At times when we are deciding about key investments, each of us instinctively wants to be assured that the object of our investment is the “real deal”. The bigger the investment the greater the concern about authenticity. Most definitions of “authentic” include: genuine, undisputed origin, worthy of trust, verified, accurate and reliable. As these elements are verifiably present, our conviction to act is fortified and competing options subside.
The Barbados government has placed the retrenchment of 3000 public sector employees at the forefront of its plan for economic recovery. It has also called for the private sector to do more and for the general populace to express greater confidence in our ability to prevail. Beyond that, budgetary priorities include many initiatives that require substantial capital outlays. In true Barbadian fashion, there are robust discussions as to whether or not this approach is worthy of trust. The investment each of us is being asked to make is what to do with our time, talent and treasure. The handling of the retrenchment seems to be the current litmus test.
While it is unrealistic to expect the government (elected leaders and senior bureaucrats and technocrats) to have all the answers, authenticity is at risk when there is no transparent, non-political, decision-making criteria. So far there has been no direct, unambiguous explanation of how this action will make authentic contributions to changing our economic and governance issues. To what extent does this approach represent a recognition of the need for a change to a more efficient and productive public sector? What comfort can the private sector and the public take that this actual represents something upon which to build?
Cabinet members have publicly called for workers to be more productive and give a fair days work for a fair days pay. This has been echoed by private sector employers, the clergy and the general public. Media reports, speculative as they can be, indicate a pattern of targeting persons on the low-end, non-permanent persons who may have obtained a job through political patronage. Next, those eligible for retirement, whose pay-outs are likely to be substantial. Finally, and most striking, according to union leaders’ criteria, should be those on the verge of being fired for poor performance. Overall, there is a proviso that sole bread-winners should be spared. The implied policy is that public sector employment is a key component of the social safety net.
If this is an accurate description of the evidence before us; it clearly suggests that the oft-mooted public sector reform is again deferred and that the underlying principle is that everyone deserves to have a job. If this is the case, meritocracy and authenticity are secondary considerations at best. It also suggests a cosmetic exercise awaiting a dramatic return to the market dynamics that obtained when this model might have worked. The basis for this kind of approach has long ago been discredited and a failure to grasp the nettle, accelerates our downward spiral.
While I have great empathy with those whose immediate prospects seem grim, we all know that this adversity can be overcome by increasing our own authenticity. It is a time of self-examination for everyone; including those with jobs. Our first responsibility is to align our lives with things that are authentic and fruitful. Faith, hope and charity are the pillars of authenticity. Make sure you are connected.