BARBADOS: EDITORIAL - On the reform of governance
Barbados Advocate / Home Forms & Submissions e-Edition Search form Search Main menu Home News Business Sports Columns Contact Us EDITORIAL - On the reform of governance Wed, 03/14/2018 - 12:00am Barbados1 Unarguably, it is not an issue that overtly possesses the degree of electoral "sexiness" necessary to form part of the manifesto or the platform agenda of any one of the several parties proposing to contest the upcoming general election. After all, the attention of contemporary elector, sated with the economic stringency of the past five years or more, would be more readily attuned to the blandishments of tax relief, a return to state-provided, taxpayer-funded tertiary education and the promise of a better economic future in the short term for his or her household.

And, although, as already conceded, the reform of our governance structures bears no immediately ostensible relation to an improved economy, we submit that after 50 years of the same old, it is a matter that warrants our earnest contemplation. Our thesis is that the objective of any reform in this context should be to increase the participation of the ordinary citizen in the effective governance of the affairs of state.

For instance, such mistrust as might have been bred between the citizen and the state by the recent announcement of the actual or intended disposal without reference to the public of some assets of the national patrimony, could be displaced by a constitutional requirement that such dispositions be made subject to a binding referendum of the people, a device that has not hitherto formed part of our policy administration.

Indeed, we might also question the utility of the current structural arrangements for the exercise of legislative power, with the Senate currently configured as it is under our Constitution. More voices than one have been raised in recent times as to the lopsided nature of this chamber, that is seemingly structured to ensure that the will of the governing administration is almost always complied with, at least so long as a mere majority vote is required for the affirmation of a proposed measure. This is so, despite the actuality of seven senators having been appointed by the Governor General in his or her own discretion to represent certain stipulated national interests. It is our view that an Upper Chamber that provides a more equitable balance of members more reflects the ideals of our nation than does the current configuration.

In this context, we might also consider enlarging the discretionary power of the Governor General, who is assumed to be the repository of the national interest and as standing above the partisan political fray. In appropriate situations, this office, once it retains its contemporary constitutional status, should be able to act without reference to the Cabinet and in his or her own discretion in an increased number of instances.

Finally, in the interest of good governance and transparency, we might also consider the appointment of an independent Contractor General to oversee the award and due performance of contracts for public procurement.

It is a pity that we have not sought to review our governance model after over half a century of its existence. This suggests that we believe we somehow managed to got it right the very first time in 1966 and have learnt nothing from the many hiccups along the way since.

Unfortunately, as has been the case with far too many national conversations on theses issues, the discourse soon becomes bogged down in partisan political bickering. Nowhere is this more evident than in the debate concerning our move to formal republican constitutional status, an initiative that is certain to be opposed by any opposition if proposed by the governing administration. We are beyond this, surely.

BARBADOS: EDITORIAL - On the reform of governance

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