Who Will Win The Fight For Power?

Submitted by Heather Cole

General Elections were held in Barbados on January 19th, 2022, and the ruling Administration the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) came away with a resounding victory capturing all 30 seats, leaving all the other opposition parties with zero. Today, 14 days after, now that the dust has settled, it is clear that despite this achievement, the government of Barbados is fighting for power.

The fight relates to the fact that Parliament cannot be seated as the Upper House or the Senate is not constituted. The winning party is like a ship without its rudder as it cannot steer or maneuver at sea. It is in limbo and at the mercy of the waves if caught in a storm. Without Parliament being fully constituted, the administration is unable to amend any law far less create new ones and start its agenda.

Based on the Constitution, two Opposition Senators are required in the make-up of the constituted Senate. Since no members of the opposing parties won any seats, it is left to the President based on the Constitution to act as the Leader of the Opposition and appoint 2 persons who opposed the BLP in the General Election.

The ruling Administration extended an offer to the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) which gained the second most votes to seat two of their Senators. The DLP refused stating that it was not a proper offer since the Prime Minister had no authority to extend the offer. Then the Attorney General walked back on the offer stating that the prime Minister was only seeking to facilitate their entry into Parliament and stating that there must be a meeting with the ruling Administration, the President and the DLP. At writing the DLP has not responded.

Is the Barbados Labour Party in Control?

Clearly the BLP wants to get on with its agenda which perhaps contains vaccine mandates, safe zones, IMF conditionalities and now the contentious issue of seating an 18-year-old in the Senate (even though they had previously opposed seating a 25 year old DLP Senator stating that he was too young). All these are now problematic due to the crisis of there not being a fully constituted Senate. In essence the government is operating in a system that they cannot control the outcome. At present it is powerless except for day-to-day administration. It makes one wonder how long the island can operate without a functioning Parliament. Perhaps there is some pressure based on a commitment to external forces that caused an offer to be extended to the DLP.

Does the Power lie in the Hands of the Democratic Labour Party?

Though it may seem a simple act of benevolence, the offer that was extended to the DLP cannot be construed as such. It was simply to use them to achieve the government’s agenda as the DLP simply will not have the numbers to halt any amendment or passing of a bill into law.

It is significant to note that accepting that offer would also set a precedent to exclude smaller parties from the House of Assembly at this time since they may not be the holder of the second highest tally of votes.

However, it is not only the DLP that has the power of choice; all the opposition parties and independent persons who took part in the General Elections have the same power of choice in deciding whether to accept an offer from the President simply because the Constitution does not recognize political parties, only people. If the opposition parties and independents signed an agreement to reject any such offer, the ship is rendered helpless, forced out to sea, or slammed into the rocks by the mighty waves. Clearly, the back of this Administration is against the wall.

Just selecting two Senators will not resolve this constitutional crisis. It is like prolonging agony not just kicking the ball down the road for someone else to correct later.

The System

The system controlled and manipulated Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) based its decision to disenfranchise thousands of Barbadians and blamed it on the State of Emergency Protocols. This is unacceptable as the protocols were easily amended to suit tourists and celebrations for the Republic. It must be noted that the EBC did not disenfranchise its workers, some of whom must have been infected and spreaders of the virus because a few days later it had to close its office.

When the Attorney General lashed out at the DLP to stop playing politics, it came to light that he did not realize that the fight is not against them but against the voracious beast of a system whose actions his own party has taken to a whole new level by paying social media influencers from the public purse, by obtaining campaign funds from local and international financers as well as maintaining a Department of Communications while the Government Information Service still exists.

The system has now taken on a life of its own and as the song by Jah Cure says, “Babylon can’t feed this beast” and there is no mechanism in place to control it. The system is now working in overdrive to maintain the 2 Barbadoses’. One with the rich man in his castle and the poor man destined to remain at his gate. One in which the tourist sees a paradise and the workers go home to pull back the curtain to show the stark reality of their lives. One in which economic enfranchisement will never be given to the poor. The Poverty Alleviation Fund remains empty, yet government can hold a lavish celebration for a meaningless Republic. The system has made sure that justice is not for the poor. That poor black men are paraded like animals and incarcerated for a spliff like the inhumane conditions of slavery.

From independence, the system has made a mockery of the franchise with use of bribery through giving corn beef and biscuits to the gullible in exchange for their votes. The bribery has not stopped, the vote is now exchange for far more valuable items.

The system has also turned political campaign meetings into lavish parties with big stages and sound systems and bright lights to entice the youth to have a grand time as they listen to popular artistes. Those feel-good moments lead to a five-year sentence of hardship including lack of representation, high prices of food, constant increases in the cost of gasoline, lack of infrastructural development, lack of opportunities, no jobs and the desires for a better life come to naught.

