Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reshuffling The Cabinet Cards: The Game Remains The Same

The PM announced a Cabinet reshuffle last night, as indicated in this statement. The changes can be seen at a glance (courtesy of Barbados Today; click image to enlarge):

It will be a good few days of politicking as the opposition try to pick at the new shape of the Administration. I'm no political pundit so will let them have at it (see Mia Mottley's reply).

What strikes me first though is that it's an odd time to make a major change in Cabinet, just as you are about to put the budget estimates to Parliament, and those who cry 'distraction' can have a bit of free ammo.

The splitting of portfolios is also odd, but I do not know the inner workings of the government and what is needed in terms of personality management. It will be an interesting bun fight to see who can give the right messages most of the time.

In amongst the statement is news that shares in Barbados National Bank will be sold and most of the proceeds used toward funding renovations at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. I've already gone on record on that issue and applaud the PM for sticking with a commitment. I now wonder what all the hullaballo was about talking of trying to get back majority national ownership of the bank. Distraction? Different times now than a year ago.

It also strikes me that the major problems that Barbados faces are not going to be really addressed by moving around the Cabinet portfolios. Reading in today's paper alone one can see that Ministers do not matter that much: one radio entrepreneur (Terry Bent, MD of Paradise FM) recounts in the Nation (page 9A) how he has been waiting for over 85 weeks to get matters moving on his idea for tourist radio, much of that time was spent with no response from the Barbados Broadcasting Authority. This sounds like the 'let's keep quiet and maybe the bogey man will go away' approach to public service that is all about 'gate keepers' and the powers they have to block. But, it tells us something about how public and private sector do not see the national interests in the same ways. All the talk about service excellence is hot air. All the talk about concern about respect is equally hot air.

We read about the problem of school children and their unruly behaviour. That seems to be a national issue that is being addressed as if it is not to do with the perpetrators--the children (see Nation editorial, which talks about how the country has been embarrassed for over two decades by children's behaviour on their way to and from school). If they are unruly on PSVs then banning them from such vehicles merely displaces them to somewhere else. I heard on 'Brass Tacks' just yesterday stories of similar unruly behaviour on Transport Board buses: in other words unruly children are being so wherever they go, so banning music from sports events also does not address the problem of the unruly children. They will find some other way to be 'disruptive'. I also heard stories of parents who act worse than the children or seem to show little interest. Do you think we are getting close to the root of the problem. Those who raise children are amongst the main standard setters for youngsters; the rest of us have to deal with how well or poorly that job is being done. But there are also the adult facilitators, who either turn a blind eye or deaf ear to unruly behaviour. Why? Fear? How many buses pulling up to a police station would it take to give a clear message that this is one way to deal with unruliness? Now, if the police turn around and act or say that they have no interest, we can deal with that. Talk about wanting to deal with children and their ways is more hot air.

I look around at roads and see many accidents, thankfully not many involving pedestrians. But, I note that not one of the pedestrian crossings that I see has been remarked in the three years that I have lived in Barbados. Most of them I cannot see, but only know of because I have been surprised by someone stepping into the road. I wont carp on about the cost of travel for civil servants or how much it costs to put on a fete for some public event, but when I think about how government expresses its values to society, I have some very clear messages hitting me. Hot air is freely flowing. Like the water that has been pouring out of some broken water mains and seem to draw little or no immediate attention from the BWA. Trouble is hot air is only good for keeping balloons afloat, and only for a while.

I'm not sure if most people who sing the National Anthem really reflect on what it is they are saying. It's worth giving it a bit of reflection:

In plenty and in time of need
When this fair land was young
Our brave forefathers sowed the seed
From which our pride was sprung
A pride that makes no wanton boast
Of what it has withstood
That binds our hearts from coast to coast
The pride of nationhood

We loyal sons and daughters all
Do hereby make it known
These fields and hills beyond recall
Are now our very own
We write our names on history's page
With expectations great
Strict guardians of our heritage
Firm craftsmen of our fate

The Lord has been the people's guide
For past three hundred years.
With Him still on the people's side
We have no doubts or fears.
Upward and onward we shall go,
Inspired, exulting, free,
And greater will our nation grow
In strength and unity.


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