The George Bathwaite Column – Things Are Falling Apart

Social Partnership

The current Government is an abject failure. Barbados is hurting and things are falling apart! The preceding simple sentence prompts many questions as to how and why; and triggers assertions extending from individual competence to the heartlessness of the representatives. To save face, some will postulate that if there was no global recession, and if David Thompson had survived the terminal conditions of cancer and CLICO, Barbados would be saved from the appalling combination of Freundel Stuart and Christopher Sinckler. Of course, to think in terms of counterfactuals is often an extravagance stepping into the realm of speculation. However, it is indisputable that few solutions have emerged from the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) to inspire a nation gripped in prolonged turmoil and a feverish industrial relations climate.

Barbados is truly facing numerous and tough challenges without active prime ministerial leadership. Several things that are wrong with the economy and society can be placed on the wilting shoulders of Prime Minister Stuart and his clueless DLP Cabinet. Yet, thousands of Barbadians have cowered to subtle taunts and threats such as cracking heads and shooting people. There are others afraid to expose the DLP’s infractions for fear of being labelled enemies of the state. Is it not true that numerous DLP’s actions have served as disincentives for Barbadians desirous of obtaining higher level education, and improving their lives and job prospects? Barbadians fretted and cussed much to their chagrin; but otherwise stood still on the DLP’s deceptions. Today the workers walk and march with purposeful regularity.

In 2017, Barbados is pitted with increasing signs of social instability. The island is being thrashed by the high incidences of gun violence and crimes against the individual. Our residences and private property are in as much danger as the ATMs and our unsafe streets. Economically, the island is already cringing from the recently implemented budget measures. Years of increasing draconian taxes implemented by the DLP since 2008 have taken their toll and caused national pain and suffering. These DLP-imposed taxes are culminating in ruptures. In most spheres of activity, the NSRL for example, is set to ruin many livelihoods. Poorly thought out policies by the Cabinet are severely crippling the poor and wiping out a once sizeable group of middle-income earners – now labelled the ‘working poor’.

The social democratization of Barbados gained energy in the aftermath of the labour uprising in 1937. The dedication of workers and the dynamism of labour unions became cornerstones in Barbados’ development. Politics and labour activism often combined to provide sound leadership in both government and civil society. These facets managed to shape a prized standard of living and good quality of life in Barbados. Workers remained industrious; labour unions demonstrated commitment to the national interest which was defined by political representation functioning in conjunction with the voice of the masses. Political leaders were seldom ruffled to the point of contemptuously ignoring the workers’ pleas or well-being.

By the early 1990s, the representatives of the Government, joined by employers’ and labour representatives formalized their relationships in an institution promising cooperation and actions predicated on ‘saving’ Barbados and safeguarding Barbadians. The Social Partnership became an indigenous mechanism that was responsive to the administration’s policy options, capital’s demands, and the workers’ input to national development. Generally, sacrifices came from all sides and issues were flogged and agreements were reached (e.g. The Protocols).

Fast forward to 2017, and the trade unions are constantly being ill-treated or ignored by the DLP-led administration. Workers across Barbados have tolerated verbal and sublime attacks mostly from Cabinet Ministers who were quick to kick away the ladders upon which they had climbed. Aided and abetted by some from within the private sector, workers’ rights have been habitually trampled. Whether it is their ways of life, conditions of work, salaries, or hard-won entitlements, most workers have fallen on hard and burdensome times. Workers are compelled by the Finance Minister to continue counting their losses. International Relations scholar Robert Jervis contends that “psychologically, losses hurt more than gains gratify.” Today, the unions are earnestly crying out for the Government’s ears and consideration.

Although the leaderships of the multiple trade unions have attracted criticisms and have been touted as being immature, they have conceded on delicate points. Previously, they may have halted work. Noteworthy is that in the same way Prime Minister Stuart as Chairman of the Social Partnership has been slothful in getting the partners together on a regular basis, the trade unions have been slow and sluggish in resorting to industrial protest actions. Trade union leadership remains persistent and responsible; the leadership is clear that it must be heard and respected. Even against low-keyed protests, still it is deafening that audience from Prime Minister Stuart is not forthcoming. Stuart’s current ‘pappy show’ matches his normal pattern of deferment.

