I Forgive You

Submitted by Grenville Phillips II

I normally take my best advice. Therefore, I wish to publicly forgive those whom I have publicly criticised for doing me harm.

I forgive the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration for confiscating part of my retirement savings and pension, changing the laws of Barbados to make that theft legal, and not allowing me to access all the remainder of my retirement savings until the year 2033.

POLITICAL PARTIES.

I forgive the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration for what the BLP called “the lost decade”. During seven years of that decade, I was not allowed to tender on construction projects in Barbados because of their corrupting procurement policy.

PARTISAN PROFESSIONALS.

I forgive our politically partisan professionals. They include: economists, accountants, lawyers, journalists, and political scientists who criticised behaviour when it was done by the political party they did not support, and praised the same behaviour when it was done by their preferred political party.

I forgive our established media, who work with their political party to suppress the voices of credible Barbadians, so that the media’s audience is mainly informed about the views of the media’s political party.

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Minister of Education McConney Survives Cabinet Reshuffle

Minister of Education Kay McConney

The latest in the world of local politics has been the announcement by Prime Minister Mottley of a Cabinet reshuffle that includes the deployment of MP for the City Corey Layne to the Attorney General’s office. Minister of Education Kay McConney continues to enjoy the confidence of the Prime Minister at a time there is public dissatisfaction directed at the Ministry of Education over the IDB Survey. 

Before the news of the reshuffle the blogmaster intended to share a thought about the political chaos unfolding in the UK. Particularly the fact members of the cabinet and prime ministers have been routinely resigning. The UK will have 5 prime ministers in a 6 year period with the recent resignation of the Prime Minister Liz Truss holding that office for 44 days. 

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Politicians Make Promises and Tell Lies

From time to time the blogmaster retrieves the various manifestos shared over the years by the two main political parties in Barbados and it makes for interesting reflection. It is obvious the objective by the BLP and DLP is to baffle a gullible electorate. Have a read if you are a doubting Thomas – http://www.caribbeanelections.com/eDocs/manifestos/bb/blp_manifesto_2018.pdf

The blogmaster was drawn page 30 of the BLP manifesto titled Rebuilding the Economy, Financing National transformation. Notwithstanding the country had to battle the Covid 19 pandemic for the last 3 years there is a view that with an unprecedented large Cabinet the government should have made more progress implementing several of the promises made in the 2018 manifesto. 

Last week the government received a donation of personal equipment supplies and Minister of Health (former chairman of the controversial NIS) took the opportunity to remind Barbadians so far, fighting the pandemic has costed government about 100 million dollars. The ministry of health should be congratulated for being transparent and efficient to share the cost with the public. We will wait to have the number validated by the Auditor General.

While congratulating the Minister of Health for being able to share the cost to fight the pandemic so far – why should we be congratulating for this anyway – the public has seen roadblocks to ascertain the cost of the Barbados Digital ID Project. It is ironic that Minister of Industry, Innovation, Science and Technology Davidson Ishmael has been unable to share projected and or actual cost given the type of ministry he is responsible. It is too much of a big pill for the public to swallow he has no idea the cost of the project. He was quoted in the press as saying – “I am going to provide the public with the costs related to this project very soon. The thing is, we have the information relative to the cost [but] that information is spread across many financial years, many different components, many different agencies, departments and ministries”. 

The blogmaster understands the ID project has had several iterations across financial years straddling BOTH administrations. Is Minister Ishmael saying that at minimum he is unable to share cost incurred under his BLP government with the caveat information will come at a later date regarding prior years expense? It is the height of arrogance by the minister and flies in the face of this government’s pledge to be transparent. Is this another case of public servants messing up the bookkeeping by being complicit with politicians in the award of contracts to private sector players?

In today’s Nation the editor in chief Carol Martindale calls out government ministers for not returning calls to journalists pursuing information in the public’s interest. Again a read of the 2018 BLP Manifesto promised a government committed to being transparent. In reality, it is about making promises to win votes from a gullible public, or shall we say damn lies. Is the proclamation of Integrity and Freedom of Information legislation still a promise?

