Shall we move to new tools or threats?
Although it might seem that I have been given the bad end of the stick, it is my belief that I have been chosen by the Almighty and my constituents of St Philip West to work on behalf of this country. My mother always said: “Time longer than twine”, and that “The race is not for the swift but is for he that endureth”. I am resilient, and will endure.
–– Dr David Estwick on being moved from Minister of Economic Affairs to Minister of Agriculture in a Cabinet reshuffle by the late Prime Minister David Thompson.
Some of us are yet to put a fixed face on Dr David Estwick. Is he the pit bull, noise maker, spoilsport, party pooper, voice in the wilderness, man with
Well, it seems the goodly doctor won’t have to shout about his medicine for our economic ailment from outside the doors of Cabinet any more. Barring Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the collective suffering steamingly hot heads or frigidly cold feet –– or both –– Dr Estwick will get to make his PowerPoint presentation this Thursday instead. That hearing is what the Minister of Agriculture said the Prime Minister promised him.
And given that Dr Estwick seemed most uncomfortable with his own Government’s current layoffs plan during his most recent outburst, he will have a fixed face of Moses for those workers who now stand perilously on the cliff of joblessness. For the Democratic Labour Party Member of Parliament argues there are far better alternatives –– or tools, as he describes them, to deal with our economic challenges.
Six of them, which he is yet to annunciate to the public, he will put before his Cabinet colleagues this week, along with the tool of a US$5 billion sinking fund –– à la United Arab Emirates –– to service Barbados’ national debt. Dr Estwick explains that with such an arrangement on terms of four per cent for the next 30 years, Barbados could save $656 million a year in debt servicing, and spare us the International Monetary Fund-inspired austerity measures.
On face value, there is some merit to the concept; but this is politics. What’s in it for the United Arab Emirates? Apart from a low interest rate repayment, what else would the UAE expect from us? And could we freely and comfortably give it?
And what will the United States, which meddles in everybody else’s business, say about it? Even do about it? And if America did flex some muscle, would we stand up to the bullying?
But we jump the gun. We must first get past a resolution of the Government’s current dilemma as further spiked by Dr Estwick’s reasoning.
“. . . I am simply saying [Government’s strategy] is not going to cure the illness. It’s going to prolong the illness. That’s another problem. Let’s cure the illness. And [my] new tools are going to cure the illness.”
In essence, while presenting his panacea, Dr Estwick will show some inefficacy of the path the Government is now pursuing. Will the Cabinet collective take that? At the very least, that Dr Estwick would have got this far, would have indicated the Prime Minister didn’t see anything “contaminating” in the doctor.
If the majority of the Cabinet does go for Dr Estwick’s medical bag, will the Minister of Finance publicly support a policy diametrically opposed to his –– even if he cannot or would not personally agree with it? Or will he see the light on his way to Damascus?
Of course, we have some understanding where Dr Estwick will be if his Cabinet colleagues throw any cold water on his proposals.
“I have said to the Cabinet I will not be part of the retrenchment exercise. I have said to them over and over that I cannot be a hypocrite to my intellect and common sense; and if the Cabinet ignores me, then I will be true to myself.”
Political observers have questioned Dr Estwick’s lack of dissent in Parliament on issues he has obviously felt strongly about and have been against. To be fair, he was only practising Cabinet collective responsibility, a constitutional convention in governments operating under the Westminster system, in which members of that Cabinet must publicly support all governmental decisions made in Cabinet, even if they do not privately agree with them.
And this support includes voting for the Government in the House of Assembly.
Now that Dr Estwick has reached the end of his tether, and that “Cabinet collective responsibility” stands quite threatened by his most recent rant, with good purpose, those workers about to lose their jobs will say, we are left with bated breath on what kind of coming weekend we might expect.
The challenge for Dr Estwick will be to convince a taciturn group about his cure-all, and defend his credibility to boot. For Prime Minister Stuart the test will be if he indeed can retool –– in spite of his declared confidence in Mr Sinckler and his deaf ears to Mia Mottley’s threats!