The privileged few can escape the island for supposedly greener pastures, but the majority have no choice but to remain and face this hard brutish existence, yet they revere politicians more than themselves. The cycle of economic poverty for the lower class is perpetrated by political parties. They pay back their campaign financers with big contracts and titles, but they only provide scraps and promises to the people who elected them.

The actions of this system, expressed in the words of Bob Marley is “Babylon system is a vampire, sucking the blood of the sufferers.” The pervasive corrupt practices that start by ensuring that a party dominates the first pass the post Westminster System has been to the detriment of the social and economic life of ordinary Barbadians.

We must kill this beast. It has outlived its usefulness. But perhaps, the system is turning on itself, decaying from within, just like the Roman Empire and we can no longer choose to ignore this fact. On two consecutive occasions it has produced a winner without power. On the first occasion Mr. Joseph Atherley crossed the floor from the BLP, became the leader of the Opposition and formed his own party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Mr. Atherley’s crossing the floor of the House of Assembly was not a solution, it was just respite. The administration ignored this, and the situation has presented itself again.

What decisions will the President of the Republic make?

The President’s authority rests in the Constitution. She can extend an offer to any of the candidates who took part in the General Election to oppose the government since the Constitution does not recognize political parties. However, if she does this the system remains unchallenged. The Senators will be unable to halt the amendment or passage of any legislation which they deem unsuitable or in the best interest of Barbadians.

The question one must ask is if the President can challenge the system by not siding with the BLP or the Opposition and if she can send the electorate back to the polls. The grounds for this being that the General Election held on January 19th, 2022, was neither free nor fair. The following must occur if the President has the authority and chooses to send the electorate back to the polls.

  1. A suitable time frame must be provided that allows the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to get its act together to ensure that persons are not disenfranchised.
  2. Provisions be made for persons in isolation and quarantine to vote.
  3. Options be provided for voting such as by mail or online or other means to facilitate those who do not wish to attend a polling station during the pandemic.

In addition, a Referendum be held at the time of the General Elections to implement the Proportional Representation System in the House of Assembly as the best solution to the current constitutional crisis. One may ask, why such a system? The answer is that it will truly allow representation for all the votes cast by the people of Barbados, it allows for inclusion of all political parties and Independents in the Parliament if they meet a certain threshold of votes (1%).

Senators must also be elected. It should not be a privilege to sit in the Senate, it must be a right by achievement.

We also need a monitoring system enacted into law that prevents wealthy campaign financers from determining what happens and what will never happen in Barbados.

39% Overall Voter Turnout a Concern

Voter turnout by constituency extracted from caribbeansignal.com compliments of blogmaster Amit. In the euphoria of a BLP victory the government should be concerned at the diminishing interest by Barbadians to vote in elections since the 70s when the turnout hovered at mid-70s.

 


 

BU COVID Dash – General Election Watch

The just concluded 2022 General Election is feared by many to be a ‘super spreader’. The country is on watch for COVID 19 cases to spike given the frolicking witnessed on last campaign night, especially at Bay Street.

Enclosed are Charts for the week ending 21st January 2022.  The daily cases are rising but with a relatively low reproductive number of 1.08.  Daily official isolations have flattened out.  Total isolations (Official + Home) are however increasing quite steeply fueled by the increasing home isolations indicating that Omicron, at this stage, is milder than the Delta variant.  So far so good.  The effects on daily cases by Election activities is not yet evident – Source: Lyall Small
See BU Covid Updates Page

Barbados Elections 2022: Factors and Losers

Submitted by Observing

The dust has settled, the people have spoken, and we now prepare for at least 3 ½ years of BLP governance. There are many issues and factors which impacted the result, including campaigns and candidates but I have chosen to highlight those that were considered fringe but were still collectively significant.

Chris
31 months of silence only to emerge to “counter program” our Sunday Sun with a narrative on the Prime Minister’s great traits and Mrs. Depeiza’s negative one. Definitely blunted anything Lucille Moe said (not that she had much of an impact anyhow) and reminded a large enough percentage that it should have been him after David. They speak about a woman scorned but it seems a Chris scorned is even worse and more bitter.

Timing
With 18 months to go and a full majority in hand the dice were rolled knowing that the other players weren’t ready. Politically sound and brilliant. The result speaks for itself. We can debate constitutional changes to a PM’s power for snap elections but the gamble paid off, politically at least. Otherwise I am not so sure. The Omicron spread will be an entirely different beast. The return to school is the first casualty. There will be more. As TheoGazerts said in another thread, the government would do well not to view this a as a sweeping/clear mandate.

Covid and Turnout
A large amount of persons still remain in their curtilages up to this day even without Covid. Many of these are older persons. I am certain that many did not venture out to vote. Also, 4000-5000 persons were not facilitated to vote. A turnout of 43-44% in a modern democracy is the inevitable result and should be cause for concern. Effectively the ruling party has received the support of 28% of the voting population. Let that sink in for a bit.

