How long must we keep riding out these hard times, Mr Stuart?

On Saturday, July 1, the very day the Freundel Stuart administration’s most burdensome austerity measures took effect, an estimated 100, 000 people marched through the streets of London and gathered in a packed Parliament Square to send a strong message to British prime minister Theresa May and her minority conservative government: they had enough of austerity.

Using the hashtag #notonedaymore to publicize the event which was organized by a group calling itself the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, and which had strong support from trade unions and the Labour Party, the demonstrators wanted to make it clear they were not willing to face another day of austerity.

The labour movement here, it would seem, is taking a similar path to the anti-austerity movement that is building in the United Kingdom. The top trade unions, the Barbados Workers’ Union, the National Union of Public Workers, the Barbados Union of Teachers and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union yesterday announced plans for a march on Parliament next Tuesday in a show of opposition to the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which climbed from two per cent when it was introduced last September, to ten per cent last week.

We can safely say that this march will not mirror the London protest in terms of the size of the crowd, but it is left to be seen how many protestors it will attract and what message they plan to transmit.

Virtually everyone from the business community and the labour movement to ordinary Barbadians have cried that the NSRL will do more damage than good, with some describing it as oppressive, and others predicting job cuts and business closures.

However, as he aims to raise $542 million in taxes to help close a gaping fiscal deficit, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government say they have little to no choice.

Mr Stuart yesterday used the age old, “it is better to have a job and face high price rises than not to have a job and face the same high prices” to defend the tax.

Even as he said he understood the outcry, he said Barbadians should ride it out.

What the Prime Minister failed to say, however, was how long this ride will continue, for we have been riding out every tax rise, every new tax, every price increase, every austerity measure that has been imposed for nearly a decade now, all for the sake of country.

And as our spending power diminishes further, we see no end to the misery.

Our administration continues to persist with the austerity route, despite evidence that it has failed.

A number of countries took a similar route after the global economic turmoil intensified in 2010, as austerians promoted fiscal probity through the slashing government spending and cutting of deficits as a means to drive recovery.

They dismissed concerns that such austerity in economies that are struggling would make the situation worse and delay recovery.

We saw how this approach worked in Greece and we most definitely know how well it has worked here as we wait and wait for the recovery and for confidence to return.

In 2012, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – which over the years has demonstrated in the most oppressive ways how much it loves austerity – admitted that these measures did more harm than good.

In its World Economic Outlook, its chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, said efforts among wealthy countries to shrink their deficits through tax hikes and spending cuts had been causing far more economic damage than experts had assumed.

On the other hand, Blanchard said countries that engaged in stimulus, such as Germany and Austria, did better than expected.

Maybe it is time our administration rethinks its strategies and finds another way. And for those who ask what will it do, let us not forget they were elected to find solution, to help make our lives better, not to make excuses and make things worse for us.

Maybe it is time to begin investing in infrastructure, in people, in education, in technology. It is time to put people to work again so they can spend again and lift the economy again.

Since 2010, the British government has maintained a one per cent cap on pay rises for public servants. Last year, the administration voted to keep the cap until 2020, even as the parliamentarians gave themselves a ten per cent pay rise.

Similarly, Government workers here have not had a pay rise in nine years, and we are all aware of the outrage after our parliamentarians restored the ten per cent that had been cut from their salaries.

Britons are now saying they have had enough, and trade unions, the opposition and even some government MPs are saying it is time to abandon the cap, and end the austerity programme.

The first signs that the British population was growing tired of austerity came in the June 8 general election when the conservatives received a shock by losing seats and failing to win the government, while Jeremy Corbin and his Labour Party, with a strong anti-austerity message, performed much better than predicted.

Since the election the government’s popularity has continued to plummet, while the opposition continues to gain support.

He may not admit it publicly, but Mr Stuart already knows what Barbadians think of the DLP administration, as the most recent opinion poll showed.

He must now accept that people want to live with dignity, not just exist in poverty, as a placard stated during a demonstration in the UK last year by health services workers, including doctors, against the one per cent pay rise.

Mr Stuart must tell Barbadians how long we must continue to ride it out.

9 Responses to How long must we keep riding out these hard times, Mr Stuart?

  1. Sandra Madea
    Sandra Madea July 8, 2017 at 12:14 am

    CALL ELECTIONS.

    Reply
  2. Sheldine Dyall
    Sheldine Dyall July 8, 2017 at 2:16 am

    He don’t care a damn

    Reply
  3. Bernard Pinder
    Bernard Pinder July 8, 2017 at 5:08 am

    Election have to call but this man want all he days he care about himself not the country how does it feel to be the most dislike prime minister an the leader of the worst government in the history of Barbados.

    Reply
  4. Tony Webster July 8, 2017 at 6:22 am

    DEM are determined to collect every last pay-check…whilst simultaneously digging their resting-place..…deeper. At least, they have a choice: ring the bell now, and preserve the vestiges of a great party….or follow their psuedo-leader…shovel in hand…

    Reply
  5. Linda July 8, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I agree call elections. Not Mr. Stuart he wants every pound of flesh. He will go the bitter end.

    Reply
  6. Belfast July 8, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Carifesta is not going to cost a lot, the PM said. But we are still waiting to hear the final cost of the monument at the Garrison.

    Reply
  7. Andrew Simpson July 8, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    It’s not so much about the level of taxation as it is about value for money being recieved by the people. Apart from phenomenal levels of wastage and lack of productivity in the public sector, there are persons employed in divisions and departments that are not performing. Even a certain number of Ministers are hard pressed to give account of successes, failures or any sincere attempts made to serve the people in a meaningful way.
    This antiquated system of geographical based, parliamentary five year electoral politics is the major problem. A more effective and efficient, modern ‘digital’ direct participatory democracy platform, including sectoral representation by a TEAM of qualified professionals is urgently needed if our economic future is to be secured.

    Reply
  8. lies a plenty July 9, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Are we really riding or are we being ridden???????

    Reply
  9. Leroy July 10, 2017 at 6:17 am

    Imagine this prime minister have the tax payers paying Hal Gollup, his good buddy for his legal defense of the case brought against the Hyatt by Commisiong, when they are lawyers in the solicitors general office paid by gov to represent the PM office. Now tell me this is a man who cares of country or himself and buddies?

    By my calculations, Hal rake in close to $20 mil In 10 years.

    Reply

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