Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle believes that in the interest of transparency, access to government information must become a citizen’s right and made readily available online.
She expressed this view at a panel discussion held earlier this week at the IX IDB Group Caribbean Civil Society Meeting at Hilton Barbados which focused on the topic, How civil society can strengthen transparency and reduce corruption in the Caribbean.
Also on the panel was Alexandre Meira de Rosa, IDB Vice-President for Countries, and Therese Turner-Jones, IDB Manager Caribbean Region.
The Minister answered questions from the audience, and responded to a comment by Jeanette Calder, Executive Director of the Jamaica Accountability Metre Portal.
Ms. Calder had expressed disappointment that Barbados was “not yet in a position to offer” the access to information legislation to its citizens.
Minister Caddle said government was already working on creating a platform of “open information” but acknowledged that Barbados did not have such laws in place.
She explained that in the absence of the Act, the reform had started as government had passed the Data Protection Act, and already makes information available online.
“I think that if we make information generally a right, this is in the way that we share it and the way we make it available every day…, there would be fewer requests for something called a Freedom of Information Act…. In Barbados, we have started that without so far, the need for a Freedom of Information Act.
“I think the act needs to be in place to cover those areas where there are specific sets of information that are not online and that we don’t make readily available. The act should govern the fact that the government makes a commitment to put certain information online,” she stated.
Minister Caddle stressed that she believed that with the exception of national security matters, government information should, in fact, be readily available online.
“Take for instance the matter of contracts, any contract in which we engage as the Government of Barbados, why should it be a secret?” she queried.
“So my point was that there should be a default position of almost every piece of government information, except for national security issues,” the Minister said, outlining that “government expenditure, its way of collecting revenue, [and] how much it collects, all of that should by default be made available and really a Freedom of Information request should only then be relevant in a narrow set of places.”