Guy Hewitt
The contest for President of the DLP over the last tow cycles took some nasty turns. It is reminiscent of the primary battles of United States politics. Guy Hewitt’s pronouncements on Mrs. Depeiza and the ensuing brutal battle however left lasting damage. First, because the statements were perceived to be true. Second, because they occurred close to the election and before she had any chance to recover, consolidate and groom her young team. The rapid disappearance of the said Guy rather than a kumbyah moment also lent to the view that the DLP wasn’t ready and the leadership battle is far from over.

Freundel
Glorious years? Seriously? Stupse. Won’t bother to waste any more words on this one.

BLP Solidarity
It is a known secret that there was trouble in the BLP camp. The “pick up stumps and go home” move forced the hands of those that may have wanted to be eager. True to form though, this was NEVER spoken about on the BLP’s side. No one denied it, no one hinted at it, no one even acknowledged it. This is the existential difference between the two parties. One airs its laundry in public. One pretends it has no laundry. One bludgeons itself with barbs pointed inside rather than outside. The other is polite and vague even in criticism. One looks for ways to divide itself hoping for spoils that will lead to victory. One focuses on victory first, spoils after. I think all Bajans know which is which.

Mia Mottley’s stature
Perceived personal flaws aside Mia is a lifetime shrewd politician whose 2018 insurmountable margins made it near impossible for the DLP to make inroads. Couple this with recent international acclaim and it was always going to be difficult. The DLP erred in focusing on Mia again too much, but then again what do you expect with Steve Blackett as your campaign manager. Hopefully they finally listen, learn and allow the new candidates to grow in their positions and focus on ISSUES rather than the INDIVIDUAL. There is still room for them even against Mia but they have to take heed. It is an indisputable fact that she is not as popular locally as she would lead us to believe and she is definitely not at her 2018 levels and still falling.

Special mention: The Biggest Losers
• ALL of the Old Guard
• DLP strongholds of St. John and St. Lucy
• Joseph Atherley
• Voices of opposition in the country
• Trade Unionism

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.

A Moment in Time

Submitted Observing

The 2022 elections will be remembered for many things but, two key features will be the timing of the call by the Prime Minister and the lack of measures put in place by EBC to allow Covid Positive patients to vote.

In other threads I have already criticised the Prime Minister for calling an election when rates are increasing and there was no constitutional need. In essence, the political need outweighed any considerations that she held during the emergence of the Alpha and Delta variants.  A look back using the charts attached clearly shows what was always expected (possibly with or without an election).  The number of cases have gone up (along with those ineligible to vote) and the positivity rate has increased (though it was increasing a few days before the election call).

Some questions will forever be asked when the dust settles.

  1. Did the EBC have a duty to prepare and put measures in place for Covid positive patients?
  2. Did the government have a duty to amend the law to allow persons in isolation their right to vote?
  3. Did the Prime Minister have a duty, knowing the statistics, to pause calling elections and instead focus on the public health matter (and other matters) at hand?
  4. Did political considerations and circumstances override the need for immediate leadership?
  5. Will our circumstances change whoever wins (or won),  now that as a small country our eyes were on elections rather than on avoiding the worst case of 700-1000 cases per day and the obvious impacts on workforce availability and education?
  6. Has the last 2 and a half weeks laid any foundation for the unity that the Prime Minister said we needed?

Tough times lie ahead, and regrettably, the fractures that divide us, the political considerations that motivate us, and the cronyism that disadvantages the majority of us will continue unabated.

I’ll end with a quote from 1986 by the late Errol Walton Barrow. Unbelievably it is relevant 35 years later.

“There is no unemployment in Singapore. They have developed an education system but they are teaching people things that are relevant to the 21st century. They are not teaching people how to weed by the road. They are in the advance of the information age.  But you know the difference between you and them? They have got a mirror image of themselves.”

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

Unnecessary Unpredictably

Submitted by Observing

On December 27, 2021 a snap election was called. Previous threads speak clearly to this author’s view of the soundness of that decision. But, to say that we are in unprecedented time is to put it mildly.

First, we have never had a 30-0 wipeout. It is therefore inevitable that the DLP will receive opposing votes. The amount is still left to be seen but based on the apathy, frustration and recent criticisms of the sitting PM the opposition may actually be larger than expected.

Secondly, we have a very short election. Discounting Old Year’s night and the weekend campaigns there was essentially only 2 ½ weeks. To their credit the DLP seem to have been “almost” ready when others thought they weren’t. To their detriment though they still have a bit more to do to convince the electorate that they are a government in waiting. Criticism of the present government does not automatically get the support of the electorate.

