Sunday 25th February , 2007

Ira Mathur
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How you lead your people

While Carnival raged in Trinidad and Tobago, I stood a spectator with a group of tourists at the drama in the sky.

We stood there, our feet being massaged by fine grainy sand, sunned and decked in sarong and swimsuits salted by the sea, hair matted with the breeze that came from across the islands, our gaze unwavering at the round fireball on the ocean.

It dipped, then some more and more.

“Look out for the green flash before it goes down,” I heard someone say excitedly.

It was a sunset in Barbados. I should have been holding someone’s warm hand, a child; a husband’s. Instead, I stood apart from my family momentarily, absorbed by another man.

His name is Patrick. I looked guiltily at my spouse, as if he was able to read my cheating mind.

Pink Floyd’s How I wish you were here circled my mind.

I wanted to be on holiday with our Prime Minister.

As the salty breeze stung my eyes, I wanted to ask Mr Manning, why does Barbados have the demographic profile of a developed country and we don’t?

Why does the latest UNDP Human Development Index, based on the criteria of national income, education and health, place Barbados 29th of 150 countries surveyed, and fourth among developing countries.

Why exactly are we 54th?

Mr Manning, Barbados is a 50-minute flight away, but 26 countries ahead of us in development. What do these people have that we don’t?

Why, I wanted to shout to the sky and sea, for God’s sake is the Bajan dollar so strong? How DOES this tiny population distribute its income so equitably, have a highly- developed infrastructure of highways, seaport and airport?

Massive spending

Why do they have total availability of electricity, water and telecommunications services?

Why do the Canadians invest over a quarter of a billion US dollars in their financial and service industries?

Why do they have a well-developed national security safety net for the disadvantaged?

Why do they have a “low” crime rate? And why do they have a virtual absence of social and political unrest?

How come they have all that stuff to show off about and we don’t?

Why, instead, do we have so many anxious people pitying us, asking why, with a GDP of US$90 billion, are we living like animals behind cages, where there is at least a murder a day?

The police are corrupt; there is no rule of law; idle soldiers point guns at citizens; the health care is so pathetic, people are now paying $300 to $2,000 to get a pint of blood from fellow citizens in the blood bank; over 400,000 people are functionally illiterate; and inflation is high, fuelled by massive government spending.

We have oil, gas multinationals, sand and people. They have sand and people. Yet, we are 26 countries below Barbados.

Why, then, I asked the Bajan people—the vendors, the waiters, the hoteliers, the pilots—do you have it so good? The answer was so simple it made me want to weep.

“Our government plans 20, 30, 40 years ahead for the people. We trust them. Right now we have a nationwide drive to improve service.”

I was incredulous. Their service was perfect, yet they saw the need to make it better.

I wish Mr Manning would go to Barbados incognito to relax without his entourage. And as he watches the sun dip, understand the alchemy of sand to gold.

It’s about how you lead your people.

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