There is a saying that “every nation gets the government it deserves”. If this is true, I would like to ask the Barbadian people what type of government they would expect to get when:
(1) Over a period of two elections – 2008 and 2012 – they permit the two major political parties to refuse to hold even one national debate about the issues facing the country and their proposed solutions;
(2) They witness the two parties engaging in massive, regulation-breaking election spending, and say or do nothing about it; and
(3) They accommodate themselves to the corrupt practice of the two political parties engaging in widespread, blatant and systematic buying of votes on election day?
Well, the answer is that they will get a Government that comes to power without any clearly worked out programme for running the country. They will also get a Government that is beholden to a number of big corporate financiers, and that will have to dance to the tune played by these entities.
For sure, they will get the type of Government that Auditor-General Leigh Trotman recently wrote about in his 2012 official report. According to the Auditor-General, our Government’s financial records are plagued by the widespread failure of many Government agencies to submit their accounts, by evidence of systematic non-compliance with international public sector accounting standards, and by huge and seemingly inexplicable cash discrepancies.
And, in March 2013, at a time when it is crucial that the Barbados Government put its finances in order by bringing its annual regular or recurrent expenditures in line with its annual collected revenue or income, they will get a Government that is proposing to run an overall deficit of $1.28 Billion, inclusive of a near $500 Million current account deficit!
The truth is that the Barbados Government is taking the Barbadian people nowhere, and in the process of doing so, is digging a deep financial and economic hole for themselves and for the country. But who is to blame for this? Ultimately it is the Barbadian people themselves – the many thousands of us who are seemingly so content to go along for the ride with nary a word of complaint or protest – that must bear the blame.
The sad, but undeniable, truth is that we have a Government that has demonstrated that it does not understand that the primary leadership responsibility for lifting a country out of recession rests with the institution known as “Government”. And that in order for the institution called “Government” to provide the quality and strength of leadership that is required, Government has, first of all, to restructure and strengthen its own finances.
Tragically as well, we have a Government that seemingly does not appreciate that it is obligated to develop programmes and initiatives to grow and develop such critical productive sectors of the economy as manufacturing, agriculture and agro-industry, and to establish import-substitution programmes that will save precious foreign currency.
We have a Government that, in the face of an intransigent recession and plummeting local economic indicators, obstinately and perversely refuses to accept the offer of the Petro Caribe Energy Cooperation Agreement, and to use it creatively to lessen our annual foreign currency payments and/or to free up capital that could then be used to extend critical developmental loans to our local manufacturers, farmers and small hoteliers at nominal interest rates.
We also have a Government that has demonstrated that it is lacking a regional vision, and that has no ideas about the development of new Pan-Caribbean industries or structures of production that Barbados and Barbadians could benefit from.
Furthermore, we have a Government that is so oblivious to the intertwined facts that the young people of Barbados are our country’s single greatest resource, and that the University of the West Indies is absolutely critical to their development, that it has run up a near $200 million arrears bill to the university. (Incidentally, the Barbados Government now bears the badge of shame of owing UWI more than twice as much debt as all the other Caribbean countries combined!)
Finally, we have a Government that seemingly has no understanding that ultimately it is the masses of people who will drive the economy forward and upward, and that it is therefore critical that measures be implemented to restore the purchasing power of the people, and to promise and deliver to them a “new deal” of greater social fairness and equality.
But, it appears that we – the people of Barbados – like it so, and that we are determined to march onward to our ultimate destruction resplendently decked out in our corporate sponsored red and yellow tee-shirts!
* David Comissiong is president of the Clement Payne Movement.