Thirdly, there are divisions. Divisions in both parties, divisions among the labour unions, divisions in the civil service, divisions in the Electoral and Boundaries Commission, division in the communities. There is absolutely no way that a heated election with a popular but not as popular Prime Minister faced with a new opposition in Parliament will help those divisions. The spin about a need for a united country being the reason for calling elections was BS and we all know it. The PM should know better than to take us for idiots.

Lastly, Covid. The news that Covid positive people cannot vote was a shocker. For a government to make this call and not consider this eventuality is almost criminal and, yes, I believe should be punished with the relevant vote. Based on the current rate there are 3880 persons in isolation with an average of 300 being added each day over the last 7 days. We were told that it will get worse. This means that around 5000+ persons will not be able to exercise their right to vote.

In 2013, 20 seats were decided by less than 200 votes. Other elections in some constituencies over the years reflect this margin as a norm. Have we decided to gamble with our elections and votes?

This is a critical time in our history for many reasons but it seems that regrettably, a rash unnecessary political decision was made for a hopeful political outcome that has rendered the genuine national good as secondary to a selfish motive. In 2022 we should be better than this.

Whoever wins, whatever comes, we will have tough times ahead in all aspects and areas. Will the real leaders and thinkers please stand up???

A Campaign Rehash of Nothingness

The blogmaster with the benefit of technology listened to a few of the political meetings from the different political parties and with 7 days left to V-Day- he has a confession to make. Given the current crisis state of the socioeconomic landscape of Barbados, if ever there was a time for sensible Barbadians to make voices heard, the time is now. Kudos to the loyalists who have been willing to brave the threat of coronavirus infection to listen to the voluminous platitudes barked at them from the different political platforms.

The Barbados economy has been operating at junk level in recent years and although some will present the chicken and egg argument, society or economy – Barbados has reached a critical juncture in its post independence journey where radical decisions should be made to ensure a wholesome society can be sustained.

Dear Dr. Estwick

We have all the time in the world. Technology permits you to post the full details to YouTube or similar. We look forward to reviewing the details. By the way – “What the Government should have done is to ask the NIS to float a medium-term Treasury note or a long-term Treasury debenture for the exact sum of money owed by the Government, and the money should have been therefore obtained from the Central Bank of Barbados.”

Please explain in detail. Sure sounds like a massive money printing operation to me, I hope I am mistaken.

NorthernObserver

The issue of the NIS Scheme (fund) has been fleetingly mentioned by the prime minister and the urgent need to recapitalize the fund to ensure it remains a lifeline for senior citizens. The fund has been raided by successive governments through the years as the cash cow of first resort. The fund was encouraged to sell shares in strategic assets for 30 pieces of silver. Its investment committees have had no qualms sopping up government paper touting higher yields as a defense to investment strategy and ignoring the risk factor indicator. In 2018 the government administered a bald fade on bond holders et al and over night over ONE BILLION rh dollars dissipated.

Unlike the politicians and political talking heads the blogmaster will not bother to be prolix and vacuous on an important matter. A sensible driver of a vehicle will not with eyes wide open and in possession of faculties steer the vehicle over a cliff. The Barbados Economy is precariously perched on the edge of an economic cliff. What more will it take for the majority of educated Barbadians to be sensitized to the current state of play? Instead we are concerned about our inability to support conspicuous consumption at the level of household. What is wholesale, what is retail? What is global, what is local? What is macro, what is micro? In an ‘ecosystem’ all entities are by design interconnected and must optimally perform for the good of the whole. 

Barbados cannot succeed if citizens do not constructively engage in the civil society construct. Barbadians have surrendered civic responsibility to an elite few. We continue to pay the price for our cowardice by not exercising our rights as citizens. It is the only way a democracy will be able to breath without a respirator.

Policy Performance and Outlook (Part 2)

A follow through to the Policy Performance and Outlook (Part 1) received/posted by Barbados Underground last week. To be honest topics coming from the political opposition and others critical of government policy on the campaign trial so far have not clearly articulated economic alternatives to give hope to an electorate definitely suffering from all types of fatigue, economic, social and the like. With just over week ago is it too much to ask to have a serious conversation about the state of the economy and the viable alternatives that may exist?
Blogmaster

Tax Reforms  

The intended purpose of the 2019 tax reforms was to shift taxation from off of work and income and more towards transactions and wealth in these the measures, the administration implemented: 

0% income taxes on the first 25,000.

Introduced a Compensatory Income Credit for people earning above 25’000 but below 3500. You can see that here

Reinstated the reverse tax credit of $1300 which the Stuart Administration stopped paying between 2016 and 2018, and expanded it to include everyone earning less than 25,000. You can see that here.

Increase Land Tax on properties valued above 450,000 from 0.45% to 0.7%.  

Changed Road tax  to a pay-as-you-use tax on fuel.   

