The George Brathwaite Column – Regrets, We All Have a Few: From Mediocrity to Failure
“This parliamentary term envisions a Barbados that is socially balanced, economically viable, environmentally sound and characterised by good governance” (Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave, the Throne Speech March 6, 2013).
It would have been a wonderful thing if the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had come close to achieving any one or all four of the above underlined phrases during the last four years. This is surely not the case! Instead, Barbados has become more socially unbalanced, more economically unstable, more environmentally unprepared, and is badly marked by allegations of malfeasance and shadiness. The combined performances of the Cabinet have left much to be desired and have marred the expectations of the Barbadian people.
One may recall in the 2016 budget presentation that Finance Minister Christopher Sinckler stated that Cabinet members were “combining” their “God-given talents to make wise and timely decisions.” When? Sinckler confessed that “along the way of this journey, there have been times when we might have doubted our abilities to overcome the myriad challenges facing us; and yes, there have been many. But never at any time have we given up and admitted defeat.” No one anticipates that Sinckler or the DLP Cabinet will admit defeat even in the face of mounting evidence indicating massive failures across all the ministerial portfolios.
Do not be surprised, but be disappointed with the extremely poor performance of a DLP administration that flatters to deceive. The thing is, the Prime Minister remains adamant in his posturing. Stuart says that “we have nothing to be ashamed” but fails to comprehend that the fault-line rests squarely on the low standards and the mediocrity that were foisted on Barbados by the DLP. The DLP’s failing grade follows its face in terms of governance. The DLP after promising much has hardly delivered on anything of an inspiring description. The corroborating evidence is manifested in the things seen and heard within and outside of the Cabinet.
Last weekend, Barbados received its umpteenth downgrade from an international rating agency. Standard and Poor’s made the telling comment that: “The high level of central bank financing underscores the challenges associated with timely corrective fiscal policy actions. The government plans to present the 2017-2018 budget in the coming month. While it seemingly aims to rely on increased recourse to asset sales to fund the deficit, in our view, the prospects for deeper expenditure or revenue adjustment are uncertain, underscored by the poor track record of execution.” The use of the word poor, therefore, has become quite synonymous with the beleaguered DLP under PM Stuart’s command.
In response to the downgrade, coming in a week when the economic situation was called ‘grim’, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs noted “with regret the recent downgrade of Barbados’ credit rating.” It is unsure the extent of the nature or actual regret by Minister of Finance Christopher Sinckler, because very often, he has failed to accept responsibility for anything that does not allow for some braggadocio. Minister Sinckler is insistent that the blame rests elsewhere than in the failed policy options chosen by him and his counterparts comprising the Freundel Stuart-led regime. The Ministry’s statement went on to say, “the downgrade was expected and largely driven by the decline in our international reserves … the decline in the reserves was largely due to legal and administrative delays in public inflows linked to various projects.”
Indeed, Minister Sinckler deflects and distracts with political aplomb although telling Barbadians “don’t be fooled by the political hypocrites!” One must surmise whether the so-called hypocrites are loitering in George Street whilst secretly extending gratuitous contracts to a person or persons who are kind and willing to favourably fund the DLP’s upcoming political campaign. Nevertheless, and drawing from Prime Minister Stuart, this author shares the view that ‘facts don’t get stale’. That is, unless the public is being given a continuous tide of alternative facts, and the spin and propaganda are designed for a spurious purpose. We may rightly ask what is the DLP’s purpose?
The answer has come over the past few weeks from PM Stuart and from the lips of several DLP surrogates. This past Saturday, Stuart made it plain that “the march of triumph begins today as we embark on our quest to the next General Election.” The Commerce Minister Donville Inniss who is known to be loquacious with the additional craving set to wrestle the DLP’s leadership, stated that “now is the time for all of us to band together.” Perhaps, as the coined ‘wild boys’ label connotes, Inniss was demanding that the fast-scattering DLP members and worried supporters “get into the trenches and get on the road toward winning the next election – whenever Freundel calls that election.”
Additionally, former Deputy High Commissioner to London, Donville Johnson suggested that the DLP is not in danger of losing the upcoming poll. Johnson vainly tried to pacify those who recognise that Barbadians possess a perception which clearly depicts PM Stuart to be a weak leader. Factually, PM Stuart pales in comparison with all his predecessors. Johnson admitted that “our current Prime Minister dares to be different from previous Prime Ministers, so he is seen as weak.” Yet, it would be fruitless to lampoon PM Stuart while excusing all others in the Cabinet and vice versa. The inglorious bunch all sing discordantly from the same messy hymn sheet. The Stuart-led Cabinet has delivered destructive body blows to the Barbados economy and society.
The confirmation comes from Standard and Poor’s report, stating that: “The various failures to respond in a timely fashion to mitigate fiscal and financial pressures further weigh on our view of Barbados’ institutional and policy effectiveness.” Put differently, the current leadership exhibited by PM Stuart and his Cabinet, is manifestly ineffective and error-ridden; both in terms of policy and institutional practices. This assertion is not a distortion of facts, but an indictment of Stuart’s leadership and the Cabinet’s ineptitude.
Clearly, the key agent that is responsible for managing the financial and economic affairs of Barbados is left to Minister Christopher Sinckler. We also know that the view is widely shared in economic circles that Sinckler is a lower order swiper and not a top order stroker. Stuart as primus inter pares must take blame for the dangerous situation that Barbados now finds itself. Despite Sinckler’s cautioning that Barbadians must “be very wary of people who seem so hell bent on creating confusion in Barbados,” there has been no greater confusion stirred up without adequate explanation than the fall-out from the fiasco and ultimate firing of former Central Bank Governor, Dr Delisle Worrell. Sinckler may be the axeman, but the Cabinet decided.
Therefore, the ‘false argument and scaremongering tactic’ that Sinckler consistently ascribes to others beyond the falling gates of the DLP, is indicative of a diversion away from the real issues. In education, healthcare, and the general provision of social services inclusive of water, public transport, garbage collection and waste management show that there is crisis everywhere. The DLP’s presence and form of governance is badly affecting Barbados and its people. The incompetence is demonstratively evident. The DLP under Prime Minister Stuart will go down in history as the worst performing administration ever in the annals of Barbados’ politics.
As is being communicated by the DLP General Secretary and other spokespersons, focus is set on a fantasy of returning to government for yet another term. The realisation of that giant feat can only spell disaster for a country already lunging backwards while Barbadians continue to be plunged further to the point of no return – devaluation. Minister Sinckler said in June, 2012: “I am infused with a sense of immense confidence that the path we have taken in dealing with our economic challenges is indeed the correct one based on the continued high level of strong support and understanding which the vast majority of average right-thinking Barbadians have quietly reposed in this administration over the past four years.” One knows that such a majority no longer exists in Barbados. Although maintaining the legitimacy to govern for another year, the Prime Minister nor his Cabinet will dare repeat the bold but obviously flawed statement that was made by Sinckler. Many Barbadians are today saying, DEMS, never again!