We have a Ministry of Health quick to toss around a 100 million dollar price tag for propaganda purposes, BUT, in a another ministry there is a veil of confusion about how tax payers dollars have been allocated to the Barbados ID project. Why do we have annual Estimates debates and Appropriations Bills? Surely Minister Ismael can tell the public he serves monies allocated to the project under his term? Is this a case for the Auditor General to unravel in a special audit? This maybe the case based on what the blogmaster was been made aware. If only public servants would do the damn job and stop politicians from interfering ways.

Mottley Cabinet is Bloated

One of the more interesting decisions made in 2018 by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) government led by Mia Mottley was to appoint the largest ever Cabinet in our history. Her justification for the ‘relatively large’ Cabinet was because of the overwhelming mandate received from the electorate. From 2018 until the present – with a cosmetic tweak in 2022 – the Cabinet has remained large.

Enough time has elapsed to fairly judge if a large Cabinet adds value to how the country has been governed since 2018. It has been a government led by the larger than life and seemingly indefatigable Prime Minister Mottley. Her style of delivery and oratory skill has endeared her to the international community. It is worth a reminder she inherited an economy with a GDP north of 150 with junk status credit rating. There was a feeling of renewed hope in the nation post 2018 general election.

Out of the gate the Mottley government committed the country to a debt restructure on domestic and local holdings which right sided the debt to GDP indicator BUT immediately shot the confidence of local and foreign investors. The lack of confidence to invest persists four years later. To be expected economists are divided on whether it was the right strategy, these decisions are never easy we must admit. 

In Mottley’s defense she will postulate that the COVID 19 pandemic, Hurricane Elsa and La Soufriere volcano ash fall combined to derail government’s rebuild effort and in fact caused the economy to significantly contract. To reasonable onlookers she has a good defense. However hungry mouths well not be as sympathetic. The debate will continue about the BLP’s performance since 2018 until the next bell is rung.

Political pundits are already surveying a barren political landscape for alternative voting options. The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) under rookie leader Dr. Ronnie Yearwood is in the early stage of a rebuild and the many political parties that presented at the polls in 2018 and 2022 have done the usual vanishing act of which Houdini would have been proud. 

What is the blogmaster trying to say in too many words?

Prime Minister Mottley has taken the reins of government at a challenging time in our history there can be no doubt. This is precisely why decisions taken by Mottley must be fit for purpose for the extraordinary times to guide a 166 square mile open economy island through the economic tempest and other challenges. There is no good reason the country should have to suffer a bloated Cabinet not to mention a bevy of financial consultants in 2022. Mottley must stop pandering to political inclinations and instead send clear signals to the population she and her government are prepared to make the sacrifice and walk with the people at a difficult time in our history. 

What the blogmaster fears most is – when the next general election is called the electorate may have no choice to abstain or vote anyone posing as an opposition, a default position. The level of apathy and cynicism in the country is already low. Whither our democratic system?

60 Love Can Lose

It would be remiss of the blogmaster if the yesterday’s 2022 Grenada general election was not highlighted in this space. Keith Mitchell’s New National Party (NNP) won consecutive general elections in 2013 and 2018. The Mia Mottley led Barbados Labour Party (BLP) won consecutive general elections in 2018 and 2022. Today the Prime Minister of Grenada is 44 year old Dikcon Mitchell who led the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to office based on preliminary reporting 9 seats to 6. To his credit 75 year old Keith Mitchell won his seat.

Another example of the people expressing its will in a democracy. Time will tell if the NDC is able to satisfy people expectation or another case of shuffling chairs on the deck of the Titanic. It exposes Mia Mottley and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) should NOT take its unprecedented mandate for granted. Less than a year into a second term and there is growing discontentment from Barbadians largely because of increasing harsh economic conditions brought on by negative movements in the external market. The main political opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP) – not dissimilar to the NDC – is led by a new young Dr. Ronnie Yearwood. In fact Dickon Mitchell was invited to speak at the DLP’s Extraordinary Conference on 1 May 2022. The win should help to inspire Yearwood and his team to what is possible. 

Some of us recognise the winning of a general election does not translate to manna from heaven, although it relieves concerns about a threat to ‘democracy’ by becoming a de facto one party state. Grenada like Barbados is a small island developing state which makes the job of governing for any government a challenge.

