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Future to consider

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure … than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.” Former US President, Theodore Roosevelt

Last Thursday’s election turned out to be a photo finish. The emerging results created the spectre of a cliff-hanger as it seemed at one point as if the country was veering toward the precipice of an unprecedented hung Parliament; a scenario which would have only thrilled a few.

The hard fought campaign culminated in the re-election of the Democratic Labour Party with the slimmest of parliamentary majorities. There is little doubt that the exciting prospect which unfolded during the early hours of Friday morning would have unnerved the political class.

That being said, before long it became clear that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had emerged with a renewed mandate from the people of Barbados. I would like to extend my congratulations to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the Democratic Labour Party.

You have again been entrusted with the responsibility to manage Barbados’ affairs and have been given the consent to lead Barbadians into a bright future.

As the new Government prepares to create a viable economy, a socially balanced country and a sustainable environment, many of us are mindful of the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead, as well as the threats to national development and the inherent weaknesses of the Barbados economy and its social fabric.

What is even more electrifying than the build up to last week’s election outcome is the work that lies ahead; the opportunities to be seized. The election is over. Now is the time for “all hands on deck” as our captain charts the way forward. It is encouraging to note the conciliatory tone that has already been struck by the bolstered Opposition in waiting.

Debt and deficit reduction, a paucity of economic growth, unemployment, high prices and low productivity remain the most pressing problems that the country faces. Difficult choices will have to been made. Business as usual will not suffice. Once the right policies are pursued and a climate of confidence and collaboration is created, with firm and decisive leadership, the next five years will be better than the last five.

Allegations of vote buying represent a blot on Barbados’ democracy. Such unsavoury practices ought to be banished from the social landscape of Barbados. It is reprehensible and those culpable should be held to account. We don’t need the lip service. It is time to stem the tide.

In many ways Barbadian civilisation appears to be on a trajectory of decay rather than on the frontier of enlightened maturity.

Other disappointing aspects of the 2013 general election were the conspicuous absence of a series of national debates, distasteful platform conduct and the domination of diatribes and personal vilification at the expense of honest, deliberate ventilation of the issues and solutions.

These unflattering features of our electoral process rob Bajans of their right to properly determine how their interests will be best served. The uninspiring political environment may be sublime entertainment intended for mass distraction but it reeks of wanton political immaturity.

The country is drifting too far away from its moorings. Let’s join together to pull it back and fashion the type of communities that we can be proud of. What type of Barbados do we portend to leave for our children? What will be their patrimony? Do not let the corrosive inducements of corruption take root in Barbados.

Pervasive corruption marks the unravelling of great nations as institutions are undermined and the bond of trust is broken. It is a tumultuous road to failed statehood. That is not the type of Barbados that was envisioned by our forefathers when they embarked on the independence project.

It is not the type of Barbados that was contemplated during the fight for adult suffrage or emancipation. It is not the type of Barbados that many Bajans dream of.

Barbadians of all political stripes will be grateful if the new Freudel Stuart administration offers hope of a brighter future and delivers the type of “change that we can believe in”.

Commendations are also in order for Mia Mottley on her elevation to Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. I would also like to join with Barbadians in offering my gratitude to former Prime Minister Owen Arthur for his unwavering service to the country during the last 28 years.

* Carlos R. Forte is a Commonwealth Scholar and Barbadian economist with local and international experience.

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