Politics of promises

The politics of convenience, opportunism, and change are erected upon several promises. These promises are sometimes genuine, but often they can be fabricated through the generic use of propaganda and outright lies told by those with the interest to do so.

In the face of an imminent general election, Barbadians are being asked to measure or at least consider if and what were the results on account of the electorate’s endorsement given to the DLP in January 2008.

What effects have the promises for change issued by the DLP had on the politics of Barbados since January 15, 2008? Have the promises for positive change significantly altered approaches to governance and being governed in Barbados? Since 2008 has Barbados either remained much the same or have the socioeconomic situations worsened for most people?

Given that promised changes need to be capable of evaluation, how can the electorate realistically gauge differences in their lives between 2008 and 2013? Trinidadian political scientist, Selwyn Ryan, contends that “whether people respond positively or otherwise to demands for change depends in large part on whether or not they feel they stand to gain or lose when the new boxes [mechanisms] and relationships are put into place”.

Who are the winners and losers in contemporary Barbados and what are the supporting factors to the ultimate claim that things in Barbados have reached crisis proportions?

It is therefore apt to reflect on the success or failures of the DLP’s choice of mechanisms for change.

Barbadians must be afforded the chance to determine for themselves and prior to casting their votes if the DLP’s, as contained in its 2008 manifesto, were built upon less than solid foundations and lesser potential for realisation. Late 2007, Barbados was bombarded with all myriad claims that the government of the day was no longer in touch with the ordinary citizen.

The leadership of the DLP suggested in several platform and pre-election speeches that there were signs of corruption and mismanagement which were figuring in the administration of the Barbados economy under the BLP. The argument emerging from the President of the DLP in August 2007, was suggesting that things were so bad and the processes were becoming so tainted that “in any other country, a few persons, not just the minister, would be sitting on a bench awaiting trial”.

So forceful and repetitive was David Thompson in making these types of statements that he went as far as to accuse a former colleague and leader of a major administrative transgression. The matter ended up as an unnecessary no confidence debate against the said individual in Barbados’ Lower House.

What Barbadians have not yet ascertained is whether it is the things that are said that are regrettably threatening local stability and pushing against structures of good governance, or are there real issues. The DLP has been in office for more than five years and to date have not prosecuted or come close to unearthing any evidence of the pre-election claims of corruption and malfeasance by the BLP. The claims of infelicity were vehemently refuted by the BLP’s leadership then.

Even now, Prime Minister Stuart in his recent contribution to debates on the Prevention of Corruption bill indicated that while he acknowledged there was a perception that corruption takes place among politicians and public officials, he did not share such a view. Unfortunately, the gullible masses were able to feed from the political frenzy and rumour mongering that was deftly used by the DLP. No doubt both political parties revert to their share of political ignitions and incursions.

By January 15, 2008, there was a clear endorsement for a politics of change. The DLP was entrusted with the mandate to initiate policies for enhancing practices of good governance of the little paradise called Barbados. Although time waits on no man and a day in politics can be a very long time, today Barbadians are seeing first-hand that art is truly long while life is short. In fact, the DLP has come to accept the BLP’s charge that the DLP has been unable to perform on many of the promises made to the Barbadian electorate.

As has become the habit, the DLP’s response rests upon the impact of the worst recession that the world has witnessed in 100 years, although not all countries in our hemisphere or indeed the globe have suffered in the ways that Barbadians have endured. Has political, social, and economic life in Barbados been better since the entry of the DLP, and as we have now surpassed five years with the BLP in opposition?

Have things remained relatively the same with large numbers of Barbadians employed in meaningful jobs doing decent work? Have people been able to provide for their families with a high and rising cost of living? Worse yet, have the changes, if any that were instituted under the DLP, worked for a majority of Barbadians?

The sorts of changes that were promised are deeply embedded in the psyche of Barbadians because although there was the appearance of exaggeration, the idealistic nature of the promises cut across an entire nation. Many individuals and pundits are today willing to break with a “two-term” tradition by taking that extra-step and dismissing a political party that whose key tool, the MTFS, has failed to help the economy to grow or rebound to positions of prosperity evidenced up to at least 2007.

It appears that under Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, the DLP administration is anxious to govern but lack the guts, decisiveness, and presence of mind to govern. A clear case in point is the retreat taken by the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and other ministers regarding the necessary restructuring, resizing, and divestment debates. The tragedy of engaging in politics of camouflage as practised by the DLP for a period that has now entered its sixth year also affirms accusation of incompetence existing among elements in this crop of DLP politicians.

How can a DLP regime, in treating to the difficult circumstances of today, suggests as it is doing, that the Barbados Government’s hands are tied; and that the DLP must wait and see how other countries in the global arena are responding and/or recovering from macroeconomic difficulties?

It is ludicrous for the DLP to fathom excuses and blame for more than five years, rather than had been proactive in ensuring that Barbados achieved more than 0.0 per cent growth in 2012. As it is with a projected growth of 0.7 per cent for 2013, it is very doubtful that many persons would say that their lots have improved since 2007.

I believe that these persons may be better guided to consider all options rather than rush to give a government a second term in office given that the performances did not match the promises made by the DLP’s leadership and 2008 manifesto; nor did the DLP’s performances since January 2008 come close to meeting the expectations of the electorate.

Barbadians, do not be fooled or tricked! Do not be lulled by those whose tongues twist and turn rather than think and govern. We must call a spade a spade, and a joker a joker. The St. Lucian Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott, tells us in poetry: “Do not tell me the world is the same, that life is hard as stone, for I have known it when it was a flower potent, annihilating with promise.”

The daily world of struggle does not change; if you are not dealt a good hand, it means that you have to raise your level of playing and deal with the realities that you have been dealt. Sad to say, the DLP regime has failed Barbados for more than five years due to its penchant to pass rather than play; into a sixth year of governance, they continue to pass hand after hand.

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