In the case of Mottley and Barbados one suspects if Yearwood is able to present a set of believable plans for Barbados and surround himself with a tean that is perceived as credible, who knows what is possible next election round. The recent decision by the Barbados government to borrow $256 million is not resonating well with the public. In theory many Barbados may understand we need to fix roads and attend to physical infrastructure BUT at what price. The debt stock of Barbados is north of 13 billion!

The blogmaster will continue to retreat to a position some do not accept. Citizens must continue find ways to agitate against our governments – to hold feet to fire. Politicians are in the business of popularity even if it comes at the expense of the people who elected them.

Crisis of Governance – No Damn Labour Party (NDLP)

The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was founded in 1938 and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in 1955. For many the BLP and DLP dubbed the Duopoly are the only political parties we know. In recent years both political parties have been criticized for not being sufficiently progressive to sustain a quality life for the majority of Barbadians, present and future generations. Noticeable has been the inability of alternative parties to establish themselves as credible alternatives in a ready environment.

In 2018 and 2022 the BLP won both general elections with an unprecedented consecutive 30 to zero result. While political supporters of the duopoly have understandably contrasting feelings about the results, the more independent minded continue to be very concerned. 

A strong democracy depends on quality political parties. Strong political parties depend on quality members. In recent years both DLP and BLP have been unable to attract quality individuals to stem rising voter apathy and cynicism. No need to listen to the taking heads who try to justify declining voter turnout with statistical speak. Unbiased political pundits agree that today’s voter across the globe “appear to be turning away from traditional political organizations”. It forces the question – can the democracy practiced in Barbados survive without fit for purpose political parties?

The Barbados system of government which is a parody of the Westminster system is predicated on the “public’s trust in the integrity of government”, one that embodies “a framework of ethics, professionalism and transparency”. It has become obvious EXCEPT for rabid partisan supporters our political system has been hijacked- whether it is because of a less than meritorious selection of candidates or anonymous sources of funding for political parties that flavour how decisions are made when politicians ascend to government. There is a growing bloc of disenchanted citizens- here and elsewhere- who represent a view the time has come to usher in a more direct participation by citizens to how we govern. Find ways to diminish the role of political parties and the professional political class. The days of the ‘grassroot’ politician whose sole objective was to selflessly serve the public is a faded ideal.

Barbados presents a good case study to prove the notion of a system of government failing because of a declining political party system. There is the BLP with its charismatic maximum leader- remove Mottley from the BLP leadership and there is a good chance the party will flounder to mimic the death throes being exhibited by the DLP. In the meantime and in between time the people are left with no option than to vote for twiddledee or twiddledum.

The majority of Barbadians despite our boast of being an educated people hesitate to discuss governance issues in a meaningful way. That is unless cloaked in a salacious, adversarial and contentious theme. There is the saying, a people always get the government it deserves. Across the globe this is being witnessed.

Sound of Silence

Freundel Stuart was the prime minister of Barbados in the period 2010 to 2018 after assuming the caretaker role from David Thompson who became sick on the job soon after the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was voted to office in 2008. The legacy of Stuart’s stewardship is still being written although some pundits at this early stage are happy to label it worse than the Sandiford administration. The tactic engineered by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) – the other member of the duopoly – has enjoyed success with branding of the Glorious Years as The Lost Decade.

The failure of a third party movement to gain traction in Barbados means the health of our democracy is nexus to well managed DLP and BLP political parties. A strident dissenting voice is a feature of the Westminster system we try to model – the lacuna created by the recent general election and ensuing legal challenge regarding how the Senate is constituted is a case in point. A good argument can therefore be made that the business of political parties is the public’s business although classified private entities. In fact the unwillingness of quality citizens to offer themselves to join political parties who aspire to selflessly serve the public is at the heart of the type of governments we are saddled.

