The George Brathwaite Column – DLP’s Bus Conked-out
Last Wednesday night, a discerning audience got to hear from one of the sober minds emanating from within the bosom of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP). Ryan Straughn delivered an insightful, comprehensive, and forward-looking presentation that hailed the intellect, vision, and leadership of arguably Barbados’ best prime minister – JMGM ‘Tom’ Adams. Straughn’s presentation was timely, and it reached across the exacerbated political divide which is already hampering real progress in the island. Straughn delved into the glory days of governance in Barbados, to indicate that there are realistic pathways for returning economic growth to the island.
The Christ Church East Central BLP candidate, whose economic background, perhaps does not say sufficient about him as a rational intellect and progressive thinker, certainly got the message across that it cannot be business as usual in Barbados. Verbally, graphically, and at times with a wit demonstrating his connectedness to Barbadian culture, the maturing Ryan Straughn painted a picture of the sad state that Barbados finds itself due to bad measures and unsustainable practices undertaken by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). Indeed, Straughn used the vision and sagacity of Tom Adams to reveal the ineffective policies and damaging practices courted by Prime Minister Stuart and his inept Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler.
In the audience, there was rivetted interest set against the canvas that was erected by Straughn’s insight. His brush was appropriately textured and wetted with the colour and substance for anyone willing to rescue the floundering Barbados economy. Whether one prefers to hide from the facts that Barbados has seriously struggled under the DLP since 2008, or if one chooses to reflect on the fact that Straughn’s frankness also put possible solutions to the problems, were significant. The shallowness of the DLP’s posturing became a takeaway because the erstwhile economist exposed the DLP’s lack of creativity and competence when it comes to the management and growth of the Barbados economy.
Certainly, a decade ago Barbadians had more money in their pockets. The promise of prosperity for all Barbadians was ever-present; and numerous jobs were created while foreign investments and revenues from international business grew bountifully. Additionally, debt was kept under control. Not today! Barbadians cannot leave the terminal because the driver is asleep, and the co-pilot does not know how to navigate the people’s business.
Regrettably, the Stuart-led DLP has virtually smashed most things that would be important for rebuilding the economy and returning significant growth to the Barbados economy. The constant and systematic downgrades have come with such regularity that the recent CCC rating – with a negative outlook – may bypass the scrutiny of Barbadians suffering from their other setbacks. The very socio-economic stepping stones that would normally be used to trigger hope and encourage positive responses such as in tertiary education, have been dislodged by a myopic and sell-out DLP Cabinet.
Painfully though funny, the current Finance Minister still has difficulty understanding basic economic formulae of supply, demand, and price. Minister Sinckler does not understand the basis of taxation policy in a small developing economy, and displays an incomprehension of savings, investment, and spending. How can Barbados attract investors, or gain credit worthiness in the international system when at home, Barbadians do not have confidence in the Finance Minister to do a reasonable job?
Moreover, how does a prime minister fail to talk with the public and refuse to shuffle his Cabinet when all tried outcomes have been disastrous for Barbadians? Surely, the DLP has run its course and its bus is going nowhere forward, and backward is not the population’s destination. Barbados is ready to make a definitive statement on the DLP’s failures and broken promises.
On the matter of busses and transportation, it was shocking that the General Secretary of the beleaguered DLP would resort to another unimpressive piece of spin. Distorting Ryan Straughn’s well-received Tom Adams Memorial Lecture, Pilgrim went down the road with a superficial statement. George Pilgrim stated that Straughn “sought to link” the number of cars on the road to a “reduced need for access to public transportation.” Pilgrim wanted to impart maximum political damage by desperately wishing that Barbadians would forget the chaotic mess happening under the DLP since 2013, and refocus on the emotive advertisement with the ‘old lady’ on the bus.
Pilgrim contended that “the logic” of Straughn’s reference to the need to transform the poor service which Barbadians currently receive from the Transport Board was an affront to the nation. Unashamedly, and appearing more distressed than usual, Pilgrim mockingly lamented Straughn’s capacity to deliver a comprehensive package to enhance services for Barbadians. Arguably, Pilgrim may have been the only person in Barbados interpreting Straughn to mean that since “more Barbadians now own cars, it is legitimate to privatize public transportation and put hundreds of hard working public sector workers on the breadline.” This is the debased thinking that characterises today’s DLP.
Indeed, over a year ago, it was reported that Ryan Straughn agreed with Finance Minister Sinckler that while “not rushing ahead to just go picking this and picking that and privatize this and privatize that … we are going to [take] a judicious approach.” Is the DLP’s misleading statement suggesting that its spokespersons are willing to avoid a relevant conversation with the public on the worsening ills of public transport? Why did Pilgrim not see it fit to say how the DLP administration will address matters of efficiency? Straughn offered an alternative to fix efficiency issues; and he reinforced the need for the appropriate regulatory framework.
It is known by the employers and employees that the Transport Board has become a broken system. Under the DLP, public transport creates perilous job insecurity for thousands of Barbadians having to commute daily. Getting to work for the little pay is a horror! Perhaps, employers are more empathetic than the Prime Minister and the substantive Minister. Hundreds more could have lost their jobs due to repeated lateness and absence, given the poor bus service. Every day, numerous persons are stranded in the terminals or at stops along the potholed-road network. Never is there certainty of a bus although hours of waiting. Can the Stuart-led Cabinet and surrogates speaking on behalf of the DLP be so willing to whip the tails of Bajans into submission?
Ryan Straughn knows that privatisation, restructuring, or any permutation of operational adjustment ought to reflect practicality and the national interest. On public transportation service, it is deep failure and crisis that make the Transport Board “an area that is obviously ripe for some revisiting.” However, Straughn has cautioned that Barbados “can’t afford to lag much longer.” The Minister’s constant promises remain fruitless. Barbadians know that crocodile tears will not work going into the next elections. Workers and students cannot continue to rely on a worsening transport system. Who is being fooled when the DLP’s bus has conked-out before the passengers managed to get on board?
Ryan Straughn is not about top-down politics and beefed up econometrics. Rather, Straughn is about participatory democracy. Barbadians must have a say regarding those issues affecting them at personal and community levels. Straughn has consistently asserted that a review of how the state’s resources are spent must be part of the solution. Furthermore, he has indicated that attempts to correct matters of inefficiency must unfold from “a national consultation before any action is taken.” Ryan Straughn, thank you for a clear and futuristic articulation of the undisputed facts. The thoughtlessness and laziness of the Cabinet shows that the DLP’s bus is conked-out. The DLP’s obsession with propaganda blocks pathways to progress.
(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)