“Considering that Barbadians live better and Barbados functions better when the DLP is out of office, their time in the wilderness is for the best.”The Deceased Labour Party – Part One
The above assertion from the first article in this series is perhaps contentious and thus, a point worthy of excavation.
Firstly, from an economic perspective, in its first period in office, the Democratic Labour Party claimed to ‘accelerate industrialistion and job creation’. However, when they left office in 1976, they left a country with inflation sky-rocketing and unemployment had reached 25% of the ‘true labour force’. Waste and inefficiency had become pervasive in the public sector. In absolute terms, the same number of people were employed in 1976 in light industry as when they came to office in 1961. Acreage available for agricultural production had declined, as well as output. The cost of living was also rising with phenomenal increases in prices and few will forget the mismanagement of the 1973 oil crisis.
In the DLP’s second period in office, the economic calamity of the 90s is well known to all. Again, this was originally induced by the international economic realities of the 90s, but the situation was handled terribly, resulting in the social upheaval and economic chaos of that period.
Finally, there are few who can deny the stark economic reality of 2018. There had been a complete erosion of investor confidence, Barbados’ credit rating was on a perpetual track of ‘downgrade’, foreign reserves were through the floor, ‘home-grown plan’ after ‘home-grown plan’ had failed to achieve its objectives, taking us around a roundabout of economic calamity, or what the then government called ‘turning the corner’. Cost of living again was sky-high, and taxation was unevenly distributed, thereby disproportionately affecting the working classes.
Turning to the social aspect, Barbados has had to confront a chequered colonial past, necessitating a suite of social programmes for the aggrandizement of the working classes.
Before the DLP came to office in 1961, free education had been introduced at four secondary schools, a basic feeding programme was instituted at primary schools providing children with milk and biscuits, the feasibility study and draft legislation for the NIS was prepared, the first public housing units were constructed, a myriad of legislation to protect workers was introduced and loans were provided for higher education and housing for civil servants.
One wonders how many of those achievements have been misleadingly attributed to the Democratic Labour Party?
After the DLP was booted from office in 1976, minibus operations were legalized allowing small players into the industry, illegitimacy was removed from the statute books, plantation tenants were given the opportunity to own their land, phenomenal strides were made to make men and women more equal in society delivering a ‘new deal’ to women, electricity was provided to the entire island including rural areas, unemployment benefits were introduced and the NCF and NSC were created.
In the DLP’s column, they have Mr Sandiford’s work in education in the Barrow years, the School Meals Service started by Mr Barrow, and the expansion of the previously started free education, national insurance and public housing.
Clearly then, much of the social infrastructure on which this country is founded was not built by the DLP. To a large extent, the Democratic Labour Party has continued and expanded the programmes of others.
Finally on the political front, Mr Barrow must be credited with leading Barbados into independence and his vision and inspiration and Mr Sandiford for creating the Social Partnership.
However, the DLP did not win universal suffrage and full ministerial government for Barbadians. Their commitment to regional integration has also wavered, particularly in the last dispensation, with scarce interest being shown to CSME, as well as the fanning of xenophobia by Mr Thompson’s administration.
It was the DLP that dismantled local government for short-term political gain, and in the process stripping Barbadians of an important layer of democracy. Few might remember, but the DLP also opposed the creation of the EBC, clearly being more comfortable with an electoral office operating out of the PM’s Office.
Concludingly, when one looks at what has been achieved when the DLP has been out of office as well as the failures when they have been in office, what conclusion can be drawn? Does it not appear that the DLP has not been more successful than their political rivals, in terms of achievement? Does it not appear that, especially since the passing of Mr Barrow, they have been stripped of any vision? Does it not appear that Barbados has done better when the Democratic Labour Party has been kept out of Bay Street? When we answer those questions based on the unimpeachable evidence above, is it not so that we are much better off for their time in the political wilderness?
Finally, next week, an assessment of the 65th Conference itself.