to the PM’s interview follows.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-17/barbados-prime-minister-phil-williams-republic-mia-mottley/12675372?nw=0

The Will of the People.

The Will of the People.

Our Prime Minister is confidently predicting the results of the promised referendum on whether we, the people of Barbados, want a republican form of Government. There is nothing wrong with our Prime Minister expressing such confidence. She enjoys a 30-0 majority in the House of Assembly, and believes that she understands the will of the people.

Some activists are advocating that our Prime Minister should avoid getting the peoples’ consent, on such a fundamental change to our system of Government. That is highly irresponsible, and the absolute worst possible advice.

We all live on this island. If we are to become a Republic, then we should vote on the matter, and agree that the majority vote will carry. Before the vote, all sides should be given the opportunity to defend their side before the public.

Activists normally hate such democratic methods. Their arguments are normally too weak to stand up to any serious scrutiny. So, they may intimidate compromised politicians to do their biddings.

Unfortunately for them, our Prime Minister is not compromised. She has demonstrated that she serves the people, and will do things the right way. So, carry on Prime Minister, and let the discussions on the public benefits of republicanism begin.

After we make our voting choices, then we must accept the result, and do our best to promote the new Barbados. There should be no need to revisit previous discussions on this matter, since we had a fair opportunity to do so before we voted. So, all hands on deck.

If the peoples’ right to vote on their future is denied them, and we are forced into becoming a Republic, then it will likely be temporary. Another administration can justifiably undo what was done in a dictatorial manner, so that the will of the people may be properly done.

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

Run Mara Run

UPDATE 5 January 2011:

On 4 January 2010, Mara Thompson formally entered the ‘race’ by paying her deposit at the Treasury.  I do not think that anyone in Barbados expects her to lose.

I have closed the poll, which indicates that approximately 40% of those who participated thought that she should enter the ‘race’, and 60% thought that she should not.

End Update.

Perhaps I have reached a hope stage of grief, but if there is one issue in Barbados upon which Barbadians agree, it is that Mara should run.  The issue which divides us is whether she should run to, or from the responsibilities associated with replacing her late husband as the parliamentary representative for St John.  One thing is certain, having both father and husband as politicians, Mara is well prepared to count the cost of this pursuit.

Politicians eat their young

She must be aware that there are no long-term allegiances or logic to the behaviour of politicians. They can be in favour and out of favour with each other with rapidity.  Politicians in opposition deemed a former Prime Minister as highly incompetent and responsible for mismanaging the economy.  However, when they regained power, they facilitated him being knighted as a role model for us to emulate.

Politicians in cabinet deemed a former opposition leader as utterly useless in economic matters.  However, when he crossed the floor, they embraced him as a useful economic advisor.  Politicians appear to delight in damaging the reputations of persons with whom they disagree.  Therefore, Mara should run as fast and as far as she can from this type of political behaviour.

Barbados deserves better

At this stage of our development, Barbadians deserve significantly better representation in Parliament.  We deserve to hear our representatives honestly discussing the policy issues which affect us, rather than hearing them recite proposals that they appear not to understand, and cleverly attacking each other, and damaging the reputation of individuals and businesses with whom they perceive to be associated with their political opponents.

Mara is a stateswoman

Mara has consistently carried herself as a stateswoman for decades.  It is her choice whether to maintain that status, or to descend from it.  If she chooses to remain above the political mire, then her status as a stateswoman is maintained.  She can maintain her status by entering elective politics, and enunciating and defending her opinions without negatively speaking about those with whom she may disagree.

To my knowledge, Mara has no Caribbean role models to guide her.  Her political advisors only know the ‘cut and thrust’ of politics, the damaging use of political invective and innuendo, and the singular focus of getting re-elected at all costs.

At this point in our nation’s history, Mara is uniquely qualified to lead us out of this messy political environment into a responsible and enlightened type of governance.  Our parliament will not be accustomed to having a states-person in their midst, and will have to adjust.  Regardless of whether she is ignored, attacked, or emulated, I believe that Barbados can only benefit from her representation.  What do you think?  Please participate in the following poll.

Related article: Statesmen are preferred over politicians

Solving the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Over the past 40 years, proposals to end the Arab-Israeli conflict have generally specified the following two pre-conditions.

1. The Islamic nations must recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace in the region.

2. Israel must return the Gaza and West Bank areas.

These pre-conditions appear to conflict with the following aspects of Islamic and Jewish religious traditions.

