In his weekly column of last week Jeff Cumberbatch gave an insight into his reading habits and as to be expected it is varied. Those who should know suggests reading is very important because it develops the mind first and foremost. The BU household reading habits are not as varied as Jeff’s but read we must to satisfactorily contribute to the management of Barbados Underground. One Online subscription with a dog-eared bookmark to be found on BU’s bedside table is the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). Here is the link to the FAQ page for those who want to delve into the whys and wherefores of the entity.
BUers (credit: PUDRYR) who are motivated to read a few of the postings on the IDEA website the quick conclusion one can make is that democracies across the globe -including Barbados- suffer from similar challenges. Whether it is the quality of representation, exacting accountability from public officials or a system continuing to fail to address the large block of the population who have become disengaged.
It is no secret that voters around the world feel increasingly disconnected from their elected representatives – Rethinking the Crisis of Representation
There is widespread recognition that improving public services is a critical component of poverty reduction – How does accountability affect representation?
The low level of youth participation in political life is one of the biggest challenges facing representational democracy across the globe – Lowering the age limit to increase youth participation in politics
In Barbados we have successive governments who foist manifesto documents on the citizens and because they are no more than a promise; a comfort for a fool, the public continues to be challenged how to hold the political parties (class) accountable. And changing the name from manifesto to covenant of hope will not address the central issue.
One issue to illustrate the lack of accountability in the Barbados system of government is the flip flop by the incumbent government on the issue of privatization. The last general election was won (or partly) on the platform theme this government intended to spurn the suggestion that privatization must be an integral part of an economic strategy to lead the economic recovery. There has been a visible reversal by the government, no examples necessary, no need to be prolix.
The issue being prosecuted by BU is not that privatization tactics are not warranted, afterall, all else has failed. It is a matter of principle. Honourable people operate based on principled behaviour. If the government intends to co-opt a policy of privatization the honourable thing to do is to seek a mandate to avoid the accusation it duped Barbadians.
The pros and cons of privatization is a contentious one, it is not a black or white issue.
A Harvard Review Paper of 1991 defines the challenge for governments like Barbados as follows:
Overriding the privatization debate has been a disagreement over the proper role of government in a capitalist economy. Proponents view government as an unnecessary and costly drag on an otherwise efficient system; critics view government as a crucial player in a system in which efficiency can be only one of many goals.
In the case of Barbados we are being forced to adopt privatization tactics because traditional economic prescriptions continue to fail. For those who say no we point them to the reports of the global rating agencies and our own Caribbean Development Bank.
BU’s view is that in our mixed economy an integrated private and public economic policy approach must be adopted to maximize national productivity in order to sustain optimal development. To resort to a familiar adage – too far east is west. The authors of the Harvard Review Paper conclude that whether public or private ownership it is about efficiently managing resources. BU differs with the learned authors that ownership of strategic assets by a people is critical to defining their identity and ability(the subject of another blog).
The concern the BU household has is that the privatization tactic by the Barbados government – one of many economic solutions available – is compromised because of the perpetual bad state of the economy. The problem is exacerbated because a poor economy translates to rising social ills.