… one should have some concern for the less fortunate, and that those at the bottom of the economic pile are worthy of moral and political consideration … that the economy should ultimately benefit everyone in a society, not just the wealthy and the mega-wealthy, and that government has some role in fostering such a balanced economic environment..
There is so much about democracy that Barbadians take for granted. In fact too many of our educated – a country reputed to have a deep literacy penetration – believe that the test of living in a democracy is being able to visit a polling booth on election day and mark the X for the candidate of choice. Of course to the truly educated among us, we know that the mechanics of a democracy consists of several moving components which should be calibrated to work as one.
A REPORT OF THE GLOBAL COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, DEMOCRACY AND SECURITY – just released – a joint initiative of the Kofi Annan Foundation and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) should be mandatory reading. It highlights the importance of ‘free and fair’ elections but IMPORTANTLY the collateral issues to ensure the objective that free and fair elections are guaranteed.
In the report complied by a Commission of eminent people from across the globe, they identified five major challenges which must be overcome to conduct elections with integrity:
building the rule of law to substantiate claims to human rights and electoral justice;
building professional, competent electoral management bodies (EMBs) with full independence of action to administer elections that are transparent and merit public confidence;
creating institutions and norms of multiparty competition and division of power that bolster democracy as a mutual security system among political contenders;
removing barriers—legal, administrative, political, economic, and social—to universal and equal political participation; and
regulating uncontrolled, undisclosed, and opaque political finance.
The Commission concluded that “elections with integrity should promote the broadest participation possible, to encourage the civic engagement and debate that is at the heart of electoral competition and deliberative democracy”.
If we were to apply a litmus test to Barbados’ system of democracy using the five challenges identified by the Commission, the conclusion must be, there is some work to be done regarding numbers 4 and 5 in particular. The retort by some comfortable with the fact that Barbados is regarded as a model parliamentary system is that a democracy is so fragile as to warrant constant monitoring and maintenance.
Addressing challenge number four, are we now resigned to a two party system? Does the current system encourage FULL participation by ALL citizens who are equipped to constructively participate? Does the ‘modus operandi’ of political parties in Barbados merit closer scrutiny? Perhaps Mia Mottley is waiting the opportunity to democratize the workings of the party machinery. Will we ever get the Public Accounts (PAC) to function effectively?
What about the way both political parties have been protected through the years from revealing the sources of campaign financing? If the both of them agree on one thing it is the need to maintain the status quo on this matter. We live in a democracy, why does our system protect the fat cats who operate in the dark of the periphery of our system of democracy? What kind of democracy do we have where John Citizenry is clueless about how the tentacles of big business and deep pockets are allowed access current and potential policymakers?
Is it a democracy when the appeasement of the owners of capital call the shots and we ignore the influence it exerts on those in public office? It is no secret the distributive sector in Barbados has been able to tightly grasp the short and curlies of representatives of successive governments. You force us to reduce margins on the price of food and we will send home employees. What social partnership what!?!
Has the social partnership prevented LIME, OCM and the other hegemonist from Trinidad from dismantling Bajan companies? Why have our leaders bought into a system which has allowed others to rape our businesses? Is it not government’s role to protect home-grown? So what defines Barbadiana when we open the floodgates? It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall when some of these decisions are being made in the interest of so-called regional integration. Yes our people sold out but government by definition should police Barbados space in the interest of protecting Barbadians.
We live in a world where financial and ethical impropriety is commonplace however in Barbados we continue to operate as if ‘ it can’t happen here’. The time has come and gone where we need to hold our politicians and public servants to account. In our little countries private sector is heavily reliant on central government. Transforming how central government does business will therefore trickle down to galvanize what is needed to ensure a relevant ethos culture emerges.
Did we hear Clyde Mascoll mention on radio recently that we have to promote ‘spiritual growth’ to build out a new economy? In essence he suggested Barbadians have to change our penchant for foreign consumption. Welcome Clyde to the conversation which has been taking place in this virtual space for the last five years.