1. Mohammed’s final command that only one religion must occupy the Arabian Peninsula; therefore, the Jews must leave.

2. Moses’ final command that the Israelites must occupy the Promised land, which includes Gaza and the West Bank; therefore, the Arabs must leave.

Previous proposals have largely ignored these religious traditions and have sought to apply political solutions to the symptoms of these religious issues. Islamic and Jewish political leaders are well aware that accepting their pre-condition would violate critical aspects of their respective religious traditions. Therefore, both sides appear to have negotiated in bad-faith in order to avoid the fatal consequences of making unpopular decisions.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin are reported to have been assassinated, because they were the first national leaders to formally accept the pre-conditions.  Until the religious issues are resolved, the Jewish and Islamic political leaders are essentially being forced to negotiate a compromise solution in bad-faith, because they are well aware that their respective populations will never agree to the negotiated terms.

Having studied the Arab-Israeli conflict over the past 30 years, I have found a workable solution to the conflict that resolves the religious issues and proposes an equitable political solution.  Essentially, there is compelling evidence to show that Mohammed never intended that the Jews to be driven out of Israel, and that God never intended that the Arabs be driven out of Israel.  The details are in the book: Solving the Arab-Israeli Conflict which is available on Amazon.com linked here.

_____________________________________________________

Link to:  Discussion on Brothers Kept Apart

Giving Professional Advice

Dear Readers:

The recent issue with the Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) poll and Cave Hill Associates Polling Organisation (CHAPO) poll is instructive for professionals and their Clients.  The CHAPO poll was popular, supportive of the then ruling political party, apparently backed by the University of the West Indies, and wrong.  The CADRES poll was unpopular among the then ruling political party, the pollster vilified, but the poll was accurate.

The CHAPO poll was wrong because it was based on a critical assumption which was not verified before the advice was given.  Rather than seek to subsequently verify this assumption, especially with knowledge of the CADRES poll’s stated assumptions, the CHAPO pollsters spent the time defending their poll.

All professional advice is based upon the interpretation of evidence.  Each professional is trained to examine evidence related to their professional discipline.  When interpreting evidence, professionals make various assumptions, which may or may not be correct.  Conscientious professionals normally take the time necessary to identify and verify each of their assumptions.

Sometimes a client may request that advice be provided urgently, before the professional has verified the assumptions made.  In such cases, preliminary advice is normally given, and the assumptions are subsequently checked.  If the assumptions are found to be incorrect, then the advice is withdrawn.  If the Client has acted upon the poor advice, then new advice is given in order to, inter alia, mitigate any consequential damage.

Pride should never prevent a professional from withdrawing and revising previous advice when it is found to be unsupported by the evidence.  Since professionals are liable for any quantifiable damage arising out of the advice that they give, it is imperative that all professionals be conscientious.

Regards,

Grenville

Manage what you Understand

Congratulations to the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) for securing the government.  Barbados has an unprecedented opportunity.  For the first time in our history, we have an Engineer elected to serve in Parliament on the government’s side.  Actually there are two Engineers and I am elated to the point of jubilation.

I believe that it is about time in Barbados’ development that Ministers of Government have some working knowledge of the Ministries that they are given to manage.  If persons are asked to manage what they do not understand, then they risk causing severe damage if they change policy.  These managers therefore tend to simply do nothing and allow things to continue as they were – only intervening when things are clearly out of control.  I am therefore hoping for the following political appointments.

Prime Minister – David Thompson

Attorney General – Fruendal Stuart (Lawyer)

Minister of Health – Esther Byer Suckoo (Doctor)

Minister of Public Works – Richard Sealy (Civil Engineer)

Minister of Energy – John Boyce (Mechanical Engineer)

Minister of Education – Patrick Todd (Mathematics Teacher)

Minister of Agriculture – James Paul (Agriculturist)

Minister of Sport – Ronald Jones (Educator)

Minister of Culture – Colin Spencer (Entertainer)

Minister of Economic Development – David Estwick (Doctor)

Minister of International Business – Donville Inniss (Businessman)

Minister of Housing and Lands – Michael Lashley (Lawyer)

Minister of Foreign Affairs – Denis Lowe (Clinical Psychologist)

Minister of Trade – Chris Sinckler (Trade Specialist)

Minister of Consumer Affairs – Haynesley Benn (Manager)

Minister of Tourism – Austin Husbands (Businessman)

Minister of Social Transformation – Irene Sandiford Garner (Journalist)

Of course the DLP is under no obligation to consider my selections; however, I do hope that they will accept the principle of “managing what you understand”.