The Social Partnership, through Protocol VI was agreed under Prime Minister Stuart. It invited meaningful dialogue to occur, including talk on the reversal of burdensome and crippling taxes such as those announced on May 30th by Finance Minister Sinckler. The formal document states that the representatives of the Social Partnership: “RECOMMIT themselves to a formal structure to govern their continued collaboration and consultation on fundamental issues affecting their individual and collective contributions to all aspects of national development.” Why should the chairmanship of the Social Partnership be averse to now meeting with the trade unions’ representatives at their request?

It certainly cannot be the case that dialogue comes after the awful 2017 Budget. On September 17, 1991 during the House of Assembly Debates, Owen Arthur advised that: “It becomes critical that if anything is to be salvaged … the Government has not just to consult after the fact, but involve persons who own enterprises and owners of capital directly and up front and in a serious way in devising the policies and programmes that will make the difference for the future.” To this piece of advice, labour representatives ought to be also welcomed by the Prime Minister and, their suggestions considered in good faith as policy alternatives.

The fact is, Prime Minister Stuart is unnecessarily grandstanding. This Stuart-led Government has recklessly failed to inspire meaningful dialogue with its partners. Ironically, the private sector has charged Stuart and Government with entrenched despondence to collaboration. Why else would the trade unions and the Barbados Private Sector Association call last Friday on all Barbadians to participate in a march? Perhaps, the huge contradiction is that Freundel Stuart is the ‘productivity champion’ in Barbados.

These conundrums bring back memory of Arthur’s labelling the 1991 economic period of intense fiasco as a ‘midsummer’s madness’. Sadly, the credibility of this current executive is in tatters. Trust between the governing and governed is trampled by Stuart’s foot-dragging for collaboration. Prime Minister Stuart does not appear to have the brawn to engage persons and groups outside of his comforted remit (e.g. DLP branch meetings and visitors to the island attending his receptions). Moreover, this DLP’s pauperizing performances have not matched the expectations of countless Barbadians.

Oppositional forces are coming from everywhere sensing the widening gap between the Government’s ability to deliver public goods and services in satisfactory ways, and Stuart’s stubborn unwillingness for dialogue. As many as seven different groupings have expressed intent to purge the DLP of its inertia. In the eyes and in the hearts of a growing plurality of Barbados’ citizens and residents, the DLP’s legitimacy to govern has waned and a new mandate is necessary. In 1991 Owen Arthur concluded that the DLP “stands to go down in infamy as the greatest anti-worker, anti-people party in the history” of Barbados. Things are falling apart!

(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant. Email:

57 thoughts on “The George Bathwaite Column – Things Are Falling Apart

  1. Check your sources – Stuart will not be running in 2018. He is retiring. 

  2. Pharm, I’d heard Fumble agreed to retire if his party agreed to make him president in our new republic. He might settle for Chief Justice.

    Never underestimate the obstinate stupidity of that man.

  3. To make 2008 the date the crisis in Barbados began is disingenuous. True, we have had a lost decade, since the global recession of 2007/8, but the root of the crisis is anchored in the early1980s and the rise of monetarism and its accompanying political ideology, the Washington Consensus.
    Between 1982-2006, we had 25 years of global economic boom, during which the myth of a prosperous Barbados was founded, and the nonsense of Barbados being a developed nation, was first propagated by Marion Williams.
    It is a claim that has no basis in fact since Barbados has been under-performing the global and regional economies since before constitutional independence. Between 1960 and 2000, global growth averaged 2.3 per cent per annum, four decades in which the only economic growth in Barbados was the exporting of people – to the UK, US and Canada, mainly.
    During the same period Asia, excluding China, grew on average by 4.4 percent; and Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa grew on average 2.9 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
    I have said before, and continue to say, it was a house built on sinking sand, ‘prosperity’ on cheap money, a pile of debt, at some point the debt must be paid. We are now paying a heavy price.
    As we know from experience, people only realise that there are flaws in the capitalist ecosystem when the tide flows out and we can see the jetsam and flotsam of the high lifestyle floating in the sewage.
    In Barbados, one of the internal contradictions of the sociology of market economics is that we have an improving lifestyle while the productivity paradox remains. People want pay rises, but see no need to increase output per working hour; households see no obligation to pay their taxes but want increased state benefits; businesses refuse to handover tax collected on behalf of the state.
    Part of the confusion is when highly qualified propagandists turn themselves into hired guns on behalf of one political party or the other, and less educated followers march in line like the French Foreign Legion, intellectually drugged and obsessed.
    It has ever been thus. After the economic crisis of the1970s, monetarism emerged, first in Chile, then as the mouthpiece of the Reagan/Thatcher attack on government.
    Now we have business and the rentier interests amalgamating to warn us that the very idea of government is unsound.
    This is market fundamentalism running riot; of a people lacking political and intellectual leadership; the myth that the market is always right.
    When DavidThompson died he was aware of this contradiction and was discussing it; I also believe he was about to do something about it. But we can only speculate.