Paying Arrears 

As mentioned in part 1 on assuming office, the administration was faced with approximately $1.9 billion in arrears.  Did they tackle it? What has been the record?  This administration set about to pay down those arrears which were incurred by previous administrations (mostly the Stuart administration).  The administration issued the ‘S’ series bonds in late 2018 to pay off the 1.9 billion dollars in arrears owed to individuals and businesses throughout Barbados over a four year period. As of the last update in November 2021 by Ryan Straughn, the Government had paid $1.4 billion to these people and entities leaving $500 million to be paid by September 2022.  These included people whom the state owed for goods provided, services rendered, UWI for educating Barbadian Students, $250 million in NIS payments for Civil Servants, (I could be wrong but I believe fellow blogger Northern Observer was one of the people owed).

Additionally, I noticed that the administration went to parliament recently to pass the Debt Settlement Arrears Act 2021 which sought to clear an additional $300 million in arrers for land that the State acquired over the years and did not pay people whose lands were acquired, and for people who successfully sued the government or reached a settlement with the State in the past.  This is being done by issuing J series bonds to be paid off in four years. 

Strangely enough this bill stirred some controversy over wording, but the Act clearly states on page 4 that the purpose is to pay off people to whom the government owed money for land compulsorily Acquired before September 2018. In other words, this only applies to people who were owed money for land before this Administration. Read the act here We should have used the passage of this Act to examine the regrettable instances over the last 40 years in which The state has acquired peoples land without compensation, some going 30 years without a cent. This has happened across various administrations. During the Senate debate, Reverend Rogers spoke to this. I recall reading an article in the Nation a couple of years ago about this lady in Christ Church whose land was acquired by the State almost 25 years ago at that time and who had not yet been compensated. I think paying these people over a four year period using the J series bonds is fair, given that you cannot pay the $300 million all at once because of fiscal constraints, and the state should not pick and choose who it will pay and when.  Monthly payments over a four year period is one of the best options, given that a number of these people have not been given a cent for more than two decades with some of them already having passed away. 

However, another option would be to get a separate loan from somewhere to pay these Barbadians. 

Arrival of Covid 

Upon the arrival of Covid-19 the Barbados economy contracted by 17.5%, due to a 95% fall in tourist arrivals, Government revenue fell by $600 million during the first year as well and has only now begun to recover. 
What was the response?  

After the tax reforms of 2019 and before the pandemic hit, the Mottley administration already declared that it will not be implementing any new taxes or increasing any existing ones, up until this point, they have kept this pledge. Therefore upon the arrival of Covid the government let the $600 million loss in tax revenue go without responding with any new revenue measures.    Was this the right call?If you go by most economic theories, yes. According to this Australian Economist. Expansionary fiscal policy is one of the ways that a country with a fixed exchange rate can respond to a deep recession. Luckily, when the pandemic hit the government was already running a 6% primary surplus in order to pay off arrears.  Therefore, the government was in a position to renegotiate the EFF with the IMF for a 1% primary deficit. This allowed the government to go  without imposing any new taxes, avoid deep spending cuts and respond to households and small businesses.  The Government ended up running a overall deficit of 4.5% because it continued to pay back arrears (S series and tax refunds).

The Government came together with companies and people earning over $50,000 a year to set up the Adopt-a-Family programme to give $600 monthly to the most vulnerable households, 5000 of whom accessed this.   The Government also reprofiled the loan payments of Micro Business Client of the Trust Loan Fund and Fund Access.  Banks announced a six-month moratorium on loan repayments.  During the 2021 lockdown, over 5000 micro and small businesses were given $750 each week of the lockdown. This also included vendors and Taxi drivers.  The Government also rolled out the Best Programme Whereby they invested in Preference Shares in Tourism Entities, provided that they rehire at least 60 percent of their workers at atleast 80 percent of their normal salary for up to two years if needed.   Some Capital works projects like the Speightstown Flood Mitigation Project, Constitution River Flood Mitigation Project and Fairchild Street Rehabilitation Project, Speeding up of the Roadworks and Water Augmentation Projects,   Project to renovate derelict Government Buildings. The government increased Health expenditure by hiring more health care officers and constructing a hospital in St Lucy in one month. 

My only criticism is that the Capital Works programme could have been expanded with more public/private partnerships. 

Challenges and Proposals Ahead 

The main Challenges that lie ahead include; tackling the population crisis, dealing with the OECD imposed global minimum tax rate, Lack of Innovation in this economy and forming new trade relationships.

Population Crisis 

Brabados’ population growth rate has been declining since 2010 and reached only 0.1%. In 10-12 years Barbados’ population will start to shrink if something is not done soon to stem this. The Mia Mottley administration put together a population commission to look into this.  I have heard that the commission’s work is done, if that is true, I believe it’s findings should be made public straight away, given that it has serious implications for the NIS pensions. You would recall Ronald Jones iurging Barbadians to “have more babies” and articles like this from Harry Russle in 2012 acknowledged the problem. However, with time running out, telling people to have more children is not and will never be a serious public policy response to this crisis.  Even if the birth rate in Barbados were to tick up slightly this year, it would still not go far enough to solve the problem. Even though it is often a controversial topic (check the USA), immigration reform and policies aimed at getting the diaspora to return, has to be front and center going forward.  If this is not done, people expecting a pension in 25 years time may get none.