Regards,

Grenville

Securing My Vote

Dear Readers:

Let me declare that I not a member or supporter of any political party.  Last election, I endorsed two politicians, one from the DLP and the other from the BLP.  This election, I only received the manifestos from the respective political parties this weekend, and have therefore had limited time to critically analyse them given that tomorrow is election day in Barbados.

Let me congratulate these two political parties on running exciting election campaigns, and for offering attractive incentive manifesto promises.  Barbados is therefore fortunate to have such a high standard of political campaigning, and essentially free of violence.

Both political organisations have put forward reasonable arguments of why they should be allowed to lead the next government. On the one hand, we have the Rt Hon Owen Arthur, who has done a remarkable job of managing the country during challenging times, and who suggests that we should trust him and his party to continue.  On the other, we have a party that has been in opposition for the past three terms and who believe that it is now their turn at the helm, since they cannot be expected to remain in opposition for perpetuity.

In order to make a decision on where to cast my vote, I had to ask myself whether there was anything that a political party could have done in order to secure it?  There were several things, and any one of them would have secured not only my vote, but my active support.  I list below my principal four.

1.  Since the party in opposition in every country always accuses the party in power of mismanagement, and since the efficient running of any business relies on the effective management of government services, then why not simply ensure that each government department complies with an effective quality management system.  Why is that such a difficult thing?  I have recommended the ISO 9001 Quality Management System for some time now, but none of the political parties have harkened.

2.  Since the party in opposition in every country always accuses the party in power of corruption, and since government corruption is of critical concern to international lending agencies, and since government corruption can guarantee its citizens a fearful, violent, and miserable existence, then effective anti-corruption legislation is required.  However, effective anti-corruption legislation in Barbados would clearly be dependant upon effective Whistleblower legislation.  Regrettably, none of the political parties have proposed the critical Whistleblower legislation which would have increased the likelihood of their anti-corruption legislation being workable.

3.  The spiral educational curriculum, which was developed in 1960 and subsequently adopted by Barbados, has proven to be a costly failure; however, we have persisted with its use.  Also, the physiological assumption upon which the decision to pursue a co-educational learning environment at secondary schools in the 1970’s was based, has been proven to be false, with damaging consequences for our male students.  Yet we have persisted with these practices despite their blatantly obvious failures, including approximately 70% of our secondary school students leaving school with little evidence of having attended – i.e. without passing any subjects.  No political party has proposed a critical review of this spiral curriculum; however, the DLP’s promise to re-examine co-education within the first 100 days is encouraging.

4.  There have been approximately 1 billion babies that have been murdered in the womb of their mothers worldwide over the past 25 years.  Not because the life of the mother was in jeopardy, or because of rape or incest, but because irresponsible persons have convinced women that they have a right to kill their babies in the womb, if they feel that caring for their babies would inconvenience them.  In my opinion, abortion for convenience, as a method of birth control, is way beyond wrong – it is evil.  Regrettably, none of the political parties have articulated their position on this practise.

Since none of the political parties has articulated their position on any of the four critical items, they have not secured my vote.  I will therefore enter the voting booth tomorrow unsure of where to cast my ballot, and do as my conscience dictates.  

Regards,

Grenville

Protecting Barbados from a Culture of Corruption

Dear Readers:

Government corruption is a major problem in many countries worldwide.  Governments who allow and engage in this practise essentially guarantee their citizens a miserable, fearful, or violent existence.  An examination of Government corruption shows that it is normally started by politicians and senior civil servants, and then becomes practised by companies and employees.

Once Government officials agree to receive bribes, then those businesses that normally do business with government, must either participate in the practise of paying bribes, or they may not survive.

Once a business has crossed that moral threshold of paying bribes, then they will likely demand that bribes be paid by those who wish to do business with them.  So the small service provider is forced to cross this critical threshold as well, and participate in this demoralizing practise.

Eventually, the cost of consumer goods and services will increase.  Consumers must therefore supplement their income in order to pay for goods and services.  Therefore, individual employees will likely demand that bribes be paid in order to give priority to specific work assignments.

