Editorial: Populism and policy formulation

The immediate reversal of the day-old traffic changes at the Green Hill/Warrens carriageway by the Ministry of Transport and Works, the official explanation for which raises more than a few other questions besides, is but yet another in an embarrassing series of voltes-face by the current governing administration in relatively recent times.

These bleeps may very well justify the partisan accusation that this administration appears to be more like “Ms Murray in a hurry”, to use the vernacular, than anything else, as on no fewer than four occasions, to our recollection; there may be more, it has been compelled to reverse an earlier expressed policy decision after a public outcry on the independent radio call-in programme.

And while this praxis may signal to some that the administration is listening to the electorate, a lofty desideratum of democratic society, it also evokes the appearance of matters not being fully thought through before being publicly advanced to an unsuspecting public.

In recent months, we have had the reversal of the planning initiative that would have compelled Barbadians to leave their abodes while renovations were being carried out there, after publicly expressed disenchantment by an appreciable number of citizens. No satisfactory explanation, to our best memory, has ever been proffered for this novel and unusual policy proposal.

Before that there was the grand announcement that this would be the final year for using the Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination, the much-reviled and also much-defended Common Entrance exam, to determine placement in the island’s secondary schools for primary school children.

That this did not eventuate might reasonably be blamed on the actuality of the ongoing pandemic, but there has been an eerie silence ever since that official announcement and the traditional media pomp and circumstance of the publication of the results of this year’s exercise. We suspect that next year will find us identically circumstanced.

Another U-turn may be perceived in the disposition of the statue of Lord Nelson. After an initial outcry over the incongruous placement of that memorial in its current location, government promised to engage the nation in a discourse as to its eventual situation.

However, whether owed to the urgency of the global Black Lives Matter initiatives or the gathering local populist swell for its removal, it was unilaterally announced that the discussion had already taken place and that the statue would be removed by a stated date.

As seems traditional in Barbados, placatory political promises sap the energy from most populist agenda, and with this new proposal, the protagonists happily resigned themselves to the inevitable displacement.

However, the administration appears to have had an epiphany concerning the economic cost of its earlier proposal and, to this day, the statue remains in its original location. One thing of which we can be sure; given who we are, this debate will resurface at some time in the future and the callers and the bloggerati will once more expend their intellectual energies in advancing their respective causes.

The final instance is that of the appointment of a second Deputy Commissioner of Police with responsibility for Human Resources in the RBPF. After a legal snafu as to the legitimacy of the appointment in which the Attorney General, the Prime Minister and an independent senator proffered sharply contrasting legal opinions, this messy affair has been finally resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned.

The Green Hill traffic markings fiasco however, sits at the summit of a seemingly hurried agenda to please. Are we to accept that there is some rogue element within the relevant ministry with sufficient access to men, materials, technical skill and with the effrontery to institute traffic regulations without reference to anyone? Shambolic!

Barbados Advocate

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