Innovation 

That leads me to the next point, In reforming the immigration process, Barbados has to determine the characteristics of young people, including those in the diaspora who want to come here, or return. Emphasis should be placed on encouraging those who can innovate, bring new skills not available in abundance in the country and those who already offer goods and services outside of the island. This can speed up economic diversification. Havard professor Ricardo Haussman has done great work on economic diversification and how it relates to know-how, you can listen to his lectures here and here. Improvements in innovation will also come with comprehensive education reform. Work has already started with the education reform unit, but that needs to be given time to bear fruit.  

Global Minimum Tax rate 

The final nail in the coffin has come, we now have to live with the end of what we once called the “international Business sector”. The OECD announced the imposition of a %15 global minimum tax rate for Multinational Entities. in simple terms this means that if an international business company pays %5 corporate tax in Barbados it will have to pay an additional %10 tax in its jurisdiction of origin. This now means that tax competition is effectively over. You can read more here. In December of 2018 local companies benefited from a reduction in Corporations taxes, not because the government wanted to stimulate the economy but because it was trying to prevent a collapse of the International Business sector.  In 2017 the Stuart Administration made a commitment to the OECD that there will be no difference between international business and domestic business, leaving whoever won the 2018 election a few months to implement it. To be fair, the Stuart administration committed to this to get the OECD off the country’s back, without thinking through the implications.  Now with the global minimum tax rate, the country has to compete for global business on ease of doing business, human capital. and a supportive environment (eg. Central banks regulatory sandbox for digital currency). This Global Minimum tax rate will be fully implemented by 2023 and Barbados will have to transform significantly before this takes effect, (good luck to those responsible).  

Trade Policy 

Barbados will need to change and expand its Trade and foreing policy to grow the economy.  The country has to continue the work started in Africa but must also seek to stand out in becoming  the place from which high end goods and services are provided to most of Latin America and the Caribbean. Cooperation with African countries is already starting to open up opportunities for some local enterprises but that has to be broadened. By the way, Barbados Based Bitt Inc facilitated the launch of the eNiara Africa’s first digital currency and it has averaged more than 20.000 downloads per day since October.  We also need a better trade relationship with Guyana, this I feel has huge potential and is long overdue.  

Fiscal Policy 

The good news is that the debt to GDP ratio will almost certainly fall this year barring some calamitous event.   That is because the GDP portion of the ratio will increase due to higher economic growth this year.  This growth is just a reversal of losses experienced when the economy contracted by 17.5 percent in 2020.  This fall in the debt to GDP ratio in 2022 should not be mistaken as Barbados being on some path to glory however, there is still a long way to go and a number of challenges to come as I mentioned before. The next administration should focus on infrastructure spending while avoiding  the mistake of increasing current spending.  Let the growth this year take care of most of the recovery in Government revenue which has already begun.  If you manage not to mess this up, it can go some way in helping you to face the challenges ahead.  In a small open economy. Sound fiscal policy helps to anchor all stability.  

BU Covid Dash – Omicron January 19

Attached are charts for week ending 7th January 2022. So far, the daily cases have not topped 600 and have indeed been dropping v. slowly for the past 4 days. The charts suggest that Omicron has been here for nearly a month but the rate of increasing daily cases has dropped. Deaths and isolations have increased, but only marginally. Vaccinations uptake is still very slow.

Source: Lyall Small

See BU COVID 19 Updates page

What Divides Us?

Submitted by Observing

“In her address explaining the decision to hold the election, Mottley called on the people of Barbados to “unite around a common cause, unite behind a single government, unite behind a single leader.” She added that she did not want Barbados to be a “divided nation.”

But what divides us?