    • @Hal

      At your mention of the following:

      As we know from experience, people only realise that there are flaws in the capitalist ecosystem when the tide flows out and we can see the jetsam and flotsam of the high lifestyle floating in the sewage.

      Observe we have sewage floating about AGAIN on the South coast.

  4. Fully agree Hal, but think I can simplify your thoughts into much fewer words.

    Essentially since independence Barbados has NOT been collectively and cohesively working hard and improving on anything that would allow us to compete and remain competitive on a global scale and thus pay our way in this world and earn FX. If a child never learns how to work hard and make a living they will always be “borrowing” as a adult.

    Barbados never learnt its lesson and now we are seeing the repercussions

  5. The Unions met yesterday after the march and are supposed to let us know what the next step is.

    A hiatus should not be allowed to take effect,when a vacuum is created anything can happen…..nature abhors a vacuum.

  6. @ Frustrated Businessman: Animal Farm sequel playing out in Bim. July 25, 2017 at 8:24 AM

    That has to be the biggest joke of the century.

    How can a man in his right mind would ever contemplate becoming GG or President of the banana Bajan republic after proving to be the worst PM in Bajan political history?

    For the last 7 years he has shown what it is to be a total abject failure as a political leader who has taken Barbados to the brink of socio-economic disaster.

    The man is just one lucky lying Mutt(ley) who should be totally satisfied with a knighthood with the medallion inscribed: “Sir Fumble of the Blackened House of Stuarts” whose only outstanding accomplishment has been the cruel destruction of the former paradise called Bim.

  7. David,
    Not just the South coast, but across the land. By the way, is this the problem Wes Hall was supposed to tackle when he was a minister in the Sandiford government?

    • @Hal

      We like to focus on the ‘juicy political’ issues but one such as this to do with solid waste management will never occupy high priority on the national agenda. Both administrations have failed to bring this infrastructure along.

  8. I know, a narrow vision. David, in then old days nothing was better than learning your politics in a rum shop during a general election campaign.

  9. @ Hal

    We do not have any other ecosystem than the new International Capitalist Ecosystem. Do you not notice how Russia and China have joined the International Capitalist System? Cuba and Venezuela in these parts seem to be holding on to an Idea of Socialism.

  10. Barbados TODAY afternoon news
    Parliament to debate a resolution to end the impasse between government, the unions and private sector.

    Debate starts this evening. Could you believe what a day in politics can bring.

  11. @ Tell me Why July 25, 2017 at 2:29 PM

    It’s an opportunity for Donville to rise up and cut the political throat of Fumble in order to position himself as the next leader of the party to lead it into the coming general elections.
    You can bet that Donville will be lobbying strongly for the leadership position at the DLP upcoming Convention.

  12. Dumbville cannot be trusted to lead given his entanglements with some unsavory business people.

  13. Who is listening to Richard Sealy?

    Did he just use ac’s argument when he stated that 255,000 Barbadians didn’t attend the march? He included children and others who are not eligible voters? Are we hearing the arrogance and disrespect for 20,000 people who demonstrated?

