The George Brathwaite Column – DLP’s Dodge
“The least we can expect from our leaders is to deal with the ‘issues of real life’, [and] provide at the very least … shelter, healthcare, education, sanitation, and transport” – Senator Dr. Jerome X. Walcott, 2016).
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) performed sufficiently impressive to put Barbados as the number one developing country in the world by the end of 2007. The BLP team comprised of persons devoted to service such as Mia Mottley, George Payne, Dale Marshall, Glyne Clarke, Ronald Toppin, Kerrie Symmonds, Trevor Prescod and others inclusive of Lynette Eastmond who now chairs the unknown United Progressive Party (UPP). Between 1994 and 2008, the BLP managed to bring unemployment down from a very scary 26.5 % to as low as 6.5 %. The BLP as a team serious about governing and running the affairs of Barbados met numerous challenges, scaled many hurdles, and maximized the opportunities that would boost Barbados’ socio-economic fortunes.
Owen Arthur remains the longest serving Prime Minister and, arguably, the most adept Minister of Finance in post-independence Barbados. Throughout his tenure as prime minister, Arthur stood tall on the democratic socialism of Sir Grantley Adams. He was emboldened by the embrace of JMGM ‘Tom’ Adams, and encouraged ‘only the best’ for Barbados. Even Errol Barrow’s thrust for ‘friends of all, satellites of none’ helped Arthur to carve a developmental niche for Barbados that was compatible with the needs of the country and satisfying for the expectations of the people, regardless of their social status. The BLP’s public policies and programs offered increased socio-economic prospects and, the scope of much legislation was captured in the cloth of higher earnings and distributive justice. By global indicators, the BLP had in three election cycles placed Barbados on the verge of stepping up to a higher status of economic and social development.
Then came 2008 and a politics of uncertainty that seemed lopsidedly incestuous. Divisiveness replaced the politics of inclusion and determined leadership. Thousands of Barbadians presumed that they would have been better off with the re-entry of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) to the governance arena. The politics of innuendo, was emotively practiced by David Thompson, and won the day over the diminutive leader. Some commentators speculated and unjustly followed the DLP’s fabrication that Arthur’s politics had become arrogant and emitted intimations of malfeasance. For almost a decade under the spectacle that ‘Barbados is more than an economy, it is a society’, the DLP has been a beleaguered government. During this DLP sojourn, Barbados has not become a failed state; nor has every implemented measure of social or democratic development showed regress. Rather, the DLP has dodged and wobbled regarding Barbados’ development.
The signs have pointed to an economic shallowness that is compounded by policies which induce societal backwardness. The DLP’s choices and policy preferences superficially appear paternalistic, but have more regularly been dismissive of critics. Cabinet Ministers attempt to control everything from the national discourse to who gains access to tertiary education. In effect, the DLP government under its current leadership, has largely denied and dampened the expectations of Barbadians through inertia, threat and control mechanisms. The result is that Barbadians are poorer and worse off in mid-2017 than in January 2008.
The abject disappointment for the Barbadian population regarding the DLP’s approach and actual performances in public policy can be realistically set against a series of unending tax-grabs, and the several botched fiscal initiatives which have become characteristic of the DLP’s return to government. Failure abounds in many places, and the DLP has created multiple ways to pursue a blinkered focus of development in which unsound judgements have made progress a pitiful lament. Social services have become appalling and under-financed by the DLP. Access to basic social services appears more difficult and disconcerting for Barbadians.
For example, the provision of basic services under the DLP regime, such as providing clean water and proper sanitation, has been acutely problematic and prolonged. The troubling experiences of residents in St. Joseph and other northern parishes, cannot be hosed away by any momentary gush of water. The fact is that for too long, these rustic folks were unable to consistently access clean water in their homes. On the issue of sanitation, workers of the Sanitation Services Authority (SSA) deserve medals of commendation for their work despite the atrocious approach of Minister Denis Lowe. Since 2013, Barbadians saw nasty evidence of the terrible dereliction of duty emerging from the DLP Cabinet. On several occasions and sometimes over months, the garbage build-up in Barbados became unbearable in terms of size and stench. It was disgusting that Barbadians were forced to accept the SSA’s plight of operating with a regular working fleet of five or six trucks due to the negligence of the substantive Minister, while the garbage unhealthily swelled – thereby becoming eyesores for the nation and our tourists.