The unemployed must therefore resort to violent robbery in order to obtain money to pay for all of the bribes, and responsible persons who do not participate in the corrupt practises will likely become destitute.

Government corruption is therefore started by short sighted politicians who have not learned from places like Nigeria.  Therefore in order to survive, every person must participate in the national culture of corruption.

Fighting Government corruption has become a principal concern among international funding institutions.  Many countries have enacted legislation to attempt to address this problem.  Both of our political parties have promised to introduce legislation in order to address corruption.  This is a good first step; however, the risk of it being an ineffective first step in Barbados is extremely high.

Effectively fighting Government corruption is, inter alia, dependent upon the cooperation of a senior civil servant who is aware of the practise, but who fears persecution.  Therefore, legislation to fight corruption will likely be ineffective if there is not adequate protection and incentive for those who are in a position to report corruption.It is therefore critical that Whistleblower or Disclosure Protection legislation is enacted at the same time, otherwise the problem of corruption will remain despite the proclamation of corruption fighting legislation.

Disclosure Protection legislation should include the following minimum provisions.  

  1.  A reward of 10% of any bribery money confiscated as a result of reporting a claim of corruption.

  2.  A penalty equivalent to the amount of the expected reward for any fraudulent report.

  3.  A compensation of 10 years salary to be paid by the employer for unfair dismissal resulting from reporting a legitimate claim.

 In my opinion, our political parties are interested in protecting us from the potential culture of corruption described above if they enact effective Disclosure Protection legislation.

Regards,

Grenville

Statesmen are Preferred over Politicians

Dear Readers:

Since we will shortly be choosing a Government on 15th January 2008, let me reproduce an article by Mr Lawrence Reed.  I received his permission to do so.  In my opinion, it is an excellent article and very relevant to Barbados at this time.

Regards,

Grenville

“A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” —Thomas Jefferson

The term “politician” isn’t a popular one, even with politicians. Most people would agree that to be labeled a “statesman” is a much higher compliment — and that we need fewer of the former and more of the latter. There’s a general sense that statesmen lift us up, while politicians let us down. This column will seek to foster a climate which will produce more statesmen and fewer politicians, so let’s begin with some observations about what distinguishes one from the other.

Statesmen are a big cut above politicians, who seek office for thrills or for power or because they like the attention it brings them. Some politicians are better than others, but statesmen rise above mere politics, that meat grinder of principles. The clever politician knows how to manipulate power for personal advantage, but the statesman’s allegiance is to loftier objectives.

Statesmen don’t seek public office for personal gain or attention. Like George Washington, they often are people who take time out from productive careers of accomplishment to temporarily serve the public. They don’t have to work for government because that’s all they know how to do. They stand for a principled vision, not for what they think citizens will fall for. When a statesman gets elected, he doesn’t forget the public-spirited citizens who sent him to office and become a mouthpiece for the permanent bureaucracy or some special interest that greased his campaign.

Because they seek the truth, statesmen are more likely to do what’s right than what may be politically popular at the moment. You know where they stand because they say what they mean and they mean what they say. They do not engage in class warfare, race-baiting or in other divisive or partisan tactics that pull people apart. They do not buy votes with tax dollars. They don’t make promises they can’t keep or intend to break. They take responsibility for their actions. A statesman doesn’t try to pull himself up by dragging somebody else down, and he doesn’t try to convince people they’re victims just so he can posture as their savior.

When it comes to managing public finances, statesmen prioritize. They don’t behave as though government deserves an endlessly larger share of other people’s money. They exhibit the courage to cut less important expenses to make way for more pressing ones. They don’t try to build empires. Instead, they keep government within its proper bounds and trust in what free and enterprising people can accomplish. Politicians think that they’re smart enough to plan other people’s lives; statesmen are wise enough to understand what utter folly such arrogant attitudes really are.

Have you ever felt that in spite of a long campaign and lots of speeches, you learned essentially nothing from a particular candidate? That one was a politician. I prefer the statesman: the man or woman of substance who, win or lose, had the courage to lay it out straight.

Politicians are characters, but statesmen have character. A statesman is a man or woman of integrity, honesty and candor. You actually learn something good from what he says and how he conducts himself. When a politician leaves office, he’s largely forgotten. When a statesman departs, we know we’ve lost something.

Michigan doesn’t suffer from a shortage of politicians. First and foremost, it needs a citizenry that is vigilant about the nature of government and its proper role in a free society of responsible adults. That’s the sort of citizenry that then has the wisdom to produce statesmen.

Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Why Complain in Barbados?

Barbados is, in my opinion, the best place in the world.  A beautiful landscape with fairly predictable weather, a stable government, a relatively impartial judiciary, a growing economy, a comprehensive utility network, free essential public services, and a fairly well informed population make Barbados a relatively comfortable place to live and work.

There are other countries where people are persecuted for dissention, and there is no legal recourse for harm to individuals and damage to property.  There are other countries where poverty is abject and legal economic opportunities are scarce; but not so in Barbados.  God has truly blessed this country.  So why do we complain?

We do not complain.  It had been an inaccurate description of what people do when they comment publicly.  It is very easy to dismiss legitimate criticism as complaining.  One rarely hears or reads of complaints in Barbados; however, Barbadians do identify low standards of personal behaviour, public and private sector services, and consumer products.  Why do they do this?  Because they know that we can do better.

Why don’t we do better?  Because governing appears to have evolved into a political game.  The principal criterion for making decisions appears to be political expediency, where decisions are made only when it is in the best interests of the party in power to make them.  The objective of the game is to remain in power for as long as possible.

This type of governance is understandable, since no political party wishes to relinquish power; however, the game’s one vulnerability is an informed electorate.  It is therefore a strategic error for governments to believe that they can delay doing what is right, when the electorate can see that there is no justifiable reason for the delay.

Governance Model for Developing Countries

Governments of developing countries are generally the largest supplier of services.  The most frequent charges against such governments are mismanagement of the services and corruption.  In this article we shall attempt to conceptually design a model of governance for developing countries that addresses both corruption and mismanagement.

MANAGEMENT

There are two principal components to management.  First, the persons being managed must be technically competent.  Second, these competent resources must be managed economically and effectively.

Technical Competence

To address the first component, the civil service’s entry qualifications should be among the highest in the country.  For senior posts, no less than 20 years experience and a Chartered fellow or equivalent of an internationally recognised professional association.  For junior posts, no less than 10 years relevant experience and a Chartered Member or equivalent of an internationally recognised professional association.  Their remuneration should be commensurate with their qualifications.

Standards 

The civil service should set, regulate and enforce standards of goods and services and establish corrective measures as necessary.  This should ensure that all goods and services within the developing country are of a high standard.

Critical Reviews 

Given the limited number of technical personnel that may be available, all proposals, plans, studies, and papers for national projects should be made available for public scrutiny.  This should result in significant improvements to the projects.  Developing countries are littered with unsuitable high maintenance capital works projects that unnecessarily contribute to their debt burden.

CORRUPTION 

To address the second component, every Government Department and statutory corporation should be certified to the ISO 9001 quality management standard.  Permanent Secretaries and Statuary Boards should be evaluated based on their leadership in maintaining the ISO certification.

With an efficient and effective civil service, the elected representatives can have the time to properly govern.  It should be noted that in Singapore, approximately 50 Government agencies are ISO certified including the Immigration Department, the Supreme Court, and the Airport.

Internal Revenue Audits

To address allegations of corruption, all politicians should be audited annually by the Inland Revenue Department while in office and upon retirement.  Senior civil servants should be audited a maximum of once every 5 years and upon retirement.  All income that is not declared or accounted for must be forfeited and the file turned over to the Director of Public Prosecutions where necessary.  All persons who are convicted of receiving bribes should forfeit their pension.

Avoiding Extremes

Dear Readers:

Very few people wish to be associated with persons or groups who have had their behaviour or beliefs labelled as extreme. Some popular terms that have been used to describe extreme behaviour or beliefs are: radical, far left, far right, liberal, fundamentalist, and extremist. Most people prefer to be associated with groups labelled as moderate, and for good reason.

There is a risk of negative publicity, victimization, or other forms of persecution if one is labelled as an extremist or belonging to a group classified as extreme. Labelling persons or groups as extreme is an easy and effective way of dismissing their ideas and dissuading other people from seriously considering their concerns.

People cannot define extreme positions in isolation, but in relation to other positions in a community. Communities generally decide for themselves what is normal and acceptable behaviour, and they are better equipped to determine what behaviour falls outside of the boundaries of acceptable behaviour for their community. Depending on the number and variation of positions within a community, it is possible that one person’s extreme right position may be another person’s extreme left. Even within a so-called far left group, there can be far right and far left positions. It is also possible that the community’s entire practises can be determined to be outside of another community’s boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

Therefore defining a belief, philosophy, or behaviour as extreme is a highly subjective practise with no universal rules for making the determination. It has become a mischievous tool used by irresponsible media persons, political activists, academics, and diplomats to dismiss the opinions of various individuals and groups as irrelevant.

