The good, the bad and the ugly of the Estimates
The weeklong debate on the Estimates is one that many have traditionally welcomed, if only for the simple fact that it offers important insight into Government’s spending programme for the year.
And while it has never been easy to sit through hours and hours of seemingly endless political pontification, it is becoming increasingly understandable why former Prime Minister Owen Arthur would have concluded a few years back that this present Parliament, in terms of its level of debate, is simply “poor-rakey”.
Take for instance the contribution this week of our Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett. With pressure building on the Minister of the Environment and Drainage Dr Denis Lowe to tell the country what really transpired in his Christ Church East constituency last week, after he told the country that his home was desecrated with profanity by Opposition supporters, Mr Blackett would also descend to an unprecedented low.
For surely, there are enough “legitimate” cases of child abuse that the state-run Child Care Board needs to concern itself with, instead of being used as a political toy for useless and illegitimate politically motivated investigation.
The unsolved Shamar Weekes and Jahan King matters, so too the recent saga of the Rastafarian parents who were hauled before the law courts for home schooling their wards, readily come to mind as we continue to ponder the many botched interventions that have belied the needed professionalism of our child authorities in recent months.
Yet, Mr Blackett would prefer to utilize the already stretched resources of the island’s main child protection agency to pick on the family of a 13-year-old boy for no other reason than the fact that he appeared on a public stage mounted by the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
Outrageous to say the least, especially when one considers the amount of “child abuse” that occurs both in and out of Kadooment Day in full view of our authorities with nary a political cry.
As extremely ugly as it all is, we are however not surprised that it gathered momentum in Parliament this week. After all, we are headed into silly season, when political clowns are known to masquerade at all hours of the day unrelentingly.
Still, the senseless political gibber must not be allowed to permanently shatter the ambitions of the young, especially the likes of a ‘Tom Adams’ or a ‘Errol Barrow’ with aspirations of one day leading this country, which is desperately in need of a political messiah.
Speaking of which, by the end of this week’s debate, we were left saying that a king is indeed without honour in his own country as we reflected on what was unmistakably the most reasoned and authoritative economic contribution made all week.
It was by none other than the longest serving member of the Lower Chamber, who not only sought to get the national conversation started on the economy, but would have clearly articulated, in statesman-like fashion, the response which was necessary to our worsening economic challenges.
It is therefore a pity that Mr Owen Arthur’s political advice was consigned by our Prime Minister to the same dustbin in which he would have previously rubbished Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s advice without even a moment’s consideration.
On Mr Arthur’s advice that Barbados moves to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help in restructuring its $3.3 billion debt, it was a conditional no.
The condition being that “there will be no panicky resort to the IMF by the present Government of Barbados”.
On Mr Arthur’s advice that Barbados breaks the peg of the Barbados dollar to the United States currency as a means of stabilizing the local currency, which the fired Central Bank Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell had warned was facing devaluation because of the continued printing of money to support Government programmes, the Prime Minister was even more resolute.
Never mind what the economist had to say, Mr Stuart, who is a lawyer by training, was adamant that the 2-1 peg has served Barbados well since 1975.
“It has made our business transactions certain; our business people have been able to rely on it, our citizens have been able to rely on it. It is true that the US dollar has been strengthening against other currencies in recent times, but that has happened before and that can change as well,” he said, without presenting any plan of his own for getting Barbados out of its current economic rut, given that everything his Government has already done economically has been regarded a failure by the international ratings agencies.
Which leaves us in no man’s land, really, or as former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin would say, on “a bridge to nowhere”, amid a very painful political ride. Only God can help us now!