Some of us who comment on political matters are not surprised at the dysfunctional state of the DLP. It was not difficult to forecast. Barbadians except for the rabidly partisan are turned off by the quality of politics and governments we have been getting since the Tom Adams era which ended in the mid 80s. The blogmaster opines both DLP and BLP political parties have been rotated to govern the country based on the level of voter apathy and lack of credible alternatives and little to do with substance. The unprecedented 30-0 victories at the polls by the BLP in 2018 and 2022 should give Barbadians reason to pause. The BLP despite making several mistakes in a brief tenure of just over three years the political opposition was unable to gain the public’s trust.   The quality of our system of government whether we like it or not is tied to the quality of individuals attracted to serve in political parties. There is that symbiotic relationship only a fool would deny.

Today makes 32 days since the last general election and except for a public position in response to a contentious offer from Prime Minister Mottley to participate in a discussion about accepting two Senate seats, the DLP has been silent and irrelevant in the public space. Sensible observers appreciate it will take the DLP time to assess, reorganize and mobilize BUT there is a reality to be considered by the DLP and onlookers. The silence coming out of George Street is consistent with the ‘glorious years’ of the Stuart administration and the longer it persists, the more difficult it will be for that party to be perceived as a credible alternative. The blogmaster is aware the DLP has skin in the game based on the matter that is before the court brought by AG Brathwaite – who we know is acting de facto for the DLP. Some of us are not so stupid to believe otherwise.

This is a cry for a different type of citizen with a passion and body of work for serving the public to join the two main political parties. An organization assumes the character of its members. If we want our governments to change how business is done, it must begin with the quality of personnel attracted to political parties. Today it is the DLP in crisis, it is not inconceivable the BLP may find itself in a similar position when Mia Mottley demits office whether for a forced or unforced reason. If that happens all of us will be adversely impacted.

The type of government we get starts with YOU!

Another Abracadabra Moment

In 2018 the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) won all 30 seats in parliament. It created what pundits described as a political dilemma for the government because the Barbados Constitution recognizes the role of the Leader of the Opposition.

At the eleventh hour Reverend Joseph Atherley who was elected to the House of Assembly on a BLP ticket decided to cross the floor and like magic the constitutional crisis was averted. Before Atherley saved the day there was a move afoot to amend the Constitution to provision for two senators to be appointed by the Governor General from the losing political party winning the most votes. The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) would have been the beneficiary of the amendment. However, we recall campaign manager Robert ‘Bobby’ Morris criticized the move to manufacturer an opposition presence in the Upper House. His reason – a political opposition should earn its place in parliament.

…Robert “Bobby” Morris, said they would rightfully reclaim their seats in the legislature in time and there was no need to take up the offer.

However, George Connolly, one of the new candidates who ran in St James Central and who lost his deposit, took an opposing view. I’ve heard the comments of ‘Bobby’ Morris and I have a lot of respect for him, but I disagree vehemently with the position that he took on that. I think we need a voice, and a senatorial voice is as good a voice as any. You can’t effect any major changes, but certainly you can have a voice. So I am in total agreement if the offer is made that it should be accepted, he told Starcom Network yesterday.

Nationnews.com

In hindsight given the outcome of last week’s general election the government should have amended the Barbados Constitution to address the lacuna in the improbable event a political party again won all the seats. A discussion being had across Barbados is whether there will be another convenient crossing of the floor by a ‘disgruntled’ BLP member days after campaigning successfully on a BLP ticket in the mold of Atherley or if the shelved 2018 amendment to the Constitution will be dusted off.

Whether there is the convenient crossing of the floor by a member of parliament to create a leader of the opposition in the Lower House or amendment to the Barbados Constitution to create same in the Upper House, it is unfortunate a dissenting voice has to be created arising from the first past the post system we practice. In this regard the blogmaster does not agree with Morris that the DLP should refuse to participate in the Upper House if the opportunity is created to do so. There are commentators like Dr.Kristina Hinds who posit a view there are avenues outside of parliament to make ones voice heard. 

The blogmaster’s view is that parliament provides a prominent space for an opposition voice in our system of government. It gives the opposition earned exposure that helps to create a national profile for the political party given the credibility it adds through participation from in the bowels of the parliamentary system. The country witnessed how former Senator Caswell Franklyn did it with good effect. We should not trivialize the optics of opposition participation in parliament by the public.

There is concern two unprecedented 30 to 0 mandates pave the opportunity for the Mottley led government to run roughshod over the views of members in civil society. Especially given her rambunctious leadership style. Decisions taken by the government of Barbados in the coming days have deep implications for our way of life to come. 