  14. @ Well Well & Consequences Observing Blogger July 25, 2017 at 3:35 PM

    Somebody has to be the undertaker to bury the dead or to be executor of the will of the deceased including the families First Account.

    Dumbville the double-speak Uncle Look-up would make the ideal clown to wear both hats.

  15. Bernard,
    You have failed to realise that in China there is state capitalism, a different model. The state controls the banks and shadow banks, there is no property rights, people cannot even live where they want without government approval. The party rules.
    In Russia, it is gangster capitalism, former KGB men (and women) rule – the oligarchs. Totally different systems.
    @Bernard, you are sounding like the UWI political scientist who claims there is only one form of capitalism.
    Cuba has dipped its finger in the stream, but Trump has put an end to that; and Venezuela is a mess.

  16. @David 3:52 I was listening to Sealy and must say that arrogance and disrespect are not the exact words I had in mind when I heard him say what he did. Based on the defense put forward on the floor of the House thus far, I would say that phase two had better follow quickly. While a word to the wise may be sufficient in most cases to bring about change, one must remember that we are speaking to the ignorant and unlearned while dealing with this ministerial lot. This cat and mouse game will continue until elections are due without any meaningful change. Even if they agree to open dialogue with the partners, knowing how this lot moves, it will take forever for them to take action and it will be just in time to buy votes (again?).

    • Isn’t it embarrassing to have to listen to the government explain their side to follow the explanation of the two other partners of the social partnership?


  17. @ David,

    Was the march to get government to rescind the National Social Responsibility Levy

    or was the march an effort to force the government to call an early election?

    • @Hants

      It was to force government to the table to discuss the NSRL and the impact on workers.

  18. Miller….Dumbville and his partners business and otherwise are really not healthy for Barbados they have done so much damage…to so many people over the years…

    ……ya right, the only thing they may be any good for is burying each other……more often.

  19. What does a “Work to rule” order say and do? Last Friday I landed at GAIA and Customs was practicing a “work to rule” instruction from their union. This resulted in almost all incoming passengers having to present their baggage for inspection and in most cases having to wait for an officer to write an invoice for an inconsequential amount, walk to the payment window, stand in line, make a payment and then return to present a receipt to Customs before re packing personal effects and proceeding onward. Needless to say, this caused an enormous aggravation to visitors and locals alike.

    Will false pride prevent this administration from taking steps to avoid a continuation of this practice? Visitors who have already booked for Kadooment and Carifesta will still come BUT will they return next year if they have a negative experience this year?

  20. Interesting that neither the MoB or the MoA, who have arguably as many workers and businesses under them as the MoE and the MoT who were the cosen ones to speak.

    A pity that the govt nor the PM who is presently speaking take the high road call a meeting and get on with running the country as opposed to trying to defend the nonsense they did.

    • @Artax

      On a point of order Sir, it was 42 minutes. it must be stated that to listen to the standard of the debate the day after 20,000+ people marched was pathetic.

  21. Mia finally got the speaker to give the PM 5 minutes…..and the PM accepted,although he has still waffled over the time……never heard of a PM bowing to a speaker before.

    Mia has got them on the ropes and has the speaker like a puppy now.

  22. Frustrated Businessman: Animal Farm sequel playing out in Bim. July 25, 2017 at 8:24 AM #

    “Pharm, I’d heard Fumble agreed to retire if his party agreed to make him president in our new republic. He might settle for Chief Justice.”

    I wouldn’t consider him competent enough to be the House of Assembly tea lady.

  23. they are still very rattled…lol

    and the blogs have not exactly been kind..

  24. @ David July 25, 2017 at 5:47 PM

    Why doesn’t this administration come clean and just tell the people the truth? After yesterday show of the people’s disgust The current have nothing to lose DLP by going for broke.

    Let the populace know that it is either the NSRL and other drastic measures (homegrown devaluation) or be faced in the coming weeks/months with an external devaluation of their sacred cow dollar.

    • A nugget of the tactics mined from the debate this evening is the plan by the government to publicly televise the next meeting with the Social Partnership. It says a lot about the cohesion that bonds the partnership of the tripartite arrangement. Why would the social partnership negotiate in public given the opportunity for sensitive info to leak into the public space?