Barbados has joined this irresponsible practise of recklessly labelling people and groups as extremist without any basis for making the assertions. It would be useful if their audience had the tools to determine for themselves what views were actually extremist using criteria that can be universally applied, rather than being influenced by one person’s subjective opinion.

Models based on principles is one method that can be used to identify a moderate position. Principals such as “harm”, and “help” can be the two extremes, and “do nothing” can be the moderate position. Testing this model reveals that the moderate position is not preferred if one’s neighbour’s house is on fire. Hence, if the community desires to be labelled moderate, then the moderate view must be the preferred option and it must lie between the two extremes. However, this model can become very complex if it could not be determined whether a short-term response would actually help or harm a community in the long term.

Another method is to define criteria for left, right, or moderate views. The main criterion can be the level of control that a state or organisation has on individuals, or the amount of responsibility that people are given to make decisions. With more state control, there can be less individual responsibility and vice versa. Both the state and the individual can make decisions that do not benefit the community and which can expose the community vulnerable to significant harm. The middle ground is one that balances both the state’s and individuals’ responsibility to the community’s good so that the consequences for significant harm to the community from both state and individual decisions are mitigated.

Both models are sensitive to changes in the political and social environment and would require monthly or sometimes weekly community surveys to determine, through public opinion, the location of the new moderate or middle position. The models are therefore impractical for universal application.

There is therefore no known working model to determine extreme or moderate views, yet persons continue to recklessly label groups as extremist. We may not consider the behaviour of some groups or individuals normal in our environment, but it may be considered normal in theirs. This is evident with some so-called “resistance” organisations the Middle East. We do not know what injustice, real or imagined, that has caused them to engage in what we may define in our community as unacceptable behaviour. Their current behaviour may not be based on facts or reason, but it may be pursued out of a perceived necessity.

What are these groups trying to say? What are their concerns? They are difficult to accurately define. For their views have been dismissed as extremist by influential persons, and their concerns have been clouded by their own propaganda efforts.

The Death of a Dream

Dear Readers:

The grandeur of it all was supposed to take your breath away in awe. The apparent size and massiveness was designed to conjure a feeling that one was in the palace of a king, that was somehow ideally suited as a home for an active family.

Every element was structural and every space was functional. The low maintenance, energy efficient, comfortable, spacious, well-ventilated house was designed to survive earthquakes and hurricanes. The 20 foot high massive structural concrete columns were hollow, and also functioned as rainwater storage tanks to comply with the applicable Town Planning requirements. The construction cost was estimated at BD$350,000.  (US$175,000)

It was my dream. Everyone is entitled to dream, and to pursue their personal capacity to prepare for any opportunities that may arise, that can enable their dreams to be fulfilled. Four university degrees and 15 years of Engineering experience facilitated that capacity. An ideal area of land on a ridge overlooking the west coast provided the opportunity. The designs were modified to accommodate the land’s unique features, and my dream was on the brink of becoming a reality. Then I received my first land tax bill.

Subsequent discussions with the Land Tax department revealed that once the house was constructed, its market value would be used to determine the land tax. The market value is the price that others might be willing to pay to purchase the property. Given the house’s location, view, size, and apparent luxury features, it was agreed that the property would probably be valued at around BD$5M, resulting in an annual land tax bill of approximately BD$40,000 (US$20,000). Interestingly enough, had I built an unimaginative box type house for the same construction cost of $350,000, it would have only attracted an annual land tax of BD$350.

Estimating the perceived market value of a building is a highly subjective and speculative exercise, in contrast with its actual replacement cost, which can be calculated with more precision. The market value is used to determine land taxes because the Land Valuation Act specifies its use. When the Land Valuation Act was drafted, a building’s market value was similar to its replacement cost, so there was no advantage to using either value. Therefore, once a person could afford to build a house of a certain value, then their land taxes should not have been burdensome.

In recent years, the relatively high demand for residential property appears to have resulted in the market value being significantly higher then the replacement cost, and the unjustness of using the market value to determine land taxes becomes apparent. Last week, the Land Tax department reported that approximately $90M of land tax was outstanding. While I am not numbered among the defaulters, the quantum of arrears may indicate that the taxes are inequitably burdensome.