God Bless Bim!

BLP Win 30-0, Again

The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in a surprising result won all 30 seats again in a snap election called 18 months before constitutionally due by Mia Mottley.

In the coming weeks there will be robust debate about how our democracy optimally serves Barbadians with a muted dissenting voice. One may argue a healthy democracy requires a strident dissenting voice. Barbados is traveling an uncharted path given the 2018 and 2022 general election results and BELOW 50% turnout (anecdotal). In the coming weeks our attention will turn to government’s management of COVID 19, the economy, the health of political opposition and a few other key issues.

Whither the political opposition?

The blogmaster congratulates the BLP on the win and offers the advice – to whom much is given, much is expected.

Democratic and Barbados Labour Party Candidates 2018 vs 2022

Posted to caribbeansignal.com

Democratic Labour Party Candidates – 2018 vs 2022

Early this morning (very early) I posted my analysis of Barbados Labour Party candidates 2018 vs. 2022. Now it’s time to have a look at the candidates the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) fielded in 2018 and what they are bringing to the 2022 elections. I will not go over the methodology used, as it is…Read More

Barbados Labour Party Candidates – 2018 vs 2022

UPDATE 1: Having received reliable information on the birth year of Senator The Hon. Kay (she is 54, not 55), I have updated The Table. No updates were required to the Discussion Points and the Age Distribution Chart. This is a revised post to the original one that was made on January 11 (and removed…Read More

BLP and DLP Governments Use Media Practitioners for Propaganda

Submitted by Paula Sealy

The current administration has invested in the media and media personnel has invested in the Mottley administration. Some media practitioners were forced out of CBC and landed at Starcom. But some of the others are riding the fatted calf for all it is worth. (David Thompson spoke of the fatted calf being shared among the DLP members after the elections in 2008. Fourteen years later we are still there.)

They may be professionals but how many of their statements in the print media, behind a microphone or in front of a TV camera were motivated by a political agenda or professional integrity.

The Market Vendor aka Vic Fernandes has been used to influence the public with comedy and encourage John Public to rail against individuals and groups with views against the government of the day. Don’t forget when the vendor lambasted the DLP government.

Corey Layne was said to be an objective moderator on the airwaves. Any person who is a critical thinker must question that thinking by now.

We must be more aware of what is being put out by the media, who is the source and why news items are considered newsworthy or not.

Pay attention to where these people have turned up…

1. David Ellis, Starcom (Station Manager, Retired) – COVID-19 Public Advisor (Sep. 2021-present)

2. Sanka Price, Starcom/NATION (News Editor) – CEO, Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (2020.06.15-present)

3. Roy Morris, Barbados Today (Editor-In-Chief) – Press Secretary to the Prime Minister

4. Vic Fernandes, Capital Media (Chairman)

  • Chairman, Grantley Adams International Airport (2018-2021)
  • Chairman, Barbados National Oil Company Limited (2021.07.01-present)
  • Member, National Cruise Development
  • Commission (2018.08.16-2019.02.15)


5. Carol Roberts-Reifer, Starcom (Radio Personality)

  • CEO, National Cultural Foundation (2018-present)
  • Deputy Chairperson, Board of Management, Christ Church Foundation School (2018-present)


6. Corey Layne, Starcom (Radio Personality) – BLP Candidate, City of Bridgetown, 2022

Policy Performance and Outlook (Part 1)

General Election will be held in Barbados 19 January 2022. One expects a key issue of the campaign will be economic plans to move Barbados forward and the Mottley led government will be asked to defend its management of the economy since 2018 notwithstanding it must have been a difficult undertaking based on what the state of the economy was and then the pandemic. The following was shared with the blogmaster and now posted for comment – David, blogmaster

Context – How did we get here?

