“He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, my power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. – Deuteronomy 8: 16-18.
Barbadians are very proud of the some of the development made over the last 60 years. We have been able to use the arable land, our modest oil reserves, our tropical climate and, above all, our people, in a very positive way, to enhance the socio-economic well-being of the populace.
Every single Barbadian, through the compulsory education system, has the opportunity to climb to the next rung of the economic ladder, thus ensuring the possibility of each successive generation being better off than its predecessor. Nonetheless, the range of the wealth divide needs to be reduced and the average gross domestic product per capita needs to be increased. How do we go about doing this, and what role does politics have to play in this exercise?
I am not a political scientist and, hence, I do not regularly engage in political commentary in this column. I am, however, a citizen of Barbados and have the responsibility to cast a vote at the general election which is constitutionally due in less than a year, even though some political pundits would suggest that it is just around the corner. Far be it from me to predict the timing of the general election or its outcome.
In my book, the role of politicians is to provide regulatory and service functions. Regulatory – in the sense that they have the responsibility to determine policy and create the necessary laws which provide the framework for the enactment of the policy.
Service – in the sense that they must ensure that the policies are enforced, provide centralized assistance to the people of Barbados and ensure that they contribute to the reduction of the wealth divide. They also have the responsibility of promoting Barbados globally, attracting foreign direct investment and, in particular, training our people. The private sector needs the support of the politicians who form the Government of Barbados (on both sides of the political divide), so that they can efficiently develop traditional and innovative economic sectors which will propel us forward.
As we are aware, the key elements in enterprise development are the entrepreneur – with the idea; the management resources – to roll out efficient business systems and shepherding processes; and the funding – to provide the necessary financial energy to existing and emerging businesses.
Government has to be very adept at creating policies which encourage ownership and which mitigate the wealth divide. Funding is probably the most critical factor in determining the potential success of an entrepreneur; not that management is any less important but, with adequate funding, one can buy the management from overseas, if necessary. The Trade Unions must be sensitive to this development model in their quest to ensure that human resources, especially at the lower socio-economic levels, are given the opportunity to grow and participate in the wealth creation in the economy.
It is, indeed, possible, as many other countries have shown, to judicially import human resources as we need them; assign locals to these imported resources to enhance their knowledge and experience; while, at the same time, training our local people to participate in the growing economy.
Over the last six years, in particular, I have been immersed in entrepreneurial and organisational development. I have concluded that, both in the public and private sectors, not enough thought has been given to the timely provision of appropriate financial resources across the board. Businesses which are already endowed with assets have an easier time than businesses which are not endowed with assets in accessing their financial needs in times of high liquidity. There are problems with bureaucracy, risk aversion, social discrimination, envy, favouritism and lack of diverse financial instruments, which are impeding progress.
We shall soon be hearing about manifestos across the party political divide and, in particular, from the governing Barbados Labour Party and the opposition Democratic Labour Party. I am informed that the hard-core voters for the BLP and DLP are almost equal and in the range of 30-40%, each, of the voting public which leaves 20%-40% floating voters.
The fact is that the party, which can convince the majority of these floating voters that their political strategies are focused on reducing the wealth divide, is the party that is going to have the leg up in the next general election. Of course, the incumbent may be said to have an advantage, especially if they are successful in convincing the public of a record of success in developing the economy. They also have to be aware of the human power syndrome which affects all of us human beings as we remain in power for lengthy periods of time.
Both parties would be well advised to note Paul Valery’s (1897-1945) definition of politics which is, “Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them.” Remember it is He who gives us the ability to produce wealth so let us all be humbled and tested so that in the end it might go well with us.