The past few months have brought into full circle the social milieu and psychological strains that have become formative in Barbados. The politicians have been garrulous in their respective interpretations about fiscal prudence and their proposed directions for the local economy.
But the people have been cautious regarding their current economic plight and several prolonged challenges to their terms of employment, job security, and capacity to cope with the ever increasing cost of living. Either way, it is the economic management and system of governance as practiced in Barbados, together with the social interactions between the governing and governed, that have provoked several questions regarding the overall character, resilience, and self-confidence of the nation in 2012/13.
To put these issues in context, it is useful to remember that on September 26, 2012, Leader of the Opposition Owen Arthur contended that: “The present set of economic circumstances facing Barbados, and the trajectory along which, without substantial change, our national economy is set to evolve, however go way beyond the dimensions of any economic crisis with which the country has had to grapple since Independence.”
Indeed, Arthur fumed over the calamitous drift and self-fashioned mischief of procrastination. Additionally, Arthur said that “seen in their totality, the recent performance and the course projected for the economy indicate that the country is caught up in a dangerous downward spiral whose adverse dynamics need to be checked, broken and reversed as a matter of urgency”. There is widespread agreement on this forthright assessment.
The way forward needs to be mapped out by the political classes and their respective parties. Then solid positions on key issues need to be shared with the national population considering that acting in the national interest will require collective action. Even then, there are “fundamental and philosophical positions” that are connected to the political party positions which need to undergo national scrutiny.
In contemporary Barbados, the declining economic and social situations cannot sit well for the masses in need of alternatives for personal and national growth. It is foolhardy for the DLP to expect to take the country through a general election preferring to wait until the 11th hour to express any discernible details on the way forward for Barbadians.
This type of strategy shows that the DLP, more than likely, is illustrative of a shadowy political profile. The DLP of today exemplifies a blatant distrust for the Barbadian electorate. Vexing, is that the Stuart-led political party appears likely to proceed on its convictions rather than on its actual performances. The collective consciousness and confidence of the Barbados nation is really being set aside by those who govern.
How are these things being reflected? Nowadays, the language being used most by the political agents of the DLP is indicative of the authoritarian hand seeking to control with a dictatorial voice. There is deceptive contempt not only towards the official BLP Opposition, but to anyone who remotely challenges the positions taken by an administration that has long lost the goodwill of a majority of Barbadians if the CADRES poll maintains its level of accuracy in Barbados.
The various issues, namely: CLICO; Pickering development; Alexandra School; Al Barrack; the land swapping fa?ade among others are evidence of the willingness of the DLP to pass the buck or otherwise hide the facts amidst political clutter.
The DLP, no doubt, has relied more upon serendipity for macroeconomic management, than using innovation and resoluteness in shaping the economy and influencing the society. Indigenous thinking for taking Barbados forward has been hijacked yet again by the open invitation to the IMF and other international institutions.
In the most recent of years, Barbadians have been exposed to a weak political discourse that is hidden between a plethora of excuses as to why it is difficult or impossible for Barbados to change course or to alter Barbados’ economic outcomes. Seldom are policy proposals and the macroeconomic plans discussed with the public prior to implementation by the ruling administration.
Barbadians want again to be perceived as daring and full of industry as it relates to national development. There is vocal disquiet, especially among the young and unemployed, with the over-used phrase by the DLP that Barbadians need to “hold strain” and to “ride out the worse international recession the world has seen in 100 years”.
Ordinary Barbadians understand that the DLP cannot just plan a moment when things get back on track, just as you can’t plan the moment you lose your way in the first place as this Stuart-led administration seems so bent on doing while giving chapter and verse of a global recession.
This approach to governance holds no hope for the middle-classes in the public and private enterprises who now see themselves as the privileged working-poor. The DLP has failed to tell the people about plausible ways for helping the country to cope and emerge from the economic forlorn. Yes, some of Barbados’ problems may have an external genesis; but the perpetuation of hopelessness and despondency are produced by the internal doings and omissions by the current administration under the dismal leadership of a man better suited to manage the classroom in classical adventures than for him effectively to lead a political party or a nation.
It is to the former Prime Minister Owen Arthur that Barbadians can draw some insight and glean from past performances. Arthur asserted that “in a swirl of public doubt and controversy … once we set our imagination to it, we can truly create successes out of even the most dire difficulty”.
It is this uplifting advice that is perhaps needed to shake the dozing administrators out of their extended slumber since the death of the last leader. To defer, belittle, and otherwise reject the hand already dealt will not spur Barbados to long overdue economic growth. Lethargic leadership must, sooner or later, give way to proactive leadership that can trigger a rekindling of hope and self-confidence within the society.
