Twentieth Century French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre once said that if one began by saying: “Thou shalt not lie”, there was no longer any possibility of political action.
We shall not accuse any of our political leaders, whether from the Democratic Labour Party or Barbados Labour Party, of being purveyors of untruths. But what we will accuse them of, is being the vendors of unfulfilled promises. It is a political creed that exists in every corner of the globe where mankind dwells in ordered society.
On the occasion of a general election the electorate of any nation is likely to hear more than the usual diet of political promises. Many are kept and many are left unfulfilled.
Modern Barbados has been marked a by an improvement in educational standards and access to higher learning. In the face of political promises, it is incumbent on an electorate that any acceptance of promises is made on the basis of sound analysis and world awareness.
One of the major issues of the imminent general election will undoubtedly be the economy, its handling and the prospects for the future. Both the Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party will put forward their cases on how, if given the chance, they intend to deal with the local economy and its strictures.
Of course, both parties will be making public statements with a view of offering hope to the Barbadian populace, and at the same time, ensuring that whatever remedies they propose have a purchase quality that enables them to find majority favour on February 21.
It is within this scenario that we look at what is happening in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, three countries with which our fortunes have been inextricably linked in the past, continue to be linked presently, and undoubtedly will be linked in the future.
Reports are that the US economy took its sharpest plunge in more than three years last quarter, contracting at an annual rate of 0.1 per cent and indicating a new level of vulnerability.
The economy shrank from October through December with economists attributing this to a large cut in spending, fewer exports and lagging growth in company stockpiles.
Defence spending contracted at a 22 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter and saw its biggest cut in 40 years, while business inventories sharply declined. Gross domestic product fell at a 0.1 per cent annual rate, representing a dramatic decrease from the economy’s 3.1 per cent growth rate in the third quarter.
Britain is on course for its third recession in four years after its economy shrank 0.3 per cent in the last three months of 2012. British experts state that a triple-dip recession will occur if the economy contracts again in the first quarter of this year. The economy remains 3.5 per cent below its peak in 2007 and is not expected to regain its previous level for at least another two years, making it the longest recovery in 100 years.
Experts in the Office of National Statistics indicated that a fall in manufacturing output pulled down the economy, countering a small rise in construction between October and December. The economy achieved zero growth in 2012.
Indications are that Canada’s gross domestic product is likely to grow at just below two per cent this year but external shock could send its economy into a tail-spin.
Both the International Monetary Fund and CIBC World Markets Inc. have warned Canada that it is likely to be hit with lower commodity prices, and have said that if the US goes over the fiscal cliff over the next few weeks and months, Canada will be caught in the slipstream. CIBC predicted very mediocre growth for Canada in 2013, blaming a weak world economy and an absence of important economic drivers at home.
The bank expects economic growth of 1.7 per cent in 2013. That’s down from the two per cent rate it predicted in its previous forecast. The bank also stated that housing, consumer demand and government spending were now at their limit and couldn’t come to the economy’s rescue.
The perception is that the imbalances that led to the 2008 financial crisis still remain and that governments, financial institutions and central banks around the globe are treating the symptoms and not the disease.
This is the circumstance in which 166 square miles of dependently independent Barbadian soil finds itself.
Sixty party politicians over the next two weeks, with varying degrees of articulation and finesse, will present their case for the chance to manage, or continue to manage, Barbados’ economic situation.
This will provide an ideal test as to whether the $50 million spent on education annually has the capacity to facilitate the separation of promise from lie and perhaps give the lie to Sartre’s precept.