Is an early general election really the solution?

Following the failure of the recent meeting of the Social Partnership to bridge the divide between Government, the private sector and the trade union movement on a commonly agreed formula for pulling the economy out of its current  difficulties, two leading political analysts have called for an early general election as the way out.

The calls by Dr George Belle, retired University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill political scientist and political pollster Peter Wickham, in interviews last week with Barbados TODAY, followed an assessment by former Prime Minister Owen Arthur that “a dangerous stalemate” now existed at the level of the Social Partnership which was created back in the early 1990s to facilitate consensus-based decision-making in relation to solving major economic problems.

“The longer they [the incumbent Democratic Labour Party] stay in office, the more they damage Barbados and all of its sectors,” Dr Belle opined. “That is the reason why it should call elections immediately. The question is how much damage they can do to Barbados in the period between now and whenever Prime Minister Freundel Stuart decides to call an election.”

“Political scientists have agreed on very little in this time and one of the positions we have agreed on is that an election will solve these questions. These problems cannot be solved outside an election,” said Mr Wickham, though acknowledging that there are currently no legal provisions to demand an early general election.

The incumbent DLP’s five year term expires in early March next year. After that, Prime Minister Stuart, who alone has the power under the Constitution to decide when an election will take place, has three months in which to ring the bell, meaning the latest date can be sometime in early June 2018. The question is, with the continuing standoff between Government on the one hand, and the private sector and unions on the other, will waiting until then be good for the economy. For any economic policy to succeed, the support of both social partners is crucial.

Following the disappointing outcome of the meeting of the Social Partnership, Mr Arthur had said: “We now have to open our minds to new thinking because I don’t think we can go ahead just saying that we can’t make any adjustments, because if we don’t make the adjustments, there is a likelihood that this whole thing can come crashing down around our ears.”

A scary thought indeed! The comments suggest that Mr Arthur supports some flexibility on the part of Government, which is what the other social partners have been asking for, especially in relation to the 400 per cent increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL). This sharp hike, announced in the May 30 budget by the Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and which became effective on July 1, was introduced with the aim of wiping out the Budget deficit over the next nine months.

However, the policy measure has contributed to a surge in prices, resulting in additional hardship for Barbadians and business challenges for the private sector. To press their case for a 50 per cent reduction in the NSRL, the private sector and trade union movement staged a protest march on July 24 that brought an estimated 20,000 persons on to the streets of Bridgetown in a show of support.

However, when the private sector and unions argued their case at the meeting of the Social Partnership, Government refused to budge on the issue, prompting both sides to express disappointment.

CARIFESTA may serve to provide a temporary lull but, seeing that the unions have promised a response, it is left to be seen whether more protest action will be in the offing once the regional cultural event is over.

So, is an early general election the solution as both Dr Belle and Mr Wickham are proposing? It will not immediately solve the economic problems, for sure. They will take time – probably several years – to resolve. However, given what clearly would have been be a further erosion of confidence in the incumbent administration, especially by these two key social partners, an early general election can provide an opportunity to turn a fresh leaf, so to speak, which can be psychologically beneficial for the country, especially with current signs suggesting a change of Government.

Changes of Government, especially during times of economic crisis which has contributed to the unpopularity of an incumbent, always tend to bring about renewed hope, confidence and purpose which is psychologically good for any country. In the final analysis, it is human behaviour, more than anything else, which determines the fortunes of an economy.

4 Responses to Is an early general election really the solution?

  1. Derek August 22, 2017 at 8:06 am

    And what if the DLP wins the next general election what then will these political scientist say ?

  2. Tennyson Drakes August 22, 2017 at 10:42 am

    The argument by both of the Political Scientists are base on false premises. Clearly their pronouncements are political inspired. It is also a fallacy that an early election and a change in government would lead to renewed hope and confidence. Any renewed hope will be “short lived”.

  3. Belfast August 22, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    An early general election will certainly rid Barbados of the most incompetent government that this country has seen since attaining independence.
    Crime and gun-related killings have now got Barbados at a crossroads, and those who are supposed to be leading us, many of whom were hitherto very vocal in the media and call-in programmes, have suddenly gone silent, more or less abandoning the people of Barbados in their hour of need.
    A few days ago one of the Call-in shows had as a studio guest, an ex-convict, whom they referred to as Mr X., a title most applicable to our ruling politicians. To them, X is all that matters.

    • rasta wain August 23, 2017 at 12:07 am

      There’s no difference between you and Mr.x


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