In another week or so, the pain and punishment being meted out to Barbadians will increase with the 2017 Budget measures taking full effect. The ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) has failed to convince Barbadians that today or tomorrow will be any better than the plight Barbadians endured for nearly a decade after that party’s coming to office. Since 2008, Barbadians passively and repeatedly made many sacrifices for the sake of nation. However, Finance Minister’s many economic stumbles, and Prime Minister Stuart’s hands-off approach, and the general lull in communications between the governing and the governed, have raised several questions across Barbados. The over-taxed population is wondering if those sacrifices were worth the dutiful efforts of the public and private sectors? What about the concerns of thousands of consumers who have seen inflation and the cost of living force them to raid their piggy-banks of every cent?
Clearly, things are far from the optimum in Barbados. The economy is in shambles and the society is crumbling having paid a price too high for the levels of incompetence witnessed from the DLP under Mr Stuart’s uninspiring leadership. Observers of national politics have long sensed and expressed their views that the DLP Ministers have a serious bout of ill-discipline that is showing up in arrogance and unsympathetic discourse with the public. The DLP’s main tunes have lambasted, insulted, and dismissed many from the walks of the private sector, trade unions, marginalised groups, householders, and the youth. Any suggestion from the periphery or outside of the DLP attracts disdain from a Cabinet whose underperformances have pushed Barbados backwards by at least 15 years.
Every day, Barbadians are realising that key spokespersons of the DLP lack the emotional intelligence and intestinal fortitude to bring about change from within. Perhaps, and partly hidden from view, there is a brewing rivalry within the DLP for that party’s leadership and hence the sense the leader is a ‘go-as-you-please’ champion. Certainly, Prime Minister Stuart’s slumber has not been made uncomfortable by those persons who have publicly called for an approach exposing his dis-connectedness to the people of Barbados. Ministers Inniss, Sinckler, Stephen Lashley, and Estwick have all at one time or another, recognised that the Prime Minister’s silence and non-interventionist styles are incompatible with what is needed in Barbados. Unfortunately, not one of the Cabinet or DLP parliamentarians is willing to go further and rouse Stuart from his deep forlorn and pitiful posturing. Nor has any one made the crucial step to depart from the ways of malaise and, speak out against the ills that are economically bankrupt and socially disempowering the nation.
If anything, Barbadians are witnessing a final burst of desperation from the DLP’s General Secretary and co-chair of the propaganda machinery. The FACTS (i.e. Freundel and Chris Telling Stories) have been unleashed on the public with unapologetic and fanciful claims. Political spectacle and ridiculous accusations have targeted the main media and all opposing entities. Many Barbadians have already been repudiated by the DLP’s rhetoric, including some staunch Barrow’ites. Clumsily and without any care to what is said, DLP spokespersons cut and chop down which is a figurative form of shooting people and cracking heads. When it is not Jeptor Ince calling the private sector parasites, Barbadians have had to endure the acrimony of Blackett blistering a young man’s parents for doing the right thing by allowing the Queen’s College student a voice in the civics of his nation. Also, the childless woman in Barbados has been put under the woeful hatchet of the representative of St. John. Numerous Barbadians would certainly prefer to get insights on her predecessor’s dealings regarding CLICO and sums of money amounting to $3.3 million.
An electorate will, over time, gravitate to the individuals and particularly a leader that the people can trust to get the necessary job done. With a leadership preference standing at 52 %, and with an increased approval rate, Mia Mottley’s demonstration to date speaks for itself. Comparatively, the weighty burdens placed on Barbadians by an uncompromising Minister of Finance and allowed by a pedantic Prime Minister while supported by churlish DLP parliamentarians, have rendered the DLP government unbearable. In real terms, and this assertion extends beyond the recently published results of Nation/CADRES poll.
Barbadians have literally made up their minds that a future DLP government is at best untenable and will not happen after the general elections coming later this year or early next year. Unfortunately, the drudgery of seeing off these final overs of Stuart and company, will mean that Barbadians must go well beyond the latest polls to register their disgust and etch with indelible ink that the DLP is not fit to govern – morally or otherwise. If Barbados is to rise from its present mire and degradation, the ouster of the DLP via free and fair elections must be manifestly delivered. The exit of the DLP will start the rekindling of hope. Of course, one may relate to Herbert Marcuse’s statement that “free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves.” However, it is the conscious expression of liberty, the hope for better tomorrows, and eventually how we seek to determine our social, economic, and political empowerment that will matter most going forward.
Indeed, it is more vital today than ever before, for the Barbados electorate to regain confidence in our governance systems, and equally so in the capacity of the politicians we elect to office. Any elected politician must pledge to work committedly to return civility, safety, and a sound economy to our shores. This should be a demand by the electorate to all political candidates and parties seeking to contest the next general elections. It simply cannot be business as usual.
Moreover, Barbadians must be given timely and necessary information to make informed and confident decisions. Forums, inclusive of e-platforms and social media, must be set up at multiple levels for much enhanced people participation in the decision-making which ultimately affects their lives and livelihoods. Representation must mean much more than an elevated status for our elected officials. Edmund Burke once stated that representation: “ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his/her constituents.” Barbadians must continue to preserve people power, and the political class must remain grounded or be constrained by this fact.
The eventual winning party and its leadership must decisively create a viable and humane future that is economically sustainable and socially uplifting. The Barbados of tomorrow must be made viable for all citizens and residents regardless of political persuasion, age, gender, race, status, or lifestyles. Change needs to be demonstrated and this demands that the Leader of the Opposition, as the most popular individual leader in local political circles, must be an effective communicator and must continue to provide hope for the many Barbadians that have long given up.
No doubt an enterprising Mia Mottley of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), and her formidable-looking team, will face considerable scrutiny and criticism on the way forward for Barbados. Yet, they must demonstrate their readiness, focus, and competence with a measure of credibility that is seen in their promises and performances in and outside of Parliament. There must be empathy for the most ardent of DLP supporters, while ensuring compassion for all citizens and residents whose suffering for almost 10 years has been unprecedented and unmerited. Barbadians are strongly calling for democratic leadership that is defined by effective representation, and one that is strongly given to trust, accountability, and transparency in the governance of this Barbados nation-state. Surely, Barbadians can now prepare to dust off the DLP, change is coming!
(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant. Email: email@example.com)