Indeed, Michael Manley, the former illustrious prime minister of Jamaica, in his book, The Politics of Change, suggested that “government today must not only reflect the politics which have been described as the art of the possible. It must reflect also the pursuit of the impossible, so that our own capacity may be confirmed to ourselves and self-doubt banished”.
In other words and taking Barbados’ current dilemmas into consideration, there is an onus to be placed on the government and national political leaders, especially the prime minister of the country, to present the people with a vision, and to provide the assuredness that the state will implement necessary transformations without making socioeconomic conditions worse off for citizens.
Barbadians need to know where they are going and why they ought to be following a particular method or ideology — this speaks to confidence-building. Barbados needs an ideal – a position to which they can set goals and try to accomplish them through the very character of pride and industry while showing resolve and resilience to any internal or external challenges.
This determined mind-set will therefore call for the nation to adjust in terms of attitudes, inputs and outputs, coupled with the intent to raise national consciousness regarding the nation’s self-confidence.
What is it that the political parties and other elites are saying to Barbados regarding self-confidence and building the capacity of the nation’s peoples and institutions which ought to come across as means for helping Barbados to move forward rather than remain in a state of stagnation?
Capacity building, according to Manley, goes well beyond the provision of basic needs and it rests upon “development at all levels of society and includes institutional development, community development, and economic development”.
Starting from a supposedly neutral position on the matter, last month Governor of the Central Bank in Barbados, Dr. Delisle Worrell, stated that “from now on, Barbadians have to chart our own path forward, to grow our economy and provide additional opportunities for our people. Our private sector will have to seek out profitable opportunities for investment, and take aggressive initiatives to promote and finance that investment. We can no longer depend on others to show us the way”. Worrell is correct in many more ways than one.
He is, in essence, calling for indigenous input as well as a wealth of self-confidence in mounting Barbados’ response to the current economic and financial climate. Standing out is his recognition that collective responsibility has to be a primary ingredient for building the country and this can only be registered alongside the self-confidence it will take as a nation engaged with its policies for national development.
Crude partisan politics will not be conducive to building national cohesions if the political polarisation between the BLP and DLP is allowed to exist perennially and over things germane to the national objective. Solidarity is necessary for a creating a just and impartial Barbadian society out of which a self-confident people can emerge.
Arthur chopped through the rough partisan seas by embracing the politics of inclusion. The DLP’s failure, first by Thompson and continued under Stuart, belies the recognition that there could only be one Barbados. Notwithstanding the awareness and enlightenment of the then leader, the DLP chose a subsequent leader and path that led to economic mismanagement and a seeming proclivity to divide Barbados — from people to places and things — whilst using a renaming exercise as a conduit for regaining popularity or possible erasing elements of BLP history.
The DLP sought to mitigate its leadership shortcomings and widespread criticisms by a social construction of divisiveness. Barbadians have become increasingly loud since Stuart’s phases are way ahead, and tend to fluctuate between total silence and a state of stupor.
Likewise, the BLP is not averse to abject political behaviours in or outside of government. It is evident that the BLP is guilty of its fair share of transgressions. Perhaps there was none as recently impactful on the sensibilities of Barbadians regarding a parliamentarian’s “viral” indiscretion.
There was provocation emerging from the other side, although that set of asides was less audible. Mindful that the language used by the non-apologist was less pejorative and maybe overlooked, one can only wonder if the electorate may place their confidence in a woman whose politics is combative without being wretched or insulting.
Barbados in 2013 cannot allow the spirit of possibility to be “bounded by yesterday’s accomplishments” or be contained in the vacuous efforts that eked out into the Barbados economy and society over the past five years or so. Barbadians have to dare themselves to want more and to do better. Barbados has to set goals based upon an ideal that sees economic growth and national development as a unity.
The political leaders and elites in Barbados need to approach the 2013 general elections with a greater level of sobriety than the current administration conveys due to its mixed messages and unwillingness to be proactive. The future is in the hands of Barbadians.
Let us instil a simple message of self-confidence; it encourages responsibility while raising the levels of collective determination for building Barbados. I close with the encouraging and motivational words of Sir Hilary Beckles’ beckoning that “we will take a lash, we will recover, and we will come again, and we will keep coming, and we will keep coming, and we will keep coming, until we do it… We are committed to finding alternate sources to do what it is we have to do” to move the people, country, and region forward. This is an ideal and it is an expression of self-confidence coming from the lips of a true son of the soil.