“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” – Hebrews 13:17
Last week we focused on the new political dispensation in Barbados and intimated that the voting populace, having spoken, now looks forward to good governance. On the one hand, the government has a responsibility through the Cabinet, the House of Assembly and the Senate, to refine the legal framework which underpins the governance system of the country. On the other hand, the management of this governance process must be effectively undertaken to ensure that we all stay on the track as the train of success propels us forward.
Last week, we witnessed the appointment of the Opposition Senators as well as the members of the shadow Cabinet who will debate in the Lower House of Assembly. The government also completed their slate of senate appointments which was fairly diversified in terms of experience, skill set, gender and age. It is heartening to note that the disabled community is being represented. Up to the time of writing this article the Independent Senators have not been announced, but if history is anything to go by we expect that a hard core of Senators from the previous sitting will be reappointed maybe with a few new faces at the pleasure of the Governor General.
The next layers of governance, yet to be appointed, are the boards of the statutory corporations and the diplomatic corps. It is expected that the various ministers, in consultation with Cabinet, will appoint their boards very shortly. They have to achieve a balance between political appointments and effective delivery, between a clean sweep of board members and continuity, especially in boards associated with the productive sectors. The same thing is true of selection at the diplomatic level, but as I have pointed out before, it is important to select diplomats, not only on political grounds, but given the importance of access to opportunities in this globalised world, they must be able to mobilise the various Barbadian Diaspora around the world as an unexploited sector of opportunity. The Diaspora are often well entrenched in the governance system in their offshore location. They have collectively and individually accumulated significant wealth, they have a wide range of expertise and significant experience and above all they have a lasting loyalty to their island home.
It is very important that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or otherwise should leverage this Diaspora opportunity to the mutual benefit of the Diaspora and position Barbados for growth and expansion on the world scene. Emerging nations such as Singapore and Ireland have flourished because of the importation of talent, often Diaspora talent and Barbados could well emulate those strategies on its journey towards first world status.
Back on the home front, the Prime Minister has cautioned about the number of consultants who support the civil service and statutory corporations in the interest of socioeconomic growth. I note that his concern is that some of those consultants seem not to have clear terms of reference, produce nothing useful but yet are a significant drain on the government’s coffers. I would exhort that the government continues to use the consulting fraternity, as part of its governance policy, but they must ensure that thy have clear terms of reference, they deliver according to these terms and are paid commensurately with the value of their work.
Traditionally, many overseas consultants have shared with us their knowledge and have contributed to the growth of our country. However there is a growing body of Barbadian and Caribbean consultants who are a product of our excellent educational system and they need to be attracted into the governance system. In the last few months there has been an interesting development in Barbados where the Caribbean Institute of Certified Management Consultants has been formed. Its mission is “to be a professional organisation that aggressively mobilizes its members to serve clients according to global standards of excellence and ethics” www.caribbeancmc.com. This body will stimulate much greater competition by local and regional consultants when vying for the consulting assignments which arise out of the governance system.
The new government has promoted the concept of constituency councils in each of the 30 constituencies. Given that there are already national social welfare agencies in place, it would seem wise that the constituency councils should focus primarily on infrastructure and systems which are for the collective good of the constituents rather than on the individual needs of the constituents. The councils should identify with needs and refer those in need to and assist them in navigating the bureaucratic maze to obtain help from the relevant agencies. The constituency budget would then be commensurately designed to perform this function, whereas the primary resources would reside in the ministries with appropriate solutions to those problems.
We must remember at all times the social partnership principle must be followed and also that monitoring and controlling is a very important function of management. In this context, the backbenchers, the opposition shadow cabinet and the people of Barbados, through the Call in Programmes, all have an important role to play.
Fostering external linkages and constituency representation must go hand in hand.