To judge them fairly, one would have to first look at the state of the nation upon the administration assuming office in May of 2018.  In 2018 the administration faced a debt to GDP ratio of 158.26% or 174% if you include arrears. These arrears were simply $1.9 billion the government refused to pay to ordinary Barbadians and businesses as opposed to money borrowed. This includes money owed to government contractors for work done or goods provided, income tax returns to individuals, vat returns to businesses, reverse tax credits to the working poor and $250 million in civil servant pensions Which government had stopped paying to the NIS.  Therefore, it is fair to add it to the total government debt as the current administration does. The total debt to GDP ratio of 174% was up from a ratio of 83.3% in 2008 when the Thompson administration took office. That is a staggering increase in the Debt to GDP ratio of any nation in just 10.5 years. For further context, when the Owen Arthur Administration took office in 1994, the country’s debt to GDP ratio was 55.93% an increase of 27 percentage points in 14 years in which Barbados; Rebuilt a Highway, Built a Cricket Stadium, built two new Secondary Schools, rebuilt a prison. refurbished an Airport and placed technological equipment in all schools through Edutech and built new Tenantry roads through the Urban and Rural Development Commision. The Mottley Administration also assumed office with less than $400 million in Foreign reserves with a foreign debt payment due in just over a month, very low to no economic growth for a decade, An economy headed back into recession despite the global economy growing at 3 percent at the time according to the UN Barbados was the third most indebted country in the world after Greece which is backed by the European Union, and  Japan which has the second highest amount of Foreign Reserves in the world after China. The question then becomes, Why did the Thompson/Stuart administration struggle so much to manage the country’s fiscal and economic affairs?     

Fiscal Management  

To find answers we cannot speculate but we will need to take a look at the Government’s accounts aka “The revised estimates” you can find here: Estimates and the Central Bank of Barbados data on Government operations. In order to be fair to the previous administration we can only examine the Fiscal Balance on the Current Accounts since this does not include repayment of interest on loans from the Arthur or Sandiford Administrations. The examination of this data does not paint a pretty picture. Since Grantley Adams Administration in 1952 Barbados had only recorded a fiscal deficit of it’s current accounts five times with four of three occasions being so small it hardly registered twice under Barrow, once under Tom Adams and Twice under Sandiford, with the largest being in the fiscal year 1988/89 of $20 million. The reasons behind this rule are two fold:

Running a fiscal surplus or balanced budget on the current account takes pressure off the Central Bank to print money to finance it . which in turn secures the fixed exchange rate since money printing depletes the foreign reserves.   
Secondly, It creates fiscal space by allowing the government to borrow for purposes which are desirable like to build roads. schools improve public transport and water resources.


Then in 2008 something happened, Barbados departed from an “unwritten fiscal rule” which we had followed for decades, we went terribly off track as the data shows in 2008/2009 we spent 189.4 million more than was received in revenue  2009/2010 486, millions more than tax revenue, in 2010/210 $638 million, 2010/2011 $266.2 million, 2011/2012 $614.3 million 2013/2014 was the worst year in which we spent $786.7 million more than was collected in taxes. Every year until 2018 Barbados borrowed to pay wages and salaries and to keep the “lights on” so to speak. This was not to invest in infrastructure or digitizatization or upskilling for the future but spending in the current period. In the financial year, 2010/2011 (page 27) Capital Expenditure actually fell by 41.2% and it never recovered throughout the life of the administration. This means that the administration which ran the largest deficits in the history of the country all invested the least in its future.  The administration also reduced investments in human Capital in the form of  higher education, by 2012, our government had racked up arrers to UWI to the tune of $150 million  and by 2013 Government officially announced tuition fees for Barbadian students after not paying the University for some time. This wasn’t during a pandemic, global flights were not halted and we had not been hit by a major hurricane (thankfully).  To be fair, there was a global financial crisis between 2008 and 2010, however the previous administration did not have a revenue problem. The 2008 budget which Thompson delivered ensured that tax revenue remained at 2008 levels despite the Canadian’s signing a tax treaty with Cayman which reduced our International business taxes.  In fact by 2009 the Government raked in 2.6 billion dollars in taxes, surpassing 2007 levels.  However, the country had a spending problem, driven by a category called transfers and subsidies, mostly going to State owned Enterprises. We were adding obscene amounts to the national debt not to build roads. bridges, schools, clinics. hospitals and to digitize and modernize the economy but to throw into a dark hole called SOE’s.  What happened as the years went on was those deficits lead to short term borrowing, which lead to credit rating downgrades which lead  to higher interest costs.  This spiral ensured that the country could not buy a single bus, leading to stories like this, or garbage trucks or upgrading sewage plants or fix crumbling school infrastructure or supplying water to parts of the island where people were suffering from dry taps. We simply had no fiscal space.  When the deteriorating credit rating scared off Institutional investors. We resorted to borrowing from the Central Bank (printing money),this money printing led to the Foreign Reserves plummeting even after we managed to borrow, at very high interest rates (10-13%) from Credit Suisse at.  