  1. Calling a snap election 18 months before time, knowing for sure that a Covid wave was starting and that thousands would contract it.
  2. Laying in a king sized bed with all Unions to blunt their voices, link hands with Capital and disadvantage workers at will
  3. Not consulting with the professionals at BAMP on travel protocols, election protocols or any other recent protocols
  4. Staging a puppet show called a Social Partnership meeting to pillory, criticise and condemn ordinary hard working nurses AND THEN docking their salaries despite recent precedent.
  5. Paying late salaries, no severance, and arrears to the average man and pensioners in bonds…while Mark Maloney gets a 10 million blank check, Abeds gets all of his stock bought and all Ministers, consultants, special advisors, Parliamentary Secretaries, “Ministers in the Ministries of” and Permanent Secretaries in the largest Cabinet ever get paid on time with perks and allowances
  6. Introducing medical marijuana for Herbert’s Redland Farms and Canadians, but leaving out the rasta and the Afro-Barbadians who suffered, were fined and locked up most for it
  7. Giving no-tender contracts to “a certain Mark” and then claiming “special circumstances”
  8. Silencing opposing or critical voices by appointing them as advisors through the politics of inclusion and delusion
  9. Talking down to the average man because he can’t spell “remdesivir”
  10. Rushing to a Republic without a referendum, without a revised constitution and with “a Creator” instead of “God”
  11. Blaming “Brandy and Punany” for Covid when it was the unnamed Platinum Coast that deserved the blame
  12. Telling 6 year olds to tell their parents if they don’t vaccinate them then they don’t care about them
  13. Refusing to give a budget statement to explain to the average man where we are and where we are going given everything that is going on
  14. Disenfranchising the constitutional right of 2000-4000 people who now cannot vote, because they have Covid through no fault of theirs.

There are many more general and personal examples but time is short. It is abundantly clear that with a 30-0 / 29-1 government any tough decisions that need to be made can be made. It is also clear that the apathy, frustration, mistrust and disillusionment among enough of the electorate is very real. It is even more clear that we are where we are on January 6 with 1000+ new cases and climbing out of political expediency and individual concern, rather than the same national concern that was stated. We get the government (and opposition) that we deserve.

Will the real leaders please stand up?

Return of the Old Guard

An interesting conversation point that will attract interest is the impact David Estwick, Michael Lashley, Denis Lowe and Richard Sealy will have on the 2022 general election. The four were members of the Freundel Stuart cabinet and the previous government soundly rejected by the electorate in 2018.

There is nothing unusual about defeated political candidates offering themselves to the public. To do so they must have successfully negotiated won the party requirements to win selection. Political parties are private entities after all and the membership free to select candidates of choice.

Notwithstanding the preamble a look at the four members of the old guard and what it means for the DLP’s chances on the 19 January 2022 AND beyond is a constructive discussion to have. Although decisions taken by political parties are private – obviously there is the national import.

The involvement of the four forces the ‘new’ DLP to defend old issues ventilated in the 2018 political campaign. Issues that arguably contributed to the DLP’s unprecedented defeat. Denis Lowe had the Cahill issue and the blogmaster expressed concerns about him being a Peter Allard stooge of Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary fame, David Estwick’s public disagreements with former minister of finance Chris Sinckler, Michael Lashley’s questionable association with Trans-Tech etc. The big question for the political pundits – is the risk reward ratio calculated in favour of the Verla De Peiza led DLP?

Onlookers must surmise that the DLP conducted private polling to test the water in the four constituencies and the DLP executive was satisfied with the results. The unknown is whether the involvement of the four will negatively impact the national swing percentage. The size of the swing margins in the majority of constituencies the 2018 general election were large and the DLP will not want to make decisions to compromise the swing pendulum away from the BLP this time around. Another unknown is the extent the pandemic will have on voter turnout as it relates to the respective bases. Disillusioned DLP members opted out from voting in 2018, some may have voted BLP. Then there are the independents many who may decide to avoid the risk of standing in gatherings for reason of health safety. A cohobblopot of issues which the usual talking heads will try to make simple for a susceptible electorate.

The reality is that Barbadians are comfortable with the 2-party system that exists as it is in many countries. It should be obviously if we want the transformative changes in the economy, education, energy and water generation, waste management and others, like minded Barbadias will have to infiltrate the two main political parties to help with accelerating change in the national interest.

The blogmaster is of the opinion returning the four to the fold is a mistake not for the reasons mentioned but the threat to De Peiza’s fragile leadership hold on the ‘new’ DLP.

Message to Mama Mia

For the first time in his life the blogmaster is overwhelmed by a feeling of melancholy after following the opening salvo of the January 19, 2022 general election campaign. A general election called eighteen months before it is constitutionally due because Prime Minister Mia Mottley in her infinite wisdom wants a mandate from the electorate to validate important decisions she says have to be made given the perilous state of the local economy. Many if not all Barbadians agree the current state of the economy is perilous, not all agree the early ringing of the bell was necessary given the unprecedented mandate the BLP received in 2018. Time will soon tell if Barbadians agree with Mottley in our first past the post system.

In the electioneering of the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s the blogmaster felt excited at the prospect of hopping from meeting to meeting listening to BLP and DLP platforms add Eric Fly and a few independents to balance things out. While the messages from the various platforms were filled with the usual comedic relief, there was enough grist to inform healthy debate between loyal party supporters and independents. 

