Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It Is Not Business As Usual!

By Sojourner

The elections are behind us (or in front of us, because I think that we need to begin now in order to retain the government in 2014!). Let’s face it: The truth is that it is over and thank God, the UPP is still the government!

The other truth is that the road ahead is not going to be easy and the government, No Baldwin, the Honourable Prime Minster has some hard decisions to make. I only hope that when the decisions are made the WE the people will fling our support behind  the Prime Minister.

I remember all the banging he got during the early days of his last administration when he was attempting to make some fundamental changes. We talked about victimization, about taking bread out of people’s mouth… we talked… and yapped and yapped and yapped. I just want us to know that this time around, it cannot be things as usual! CANNOT.

The Prime Minister and the UPP have to make some real hard decisions… and he must begin with the public sector. The Public sector is packed like sardines with ALP saboteurs. They are everywhere… they are permanent secretaries, they are SEO’s, CEO’s, receptionists; they are the cleaners… they are the people at the Immigration Department, at Customs, at The Elections Office… They are everywhere.

Now I am not at all suggesting that all of the civil servants ought to be UPP supporters. To the contrary! Civil servants have the right to support whatever party they choose. That is democracy. But civil servants ought to do their jobs in a non-partisan way. They are public servants!

But the reality is that here in Antigua and Barbuda, many of the civil servants are in their positions because of political patronage. These people have never worked for any other government or any other employer and they have a ‘cultish’ loyalty to the ALP. Never mind that the vast majority of them work for pittance and have worked for a pittance because of the ALP 28 year strangle-hold on Antigua!  The Bird Government understood the Willy Lynch principle very well. What a thing, the ALP, BIRD,  using the same weapons against the people that the slave owners used. (Talk about father of the nation!).

By the way… it was the UPP who not only raised the salaries of all civil servants but gave them the back pay that Lester Bird and his government had been promising them… owing them for years… the same ALP government that they… many of them saboteured the UPP for.

The new UPP administration must clean House.  The Government gets its business done through the civil service. The civil service we have now is inefficient and works to sabotage the system. So it cannot be things as usual.

We need to begin at the top: the permanent secretaries.  Many of them must GO.  Besides many of them came up through the ranks… receptionist, typist… up, up, up and now they have reached to the level of P.S. They  have not learned a thing. Incompetent. Inefficient. Years of service does not translate into being more skilled; and to add insult to injury according to local parlance ‘dem bad minded bad!” They keep down a lot of bright energetic upstarts, they frustrate a lot of civil servants who wish to work in a professional way and who have professional training.  They have got to go.

The UPP has to make good its plans to institute public sector reform. And they have to get someone with experience outside of our corrupt, inefficient public sector to spearhead this initiative. The public sector must be guided by principles of integrity, productivity and accountability. 

There needs to be systems of performance appraisals put in place. Civil servants must be held accountable for outcomes and for output. Civil servants must begin to understand the concept of WORK and its relationship to personal development and integrity and national development.

No longer can we have four persons manning one phone… or civil servants coming into the office late and expect to have breakfast, go to lunch for an hour and come back to the office to eat lunch, sit in an office all day doing everything else except the work for which they are paid. Just think of how much money is lost to non-productivity! It cannot be business as usual.

And, the UPP government needs to provide the tools and the resources for its public sector to deliver on its mandates. It must identify the critical and strategic areas and properly align the resources needed.  To tell the truth, you wonder sometimes how come some ministries are more resourced than others... and the ones that are normally under resourced are some awfully critical ones… the ones that will help them to build better relationships, build human capacity  (remember the victory speech) of  MP for City South) about building relationships not roads!  

Additionally, the UPP government needs to concentrate on its support base- the constituency. There must be much  robust community mobilization. And it must begin NOW.  And for this effort, it is every hand on deck. It cannot be business as usual.

We are all involved, we are all consumed. There is work for everyone.

Join in the campaign to defend our country! It is not business as usual!