Fiscal Space and Restoring Credibility 

I don’t know much about politics, but as someone who thinks who has often derided politicians for trying to trick people, one thing that struck me in reading the BLP’s 2018 manifesto was the lack of “pie in the sky” promises and the honesty about the need for debt restructuring (page 8) and going the IMF , which is almost unheard of in a political campaign in the Caribbean.  To be frank, this style of candid campaign lead to the new administration being able to make the decisions it needed to upon assuming office.   

After 3.5 years what has been their Record?   A week after assuming office the Government announced that Barbados would be suspending Debt payments and entering talks with creditors and the IMF in order to stop the slide in the Foreign Reserves and get Fiscal Space.  This debt restructuring exercise was wrapped up in 2019 details: here.
Just over a week later, the Minister of Finance went to parliament to deliver the so-called “min-budget” which was just a set of adjustments to the Estimates presented by the previous administration in March. Measures in these adjustments were meant to close the still large fiscal deficit which the island struggled with by going to the root of the problem, Transfers and subsidies to SOEs. Government proposed taking a number of SOEs off of the Consolidated fund and forcing them to fund their operations using their own revenue streams. Some Measures included:  Airline travel and Development tax for tourists coming from outside Caricom to go directly to BTMI while taking BTMI off the Consolidated fund (partly privatizing it) Product Development levy on Tourism services to create more revenue stream for BTMI. Moving the SSA and the Water Authority off the Consolidated fund though the Garbage and Sewage Contribution. A PPP to let a concessionair run Harrison’s Cave so the Government can take it off the Consolidated fund, the entity which was later chosen was Chukka Caribbean. The Purchase of new garbage trucks and buses. The resumption of payment of tuition for students at UWI The increase in non-contributory pensions from $155 to $225.  

What were the results of these adjustments? 

To be clear, a number of these measures were tough, but they had a simple theme, to stop taking money from the consolidated fund and throwing into dark holes called State owned Enterprises like SSA, BWA, Harrison Cave, BTMI and BTPMI and Transport Board, The type of Spending which choked the country for a decade.  By March 2019 Barbados was recording a small fiscal surplus on the current account of $167.2 million.  During that same period the administration sought to address the infrastructural decay of the country with Temporary fix to the south Coast Sewage problems: New Garbage trucks arrived by January 2019 and more would arrive by December 2019: The purchase of new buses which arrive by mid-2020.  Reinvesting in primary and Secondary Education through repairs to schools like St Giles primary,  or St George Secondary  Establishment of the Education Reform Unit and the the upgrade the electrical wiring across all schools and fence to fence wifi connectivity. Bringing in Coding and Robotic kits to launch the coding and robotics programme in 2022.For a long time people have been crying for water relief in parts of rural Barbados and the administration spent money to fix water distribution issues facing them see: here and here. Residents in parts of St.Andrew, St John and St Joseph are benefiting as seen by this tweet.  The administration also repaired and rebuilt several roads across Barbados, the latest being in St. Phillip seen here and here.  

Arrival of Covid

Just as the country recorded a fiscal surplus current account surplus of  6%, the largest surplus in the Country recorded in decades.  The pandemic struck.  Note: In part 2 I will examine the Administration’s response to the pandemic and what I believe are the strengths and weaknesses going forward.  

Do they Care?

Submitted by Observing

In the silly season we tend to look only at politics, but it is also Covid season.  A look therefore at the recent election call through the eyes of a pandemic situation is necessary

The charts above show statistics  for Covid Cases and Positivity Rates in December. Remember we came from highs of 400 and rates of 20+% in October and November

Since then we have learned about Omicron which was first recorded in November, spread around the world by December 1 and reached the Caribbean a week or so later

What did Barbados do?