If a property owner receives some monetary benefit from what others are willing to pay for the property, then the government should not be denied its fair share of the profit. Presently, there are sufficient taxes to ensure that the government receives its share of any benefits that a property owner might receive.

For example, if a property owner sold their property at the market value, then the government would receive a share of the sale price through the property transfer tax. If a property owner rented the property, and the rental cost was based on the market value, then the government would receive a share of the rent through the owners’ income tax. However, if the property owner receives no monetary benefit from the property’s market value, then to be penalized with land taxes that are based on such speculation seems unfair and unjust.

The selection of the market value to determine the land taxes may have the unintended effect of discouraging the construction of creative and low maintenance residential buildings, designed to last many generations. Paradoxically, we spend much effort in maintaining and restoring our creative historical buildings, yet the present generation of capable Barbadians are discouraged from building them.

The Land Tax department has stated their intention to continue basing their assessments on the market value in accordance with the laws of Barbados. I cannot sustain annual land tax payments of $40,000 on an Engineer’s salary. Something had to give. The dream is dead, the drawings have been archived, and the land is up for sale.

Epilogue: Since writing this article, I have built a house at BD$100/sq ft and am awaiting the Land Tax Bill.

Voting in Barbados

Dear Readers:

In May 2003, I voted to select a parliamentary representative for the fourth time in my life. However, this time my voting experience was different. While driving away from the polling station, an unexpected wave of emotion engulfed me and I struggled to understand why. Memories of the stories of people whom I had read about during this past year flooded my mind, and then I understood what was happening to me. I had, up too this point, taken my right to vote for granted.

For the first time since I became eligible to vote, the real meaning of the oft-repeated phrase “universal adult suffrage” began to dawn on me, and I began to appreciate the sacrifices made by others to secure this right for us. This phrase had a superficial meaning for me, and it did not nurture an appreciation for our system of government. It was not until I had read the historical accounts of life experiences under repressive dictatorships, while conducting research for various articles for this newspaper column, that I began to see the true worth of our system of government. Every 5 years, Barbadians get the opportunity to effectively demonstrate their confidence or lack thereof in their elected representatives, and regime change can occur in Barbados literally overnight and without violence.

The voter turnout in our recent elections was reportedly low. Perhaps active participation in the voting process would be greater if we were made fully aware of the contrasting repressive environments within which others are forced to suffer. Admittedly, such experiences may be challenging for us to relate to. We have enjoyed living under a working democracy for decades, while others have had to suffer for generations under a dictator, whose agents can forcibly remove them from their homes, and torture, rape, or kill them for any reason. We enjoy some freedom of expression, while others risk horrific consequences if anything that they do, say, or write can be interpreted to mean dissent.

I am therefore extremely grateful for our system of government. I have been writing these articles for almost one year now, and had I been living under a dictatorship, then ‘they would have come for me’ a long time ago.

Had I expressed ideas that could be interpreted as opposition to the government’s policies in Burma, China, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Laos, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe, then I would most likely have been imprisoned, mercilessly tortured, or killed. There is general consensus among human rights organisations that these nations are currently led by the world’s most repressive regimes. Incredibly, the governments of China, Cuba, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria are members of the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission – a body responsible for monitoring and condemning any human rights violations in other nations, including Barbados.

Had I written favourably about Christianity in China, Laos, North Korea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Northern Nigeria, or Egypt, then I would most likely have been imprisoned and tortured.

If I refused to convert to Islam in the African nation of Sudan, then I would most likely have been tortured and killed, and if I were a woman or a child, then I would most likely have been sold into slavery. If I practised Christianity in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, then I would most likely have been imprisoned, tortured, and sentenced to death.

The atrocities committed by repressive dictatorships around the world are well documented. What then could Barbados’ response be to such governments? There are at least three responsible actions. Firstly, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs could be mandated to try to influence responsible governance in nations led by repressive regimes.

Secondly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could warn Barbadians that they risk imprisonment, torture, and death if they try to assist persons living under repressive regimes while visiting such countries. Thirdly, the Government of Barbados could lend or increase its support for any lawful international efforts that would provide relief to our fellow human beings, who are currently being tortured or slaughtered for doing things that we do lawfully and take for granted.

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.