Trust the people

It is not a secret that this writer is an “ordinary” but “loyal” and “committed” member of the Barbados Labour Party. There is recognition that the BLP and DLP have both contributed significantly to national development. At various intervals, both political parties have had to face challenges and grab whatever opportunities that would direct Barbados’ post-Independence social and economic development.

Since my return to Barbados a couple of weeks ago, several persons (i.e. friends and relatives) have found it necessary to relay the message that “this is not a time for partisan politics in Barbados, but it is a time when everyone should come together for the good of the nation”.

Quite frankly, I could not agree more!

Yet there is a factual condition that must be considered in any quest to deflate the presence of political parties and their relevance to good governance and the management of Barbados. The fact is that Barbados’ governance structure is modelled after the Westminster-styled parliamentary system; this feature is also indicative of the deep-seated forms of polarisation that exist in Barbados. The CADRES’ conducted polls have, over the years, reported and confirmed the entrenched support on the one hand for the BLP, and on the other hand, for the DLP.

Barbadians must decidedly take a frontal approach to things happening and to the omissions that are appearing to have prevailed in Barbados for almost five years. Therefore, without reservation, this political commentator is of the view that Prime Minister Stuart’s administration has not lived up to the expectations of many Barbadians. In fairness to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, all Barbadians recognise that the Government has been faced with “the worst recession the world has seen in 100 years”.

Yet, it is equally telling that the Prime Minister and, for the most part, the entire Cabinet have been unable to lift themselves from the gloom and “bad hand” that they so like to point the nation’s reflection. The DLP has failed to boldly and proactively face the economic and financial challenges that have materialised in Barbados.

The DLP has been, more often than not, reluctant to present alternative pathways for escaping the savagery of a fast-rising cost of living, high and increasing inflation rates, growing unemployment especially within the private sector, and the gross reductions in terms of government revenues and people’s spending power. In essence, the DLP by attempting to strictly follow a Medium Fiscal Term Strategy, aided and abetted by the adaptation of IMF recommendations without the requisite contingency plans have failed to bring about relief for the Barbados economy or its peoples. Governance has been stifled by a lack of effective policy directions that could move Barbados from a position of stagnation as recently alluded to by the Governor of the Central Bank.

Conceivably, Sir Henry Forde is profoundly accurate in his assertion that “there can be no doubt that despite the international recession, Barbados’ poor economic performance since 2008 has been aided by visionless leadership, gross incompetence and outstanding mismanagement which together have brought the people of Barbados, and not for the first time, to the brink of despair under the Democratic Labour Party”.

Why is it that Barbadians are not being brought into the confidence of the Government so that collectively the nation could emerge from the austere and difficult circumstances impacting negatively on Barbadians? Why is there no robust or serious responses coming from the lead players in the Barbados government?

When the governor of the Central Bank revealed that “real economic activity is estimated to have been stagnant for the first nine months of the year”, if nothing else, this should have resonated in the minds of all Barbadians. Barbados is no longer holding strain nor is the economy stable. There is a definite downward trajectory in the economic fortunes for Barbados and Barbadians, which if not immediately halted, could easily erode all of the gains achieved inclusive of the macroeconomic base which allowed Barbados to remain as stable as it did with healthy foreign reserves left after the BLP departed office in January of 2008.

Hence, what are the internal policies and macroeconomic tools that the DLP will use in coming weeks and months to seriously address the declining economic conditions. Poverty and hardships are bludgeoning the people. I am concerned that as Worrell also contends, “net capital inflows for the private sector were lower by $125 million than for the same period last year and flows for the public sector were down $8 million, contributing to a loss of foreign exchange reserves of $108 million”.

Barbados is in serious trouble! One cannot help but speculate whether the country has reached the point of little chance to fend off devaluation of its currency given that a stubborn defence advanced by Worrell to the IMF and Lagrade became necessary a very short while ago.

Have Barbadians heard any reasonable responses or explanations from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Tourism, and/or the Minister of International Business? In the past three years or so, it is unfortunate that the DLP as an administration with a resounding mandate comes across to Barbadians as either being silent, or being beyond criticism.

This fateful scenario is notwithstanding that the Prime Minister finds it necessary to champion that the “sleeping giant” has awakened. Perhaps Barbadians will ask how long was the giant sleeping, and for how long will the giant remain alert even if awake?

Barbadians largely accepted the many propositions for change as articulated in the DLP’s 2008 Manifesto. For instance, that 2008 Manifesto which courted an abundance of promises, but to date, have been far adrift of hardly delivering any, stated that: “The DLP administration’s attitude to accountability will be based on the understanding that as servants and representatives of the people there can be no secrets or matters to be hidden from the population. Consequently, a DLP administration will be accountable for its actions and policies and take the public into its confidence.”

Does departing from a national promise of accountability and transparency indicate that there are definite attempts by the DLP to avoid criticisms? Is there a simultaneous nullifying of critical voices, by the arrogance of the DLP executive, once persons are not singing in the same choir or chanting in similar tunes shared by the current DLP-administration and its supporters?

As suggested by the Leader of the Opposition and can be attributed to many Barbadians, there is agreement with the governor of the Central Bank that “there has to be a fundamental change in the macro-economic policies being pursued by the Government of Barbados, and that an IMF type model is unlikely to get the job done for us”.

Arthur is adamant that given the tough times, and the necessary reforms that must take place in order to advance Barbados’ development which grounded to a halt in recent years, a BLP team would rather choose “to trust the people”, because in the past the BLP did so and though meeting hurdles, such things were never insurmountable.

In retrospect, Owen Arthur was and remains a decisive leader. Arthur contends that when the BLP was directing the affairs of Barbados, they “did not sit back and wait for the rest of the world to create a favourable environment within which to operate”, but rather, the BLP acted on the fundamental basis of creating a favourable environment “at home, and it was based on the notion that the Government must trust the people, and do all in its power to empower our citizens and our enterprises [in order] to maximise their contribution to the growth and development of their nation while maximising their corporate and personal welfare”.

The long and short of this article is not to tell Barbadians where or how they should cast their votes. It is however, useful that Barbadians could reflect on where they were prior to 2008, where they reached since then, and to consider if in terms of the national collective consciousness, whether Barbados can afford to continue along the pathways of the current malaise and status quo. Government must trust the people!

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