This month of December can be a useful harbinger for what promises to be an interesting 2013. Barbadians are gauging those things that have passed and looking forward to those things that are sure to come about as the Old Year rings in a New Year.
The climax to 2012 will signal for Barbadians the end of another impoverished, over-taxed, and worrisome year. Perhaps, 2013 is the start of something different if not new.
This Christmas, similar to five years ago, falls on the eve of another general election. Unfortunately, all types of politicians and pretenders to the throne will become more visible at Christmas. What is it that the politicians will have up their sleeves to make 2013 better than this year, and under the current administration?
On the Government side, this will be the fifth consecutive Christmas that Santa Claus will be asking if the Government has been good or naughty. Many people are walking around, probably window-shopping, while seemingly pouting and complaining over their bitter socio-economic circumstances.
The stoutness with which the Barbados Cabinet has expanded ensured that I’ve warned all my friends and neighbours, “better watch out for yourselves; they should never give a licence, to a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves”.
For its part, the BLP is singing in a united and strong voice that there is yet hope — the candidates that seek to rescue Barbadians are in tune with their leader. The BLP’s melody is: “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas; soon the bells will start, and the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing.” Indeed, Barbadians, whether they are individuals or groups, small businesses or large corporate firms, will reflect on those things that have either worked for them or have sorely disappointed them.
Barbadians from all walks of life will come to terms with all those things done by Government. They will together be recounting and chanting the promises made by the current administration in its 2008 manifesto. Many of the 100 day wonders that failed to live up to the simplest of expectations would be remembered as the sprat thrown to catch a whale just around and after the yuletide season of 2007/2008.
This time around, the Barbadian electorate ought to have one set of eyes on enjoying Christmas, and the other set of eyes staring down the gift-wrapped policies that political parties will once again leave under the Christmas tree. Will the old brigade give way to the re-emerging political party once there is the sounding of Stuart’s bell and New Year wishes?
Barbadians will marvel at their many requests over the past few years for easing the burden of a runaway cost of living and reducing the effects of increased taxation. Barbadians’ cries and appeals have been met with futile excuses from the DLP, year in and year out since Christmas 2008.
While decorating the Christmas trees, though the colourful lights will be kept unplugged thus flattering to deceive, Barbadians will do well to remember being repeatedly told by the DLP that the Government could do no better for the populace because of the worse international recession the world has witnessed in 100 years.
The Barbadian electorate knows that Santa Claus is coming to town, although the Central Bank Governor and Sealy are not certain as to the tourists that will be dropping in from the north. Barbadians should therefore, commit to memory that each Christmas message by the Prime Minister of Barbados, for at least the last four consecutive years, has brought shared woe for Barbadians.
Barbadians were led into thinking on more than one occasion that the worse had come to an end, and the New Year signals that better is around the corner, but none of this materialised. The DLP’s Christmas promises, paltry policies, and pitiful performances brought no real relief or satisfaction to the nation.
Like every Christmas, food hampers will be provided by the combined political and business classes. These dainties will be delivered by the political elves keen to make their distinctions as to who is a B or D. In some cases, the politicians would want to appear almost reincarnate; they would want a suffering Barbadian electorate to view them as the ultimate life savers. The representatives of the people, community practitioners, and these self-called grass-root caring men and women that either occupy or want to occupy parliament will target select minorities across several villages and tenantries.
The Barbadian electorate will be soberly watching the political parties. People will see the politicians and their assistants running around like fowls without heads just to ensure that food hampers and other goodies, which used to be once a year novelties, bear the politicians’ woo for that vital vote.
From one year into another year, Barbadians have been pummelled into submission by failed government policies and external forces without the comfort of any ease whatsoever emerging on the horizon.
However, there is at least something to look towards at the end of 2012. Change for the better, sometime after the chiming bell that signals the New Year, will overtake the darkness of Old Year’s night.
Although there is little joy and possibly no hope in this yuletide season outside of looking forward for 2013, there are still more things for Barbadians to consider. To be certain, it is a fact that governments actively manipulate policy instruments in order to engineer conditions that are more appropriate for electoral success.
In the context of Barbados, last minute policy tinkering and the emergence of 11th hour reading of bills such as that of a Prevention of Corruption Bill, is to eventuate in an enhancement of the DLP’s chances of returning to form the next government.
The fact that since last year at a similar time, the real issues affecting Barbadians and causing them daily pain have not been tackled by a sleeping DLP Government. The Stuart-led factions such as the Eager Eleven have not seriously tackled unemployment, underemployment, poverty eradication, and high food prices in Barbados.
In Barbados at December 2012, the cost of living has continued to soar above people’s purchasing power. Efforts to trump the society over the economy have remained as “light and fleeting as a dream of night lost in garish day” and this deliberate splitting by the DLP has left Barbadians with a woe of underachievement over the span of the last five years.
December 2012 is, more than likely, a month in which many formative decisions about next year and one’s immediate future will have to be made. This logic presents a realistic challenge for DLP and BLP politicians; most are already made jittery by the abeyance of PM Stuart.
Stuart’s recent awakening has been powerless although informative. Being awake is not distant from his earlier docility when he slumbered. For the most part, Barbadians are forced to endure a leader whose incompatibility with the nation is part of a chosen phase that is surely characterised by historical silence while being tamed by the rapture of a compromised Eager Eleven.
With all due respect, Stuart has acted well within his legal remit regarding the affairs of Barbados. Stuart has managed to keep the eagerly anticipated date for the next general election in Barbados close to his chest.
However, as Christmas approaches and Barbados is in a dire crisis, to date there has been no announcement on the dissolution of parliament nor has there been the immediate relief of an election date. One can say that Barbados has entered the long hard days of inevitability.
The timing of elections influences electoral outcomes because the decision of a leader to call an election reveals information concerning his expectations about continuing as Prime Minister. Judging from the relationships and interactions between the Government and the governed in Barbados under Stuart, it reasons that the electorate appears not excited about the prospects of a Government fumbling through another term in parliament.
Also, Barbadians are seemingly less likely to be influenced by Peter Wickham’s alternatives for leadership since on the one hand credibility becomes an issue, and on the other hand, opportunity is unlikely to present itself just yet regardless of liberality or intelligence.
The tests for all concerned will centre upon mutual trust, confidence in the nation’s people, and the stronger likelihood of combining past performances with future performances that are exemplar. This set of criteria is precisely why it is that the individual voter and the politician may have reasons to be cautious of a procrastinating Stuart and prefer the self-assured Arthur.
Local politicians, individually and as members of political parties, are likely to be aware of more concerns coming from Barbadians now that Christmas and the New Year are preceding the general elections. Everywhere in Barbados it seems as though trust and confidence got frozen in a winter wonderland.
*To be concluded tomorrow