Today, Barbadians are fighting to escape the clutches of intergenerational poverty. Young men and women are doing their best to cope with the vagaries of underemployment, and the exploitation that has become commonplace in badly skewed power relations. Low and middle-income families are trying to adapt to lifestyles which negate the terrible effects of non-communicable diseases. Yet, these same people are forced to live through depressed earning capacities and lesser disposable incomes, while being kept at the periphery of tertiary education. Bright young minds hang on through bursary but they simply cannot keep abreast of the inflationary DLP policies that pushed the prices of food, medicines, and daily maintenance through the ceiling.
Shamelessly, DLP Ministers and the parliamentary group continue to shout down those who disagree with their antics or are critical of their long lists of shortcomings. Just recently, Minister of Social Care, Steve Blackett instead of utilizing his energy to address hunger, homelessness, and joblessness which are all affecting his constituents and thousands of Barbadians throughout the urban corridor, preferred to pitch his tent on the party mound. Blackett accompanied by several DLP surrogates, mocked the reality that is suffocating the masses. Blackett carried his charade ‘into the constituency to distribute the FACTS’ according to the DLP’s propaganda team. Boasting that the DLP has a ‘stellar record’, the Minister has had little or nothing to show that has improved the lot for the aged, the poor, hurting parents or the many childless women who lack anyone to come to their welfare assistance. DLP supporters are themselves finding it difficult to remain silent on public policies that have brought about more pain than gain for Barbadians under the Stuart-Sinckler combination.
In another display of castigation from the DLP, it was Senator Jeptor Ince’s turn to demonstrate the type of behaviour that can occur when ignorance conflicts with haughtiness. Ince, insulted the private sector in Barbados when he short-sightedly ranted that the sector is “an extension of the public service and a parasitic plant in the bosom of Government.” Senator Ince made no apology or even worthy qualification, although he felt it necessary to say that entities comprising the local private sector “have no grounds for complaining.” Ince implied that the private sector and Barbadians in general should simplistically accept whatever is offered by the Minister of Finance and the DLP Government. If Ince’s remarks were signs of a pyrrhic victory, then it is more worrisome that Barbadians are fed-up with the current socio-economic situation about to be unleashed in Barbados after July 1st.
Indeed, things are becoming harder and unbearable under the austere vice-grip of Finance Minister Sinckler. The DLP’s severe strangulation and/or reduction in the provision of social services to the citizens and residents are alarming. The seemingly uncaring or badly incompetent DLP government continues to make a deplorable mess in public transport, on top of the deficiencies seen in sanitation, education, healthcare, and other needed services. Even with the heavily subsidized public transportation system, bus-shortages and inadequate designation of routes, are like daily slaps in the faces of the poor masses who depend on public transportation for maintaining their livelihoods. Who can forget the moving and deceptive DLP advertisement in the lead up to the last general elections? It ultimately floored Arthur and a realistic approach to discussing privatization and people empowerment.
The DLP must realise that the adequate provision of basic social services is an input into aggregate economic activity and national productivity. Prime Minister Stuart is Barbados’ National Productivity Champion for 2017. It was Stuart that asserted productivity is “the pivot on which the entire society spins,” and consequentially, Barbadians young and old, will struggle daily to stave off the punitive and counter-productive measures of Finance Minister Sinckler. Doubtlessly, conceit, vanity, and failure have become synonymous with the post-2008 DLP Cabinets. The DLP’s dodge ought to bring its demise in the next general elections.
(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)