  25. all of that sounds like trouble to them…a lose, lose

    Fruendel would have to learn magic tricks and pull a whole live rabbit out of a hat…hahaha

  26. Hal Austin July 25, 2017 at 5:58 PM #

    “Kellman a leader? The man is an embarrassment to intelligence.”

    @ Hal Austin


    How you could say that about Kellie (not that yuh wrong)?

  27. “Oppositional forces are coming from everywhere sensing the widening gap between the Government’s ability to deliver public goods and services in satisfactory ways, and Stuart’s stubborn unwillingness for dialogue.”

    An example of the meaningless nonsense George writes so much of.

    Seems to work for a lot of people. Plenty of comments.

  28. If there is one man that I want to lose his seat more than Freundel is Kellman! He is a disgrace and an insult to our intelligence.

  29. Lord have mercy. I just listen to that clipping of the DLP. What the shite have we come too. Up until now, I cannot figure out what the shite Michael Lashley trying to say. I would got to be kubba too thinking that these shites were better than the BLP, and voted for them. Not making that mistake again. Not fuh shite

  30. Via WhatsApp Jeff? No respect!

    FTC told to cut budget


    THE FAIR TRADING Commission (FTC) has been asked to cut its budget by ten per cent, said chairman Jeff Cumberbatch.

    Cumberbatch, who leads the statutory organisation, which is the regulator for tariffs and service standards locally, has worked recently on several projects including the denial of the Barbados Light And Power Company (BL&P) application for fuel hedging. It also prepared a preliminary report on the SOL purchase of the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited.

    Cumberbatch, who spoke to the media yesterday, following the opening ceremony of a workshop on Tariff Setting and Power Purchase Agreements at the Cedar Court, Wildey, St Michael office, said he received a message via WhatsApp that stated they had been asked to cut budget by ten per cent consistent with all statutory bodies.
    “But we have to discuss that in-house before offering suggestions on where they are moving,” he said. (LK)

  31. @ David
    This is what happens when good men refuse to play ball…

    Now, ….had that Oil Terminal deal been promptly endorsed as instructed…..

    • @Bush Tea

      Let us observe how Jeff responds. Afterall he has gained knowledge and wisdom from the BU battlefield that is Bush Tea, Pachamama et al.

  32. Boss, Jeff has had knowledge from his youth…
    What he needs will have to come from Caswell….
    (The most fired man in Bajan folklore….)

  33. Unions urged to settle non salary issues until salary could be dealt with after September 2017.

    The none salary issues that I was talking about for example one issue has been that for years you could have Public Officers working and working long enough for their pension rights to accrue after 10 years or what ever it is 10 or 12 years, you become qualified to get a pension but if after having been qualified to get a pension you were to run into trouble with the police and get a criminal conviction as a result of some felony you committed during the course of your duty as a public officer even though your pension rights had accrued because you got a criminal conviction you could lose all those pension rights and go home empty handed and the government said look the government has been saying look that is not right if your pension rights accrued and you get into trouble after that you would have to leave the Public Service yes but you should leave with your pension rights intact

    Extracts from the speech delivered by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart at the DLP Christ Church West Luncheon.

  34. Cabinet has principal responsibility for policy in Barbados.

    Now, so the government increased the rate at which the NSRL was being charged from 2% to 10%, increase it by 8%. Who tell the Government do that. Howls of protest could be heard across the land from the main opposition party and from some people in the Trade Union Movement and in the private sector who they sponsor or who sponsor them and the GOB was being asked to reduce the tax. Now let me make this point very clearly, I want to welcome the members of the media who are here today and I want to make this point very very clearly. Barbados is run and governed by a constitution. That constitution was settled in 1966 when Barbados got its Independence. That constitution guides the Government. Trade Unions are governed by the Trade Union Act and all the other laws that are passed to promote the interest of labour and that allow the Trade Unions to carry out their work without let or hindrance. Companies, companies are governed by the Companies Act, Chapter 308 of the Laws of Barbados and all of the other laws that parliament has passed over time to allow companies to protect and to promote the interest of their shareholders, but the government is sworn to protect the constitution of Barbados which is the highest law in the land a law to which every other law in this country is subject, a law to which every other law in this country is inferior. The constitution is the highest law. Now I say that because I want to remind all of you here and remind Barbadians at a time that I will choose that under the constitution of Barbados the only agency that can determine policy and that has final and principal responsibility for policy is the Cabinet of Barbados section 64 subsection 2 of the Constitution of Barbados makes it explicitly clear that the Cabinet is the principal instrument of policy and is responsible for the general direction and control of affairs in Barbados and is accountable of course to the Parliament of Barbados. So whether you are talking financial policy or social policy or any other kind of policy according to the Constitution of Barbados the Cabinet has principal responsibility for that.


