Protests and proposals
Despite the intermittent rain and blistering heat, Barbadians took to the streets of Bridgetown on Saturday to voice their displeasure with the way government is handling the country’s affairs.
The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP)-led March of Disgust attracted thousands of people, despite calls from General Secretary of the governing Democratic Labour Party (DLP) George Pilgrim for citizens to boycott the event.
Concerned citizens from all walks of life and religions came out with a single agenda – to let government know they there were “fed up”. Speaker after speaker, from the young to the old, took to the platform at the rally after the march to let their voices be heard.
Pilgrim, who was criticized for his initial utterances, was further chastised when he claimed that the march had a “rent-a-crowd”.
“Based on my knowledge, people were offered money to come and march,” he said on Starcom Network’s Down to Brass Tacks programme.
“The fact that people were willing to turn up to the march and receive a gratuity for just turning up speaks [volumes] of what Barbadians should fear going into the next election,” he added.
Pilgrim had further claimed that the BLP had opened “a call centre” with paid staff to mobilize people for the march.
“The amount of people that were called [Saturday] for the march, there had to be a call centre in place. That is one thing I want to thank and congratulate the party on – assisting Barbados in reducing the unemployment figure.”
Backlash quickly followed. The article reporting Pilgrim’s comments attracted over 300 comments from readers chastising him.
“Mia Mottley does not have to bribe Bajans concerning the need to march. Bajans are fed up of you all. The only reason why they will not turn out in the thousands is because you hold the trump card over their heads of job losses through victimization,” one reader wrote.
Another blasted the government for being disrespectful to the protesters, saying Pilgrim’s comments “epitomize the contempt they have for ordinary Bajans”.
“They refuse to acknowledge the depth of their incompetence while continuing to insult our collective intelligence. Instead of trying to temper the despair felt across the country, they address our concerns condescendingly and combatively. ‘Dem Lazy Ppl’ are a total disgrace!”
“Poor George. He bears the burden of a regime that refuses to accept that it has not done well by the people of this country. He carries the tone of an unrepentant criminal, insisting to the end that his action was taken in the best interest of the victim. He is dangerous because he is driven by fear and desperation, for he is well aware that unless he can come up with some sinister master stroke, his game is up.”
The March of Disgust was not the only protest on Saturday. Women in Barbados decided they would no longer be silent about gender-based violence.
Scores of women and men answered the call of the charity Life in Leggings Caribbean Alliance to march through the streets of The City to demand an end to harassment and all forms of violence.
With chants of ‘Don’t psst at me!’, ‘Love and licks don’t mix’, and ‘My body, my rules’, they marched from through the capital before returning to Queen’s Park to hear messages of solidarity from gender rights advocates.
The spotlight was on Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler as Government wrapped up debate on the 2017/2018 Estimates.
During his presentation, he said Government projected a deficit of 4.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) this year. But he subsequently suggested the figure could be even lower.
“Our hope is, as I said at the beginning of my presentation, that we can engage in a discussion with all of the relevant authorities to ensure that we reach the targets which we’ve set ourselves, not only in relation to the 4.4 per cent of GDP in this particular Estimates document as laid out here, but that we can bring that down further so that the financing challenges associated with financing such a large deficit can be reduced to no more than about $250 million, somewhere around 2.5 per cent of GDP. “
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur suggested that “a debt refinancing obligation of that order or magnitude cannot be accomplished without the help of the international financial community”.
“There is a powerful reason for us to engage with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). We are not going to get over the debt unless there is some institutional arrangement that gives credibility to the creditors of Barbados that the Government of Barbados is not acting unilaterally on the matter.”
Readers reacted to the suggestion that Barbados needs the IMF to get it out of its financial hole.
“It looks as though the Minister of Finance and Mr Arthur already decided what the government should do. What I see happening here is that Mr Sinckler tell Mr Arthur to talk and tell the country to go to IMF . . . in order to convince the Prime Minister . . . because the Prime Minister already said that he would not be borrowing no money from the IMF. This is something that the two of them discuss. Remember, people will more listen to Mr Arthur than Sinckler,” one commenter said.
“Apart from a few economists that support the DLP, any respected member of the profession knows that this is the best option for the country at this time. There are some in our region whose situation was not as bad as ours who went to the Fund, and their economies have resurged. For the last seven years, Stuart’s stubbornness has been destroying this country. On our present course, we will get there whether we go voluntarily or are dragged kicking and screaming. The Caribbean laughing at we.”
The race to the polls is truly heating up, as the parties gear up for what should be be an exciting matchup.