Last night the blogmaster wasted precious time to view the opening platforms of the two campaigns and a saying growing in popularity on BU – Nothing to See Here (NTSH) was fresh in the mind. The apologists will remind everyone that it is early days yet, however, the blogmaster subscribes to the view that usually one does not get a second chance to make a good first impression. Predictably overused narratives populated the speeches by the candidates last night. The tired messages contradicted the urgency of the call for early elections by the prime minister BUT the blogmaster maybe jumping the gun on the early pronouncement.

What the blogmaster and some others are hoping to hear is a creative strategy/vision supported with ground tactics to steer Barbados from the economic rocks we are headed. Barbadians have been living high on the hog up until about 20 years ago given the nature of the global economy- easy forex inflows from tourism and high powered money to the West Coast with the international business sector supporting the economic model that has served us well up until now. North south capital flow is drying up given the complexity of moving money across borders post 911 and deepening, polarizing geopolitics. The exotic destination of the Caribbean is now competing with UAE, Mediterranean, Central America other non traditional markets. The rise of WTO rules has meant protective tariff had to be removed with large countries in the market maintaining an advantage.

The message to Mia is simple. Let us forget the extreme politics this time around and position the national needs first. Yes you are admired as a political leader who strides the globe like a colossus. Yes you are head and shoulder above the next on the local scene. Yes you have done a lot to remind locals and other afar of the forgotten Barbados brand. Yes you are an improvement on Stuart who apparently didn’t have use for an internet connection. What the people need however is to believe that there is a leadership with the ability to find a pathway that leads from the present path to nowhere. We need to efficiently execute our plans because we have no more margin for error.

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.

19-11 for BLP after Jettisoning Dead-weight?

Submitted by Observing

With only three weeks to guesstimate, a dispassionate analysis of the ruling party both at the constituency and Government level clearly shows that coattails washed in some dead weight in 2018. To be fair, the other lot had to go, but, 3 and a half years gives enough time to see who we were working with.

Disclaimer: These views do not take the opposing candidate into account unless there is a glaring reason to.

Who must and should go
————————————

Peter Philips – Did little to nothing for St. Lucy even after being planted in the Ministry of Housing.

Colin Jordan – Has done even less for labour than Esther Byer-Suckoo, go figure. A known name in St. Peter but little to no representation where it matters most.

Dale Marshall – Wins the award for being contradicted the most by the PM, for paying out the most taxpayers money SECRETLY even after winning a case twice and the most bungled rollout and retraction of recent laws. St. Joseph has sucked salt (without water) for too long

Sandra Husbands – Sandra who?

Neil Rowe – Coattails worked in 2018. Neil’s abundant and extraordinary weakness as an MP and a candidate are profound. The alternative is better by far.



William Duguid – For selfishly refusing to pass the baton and for being the worst Transport Minister ever. Didn’t do much better in housing either except for giving away contracts to Mark Maloney and money to the Chinese.

Indar Weir – Big talk, little action. St. Philip South hasn’t been this neglected since a certain former PM.

Ryan Straughn – Has done little to nothing for Christ Church East Central. Admittedly he was working with the 5 other Ministers of Finance, 4 consultants and reps from White Oak to increase debt and shaft voters with bonds every chance they get. Who has time to serve lowly constituents in all of that!

Sonia Browne – Nice lady. Should stick to the medical profession. Politics and politicking clearly didn’t work out for her.

Who can go back home
———————————-
Kay McConney – No amount of unilateral Constitutional changes can gloss over her being dead weight at the constituency level.

Rommel Springer – Just like the DLP’s Harry Husbands Dr. R only warmed a seat and did nothing in the education ministry for just over $180,000 a year



Who could go but won’t
———————————–

Edmund Hinkson – Backbencher extraordinaire aided and abetted by George. St. James North will no longer have a voice

Toni Moore – for pure betrayal of workers and shameless capitulation to capital and political expediency.

Charles Griffith – Nice fella, but you can only do so much after so many big promises.

Wilfred Abrahams – Waste of time, but the alternative is far worse. Far far far worse.

Ralph Thorne – Was never really a Bee but if the train is moving then roll with it!

Kirk Humphrey – For only showing up when a camera is around or too much noise is kept. Not to mention totally neglecting “certain specific” parts of his constituency

Who should stay due to good national appeal, constituency work, general competence or all the above
——————————

  • Mia Mottley
  • Adrian Forde
  • Marsha Caddle
  • Ian Gooding-Edghill
  • Santia Bradshaw
  • Arthur Holder
  • Trevor Prescod – Even though he now has to hold his nose and support his leader
  • Dwight Sutherland
  • Kerrie Symmonds
  • Cynthia Forde

New toss ups with nothing on which to assess
——————————————————————–

  • Corey Lane
  • Davison Ishmael
  • Christopher Gibbs

There you have it. An objective 19-11 or 18-12 government come January 20, 2022 with the power to change Constitution no longer in the hands of one person or party.

Long live the Republic!!!