  35. @ Bush Tea July 26, 2017 at 6:33 AM
    “This is what happens when good men refuse to play ball…”

    J C was warned of this outcome should he follow the canons of commercial equity and fair trading and NOT ‘Fear’ Trading.

    That is pure spite because, as you noted, J C refused to play ball and be Stinkliar’s rubberstamping water boy.

    Here is a beleaguered administration being forced to divest State-owned commercial assets but is contracting the ability of the agency assigned the regulatory authority to facilitate competition and ‘fair play’ on in already uneven marketplace.

    Yet these sobs can reinstate the 10% to a massively large Cabinet full of obese ignorant incompetent jackasses.

    Why is there a need for such a large political executive if the State is divesting itself of many of its commercial activities and non-essential social services?

    Where is that overly boisterous multi-mouth Donville who speaks about the need for more private enterprise to create and drive economic growth in a fair and sustainable manner but refuses to give the referee the resources to promote such an environment to facilitate fair business contracting and trading activities?

  36. Miller….that is why Fruendel now has to use his cunning and his brains to avoid another mini coup from his Mangoose, even if it hurts his head, even if it kills him…lol

  37. Dr. Justin Ram, Director of Economics at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), speaking during the opening ceremony of the Central Bank of Barbados 37th Annual Review Seminar, at the Radisson Aquatica Resort yesterday.


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    Wed, 07/26/2017 – 12:00am Barbados1

    “Our 19 borrowing countries are underperforming significantly.”

    That is according to Dr. Justin Ram, Director of Economics at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), while speaking yesterday at the Central Bank of Barbados 37th Annual Review Seminar, ‘Practical Solutions to Strengthen Economic Growth and Adjustment in Small Open Economies’ at the Radisson Aquatica Resort.

    “Compared to comparative groupings around the globe, we are underperforming significantly. Yes, we are small open economies, but when you look at other small island developing states, they are performing. Maybe there is something structurally wrong. The question is, ‘How can we move beyond slow economic growth?’”

    It was further stated that, “In a nutshell, we have low growth and high level of debts. We have high levels of unemployment, but youth unemployment is even higher. As policy makers, we should be concerned also about the possibility of social problems related to high youth unemployment.

    In addition to this, we have low levels of productivity and competitiveness; this is not new information. Furthermore, we live in a bad neighbourhood in terms of natural disasters, which impact the level of debt because of the recovery from natural disasters that often means that we are building up levels of debt.”

    Dr. Ram added, “We ranked our countries with respect to their debt to GDP ratio and Barbados has the highest debt to GDP ratio in the Caribbean, previously it was Jamaica, now Jamaica in the last few years has taken steps to ensure that their debt to GDP ratio is going in the right direction. However, that is not the case for most of our borrowing member countries, although Barbados is at the top now, we also have other countries that are also on the wrong trajectory. Trinidad and Tobago is also on the wrong trajectory. The lessons learnt from Jamaica and perhaps Grenada, show that we can turn things around if we take the right policy measures and steps.”

    According to him, “A lot of projects are not finding their way to implementation, but why do we have implementation deficit in the Caribbean… as serious policy makers we need to start doing something about it. In addition to this as we look at foreign currency reserves, many of our borrowing member countries we have reserves that are well below the benchmark level of three months of import cover …Trinidad has a lot of foreign exchange reserves… But if you are in Trinidad you can’t seem to get foreign exchange, something has gone wrong in the market.” (NB)

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