We relaxed the policy at the airport without consulting BAMP, botched the rollout of Safe Zones without consulting the Unions, started home isolation and stopped contact tracing without initially letting the public know.

Now on December 27, 2021 snap elections are called.  18 months early.  Let that sink in.

The government holds ALL medical information, projections and forecasts.  He/she is aware of all potential national security and health issues.  They more than anyone, know what the attached charts and regional situation is showing. Yet, despite this, there was a mad unilateral rush to Republic and now another mad unilateral rush to an election 18 months early.

But, just for comparison, let’s look at a few other recent elections regionally

  • St. Lucia, held July 26, 2021. 7 day Covid average at announcement = 7
  • St. Vincent, held November 20, 2020: 7 day Covid average at announcement = 0.86
  • Jamaica, held September 3, 2020: 7 day Covid average at announcement = 18
  • Trinidad, held August 10, 2020: 7 day Covid average at announcement = 1
  • St. Kitts, held June 5, 2020: 7 day Covid average at announcement = 13
  • Barbados to be held January 19, 2020: 7 day Covid average at announcement = 72…and climbing

 I think we get the picture.

In the above cases, constitutional constraints mean elections HAD to be called soon. In Barbados’ case, no such demand existed other than political or individual calculation.   A Prime Minister asked once when will leaders lead.  Leaders do not plunge their people into a state of uncertainty, in a pandemic, in the season of Advent, before the start of school with not even their own people being aware just because “they felt like.”

  • Leaders bring people together of all stripes and loyalties to heal divisions real, perceived or created by themselves.
  • Leaders go beyond just talk and live up to the ideals and values that THEY said they would.
  • Leaders take care of home drums first then worry about attention abroad after.
  • Leaders build trust through transparency and honesty. 
  • Leaders focus on all persons, not just a select few.

I think we all know that this election was not called based on national goals or unity. The general public and the electorate are clearly secondary considerations. 

Keep safe whenever you campaign or wherever you vote.  Long live the Republic.

Silly Season Time Again

A short three years ago in 2018 then Prime Minister Freundel Stuart remained in office for 90 days beyond the five year anniversary of the first sitting of parliament permitted under the Barbados Constitution. Three years later incumbent Prime Minister Mia Mottley has called a snap general election eighteen months before it is constitutionally due. 

The early ring of the bell has caused tongues to wag with rumours and rumours of rumours rolling off the social media conveyor belt. The blogmaster reconciled a long time ago that political parties are in business to win general elections and this is the single consideration to reflect on when evaluating and commenting on political issues.

Every election cycle we hear talk about the need for the enactment of fixed term, campaign financing legislation etc. When the winner is announced on the night of the 19th January there will be further calls campaign financing laws and amendment to the electoral laws etc. To be expected, nothing will be done to address the issues raised by the politicians who raised them.

This week there were howls of protests from members of the public when it was discovered the voters list was posted online with personal information. The majority of Barbadians were oblivious to the fact the Representation of the People Act was amended in 2020 to make legal what occurred. What it has exposed is the lack of interest the majority of Barbadians have in what is debated in parliament. It should make the debate promised about the Barbados Constitution very interesting.

The blogmaster will resist the usual political punditry at predicting who will win which ‘seat’ on the 19th. Given the current hopeless economic state of affairs in the country, it seems a pointless exercise to expect B or D will make a difference. Both political parties have to bear responsibility for where we are today. Do not expect manna to fall after nearly fifteen years of famine.

The blogmaster and others have blogged many times on governance issues, however, BU dashboard shows these blogs record lower hits than the others. What does it say about our ‘intelligence’ as a people? 

The government you elect is the government you deserve.

Thomas Jefferson

Will average Barbadians be encouraged to seriously debate the merits of imposing fixed term laws to eliminate the opportunity for a prime minister to attempt to manipulate the result of an election? The blogmaster is not optimistic. Stuart tried in 2018 and supporters of the Democratic Labour Party defended the decision. Mottley three years into a five year term has done similarly and Barbados Labour Party are stridently defending the decision. Around and around we go, when it will stop nobody knows.

What will be the issues this time around?

Same old, same old – NTSH