Submitted by William Skinner
The late prime Minister, Mr. Errol Barrow, singlehandedly turned the public against our public servants by declaring them “an army of occupation”. Barrow was known for literally inflicting fear in those public servants, who refused to bend to his crude form of professional and political bullying.
We are a strange country that expects to plant okra and reap peppers, even if we live outside of the Scotland district! As we developed, the need for a well educated and vibrant public service became vital to our development. Any serious objective analysis of our public service will reveal that it is perhaps, along with the growth of the trade union movement, the pillar on which modern Barbados was built.
While some may correctly point to the often ignored reports of the Auditor General, we cannot ignore that the lack of information forwarded to his office and the several negatives that he points out annually, are the result of widespread political actions and not any proven corruption, on the part of civil servants. We are quite aware that no civil servant “pushing paper” can seriously take on the political sharks known as government ministers, who have their party operatives well placed to ensure that the results they want are achieved.
It should also be obvious that by failing to reform the public sector, the political managerial class has created a service that can no longer effectively and efficiently serve the public. Hence when John or Ann Public goes to get his or her driving license renewed, they are incensed that they have to wait a couple of hours and then told to “come back” tomorrow. John Public fails to understand that the civil servants are working under archaic leadership, with equally archaic systems that should have been abandoned three decades ago.
In order to place more fire and brimstone on our public servants, the public often compares them with our private sector. This is a grievous mistake because in terms of modern management, innovation and corporate best practices, our private sector is the worst in the region. There is a reason why the Trinidadian corporate train has arrived. Our private sector is retail oriented and averse to serious risk taking. It is known as whiners and sophisticated beggars. It is only now ridding itself of proven racist practices in securing its top management. It is now abandoning all the interlocking directorships and other well known maladies with which it was afflicted since the abolition of slavery.
In a nutshell, both the public sector and the private sector are in need of progressive reform. One of the biggest mistakes made by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) was to become the concubine of the Democratic Labour Party. In many instances, that relationship has critically damaged its standing with the public.