Typically in this column, I would focus on regional and international developments and zero in on the implications for Barbados and the wider Caribbean. While that perspective remains the overall objective of the column, the multiplicity of serious issues taking place at some points in time make it impossible to single out any one area for focus. And that is precisely my experience this week, forcing me therefore to address several important developments that should be areas of major concerns for all and sundry.
First, the Obama Administration in the United States is facing major challenges on two important issues; namely, the attack in Benghazi last year that resulted in the death of the then American Ambassador to Libya and three other officials and the ongoing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scandal involving the targeting of conservative groups in the country for special auditing.
Quite simply, these two issues clearly raise the question of honesty in government and the need for transparency and accountability in public administration. Logically, stories like these will always take on lives of their own. Hence, any attempt to mislead the public or hide critical information will always work against the best interest of those in authority. Therefore, honesty in government implies that the truth must and should be told at all times, especially when it comes to issues of significant magnitudes.
How often in the Caribbean have we heard governments trying desperately to sell the public stories that do not add up? How often have we seen governments given the opportunity to speak the truth about the current state of our economies but fail to do so? How many times have we heard governments denying reports of activities that eventually turn out to be absolutely true? If governments are elected to serve the people, then, they ought to do so all the time. Being honest with the people on all issues is a perfect place to start.
Second, as the hurricane season approaches, we in Barbados and the wider Caribbean would be well-advised to learn from the current experiences in the United States particularly as it relates to the massive destruction brought on by the recent Tornadoes in Oklahoma. After all, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes and other forms of natural disasters will greet us from time to time and there is nothing we could do to prevent such occurrences.
However, we do have a key option at our disposal—preparedness. To me, being prepared should incorporate several critical elements including early warning signals where possible, effective response mechanisms to face the aftermath of the disaster, and financial backing to assist those in desperate need of assistance following their harrowing experiences.
Finally, I have read a recent article by Sir Ronald Saunders in which he alluded to a number of vital issues raised by a Jamaica immigration Attorney in relation to the question of regional integration and the idea that Jamaica should remove itself from CARICOM. I am in total agreement with Sir Ronald that any such move would be counterproductive and against Jamaica’s best interest and for that matter the best interest of our regional body.
Going forward, and as we contemplate our next moves in relation to regional integration, let us never forget those nerve-jangling words from one of our greatest Caribbean leaders: “One from ten leaves zero.”
(Dr. Brian Francis, the former Permanent Secretary in the local Ministry of Finance, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at the Cave Hill Campus in Bridgetown, Barbados of the University of the West Indies)