Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has once again publicly suggested a national advisory committee, constructed from both political sides –– and this time including members of the Social Partners –– putting heads together for a consensus on the way forward for Barbados. And again we ask: is Ms Mottley truly serious? And, would Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss and their peers earnestly consider it?
Just last week we heard some scathing remarks from former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Owen Arthur on the performance of the Democratic Labour Party-run Government –– to a point of ridicule. Breaking what he termed his silence on the state of the economy and the Government’s proposal to terminate 3,500 public sector jobs in the next few months, Mr Arthur bloodthirstily took the position Mr Stuart’s ought to be among them –– or something to that effect.
This is not to take away from the more sober alternatives he would have suggested for the future reining in of Government expenditure and for the resumption of a more vibrant economy, but well intentioned proposals may go the way of the refuse basket when those for whom the advice is meant are blind-sided by pillorying and invective.
We dare to presume that the peril Mr Arthur sees Barbados in he would wish to go away, and that acclaimed economist he is and prudent Minister of Finance he was said to be, his perspicacity would inform him that the land he loves so much can do with his knowledge and draw from his experience, but he needs to temper his passion. Otherwise, our present governing team –– of novitiates for the greater part, a challenge of all new governments –– will be hard-pressed to embrace Mr Arthur and company.
In her conceived Group Of Eminent Persons forging the way forward for Barbados, Ms Mottley offers Mr Arthur and former Minister of Agriculture Erskine Griffith, also a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance. We shall remain silent for now on why Ms Mottley’s party spokesman on finance and economic matters is not on the list, but the two named nonetheless in terms of the matter at hand cannot be denied as sound representatives, so long as Mr Arthur will avail himself of some stoicism.
We have had good cause before to allude to yet another Opposition Barbados Labour Party member of Parliament, Gline Clarke, going the way of his leader in suggesting the working together of the two parties “for the good of the country”. And we did not miss Mr Clarke’s accompanying interesting, critical note.
Mr Clarke did not believe the Freundel Stuart administration had the answers to the problems ravaging our economy; nor was he sure himself that the solutions lay singularly on his side either. This could be the stage where a Democratic Labour Party-Barbados Labour Party collective could be most propitious, Mr Clarke had indicated.
This was when news of public service job losses –– thousands of them –– at best was a whisper, at worst was barely taking shape before our eyes. That proposed collective, of course, never materialized. Political and partisan circumstances were against it.
Are the prospects for this national advisory body or Group Of Eminent Persons any better now? Can level heads obtain in this tenuous national state of affairs when there is obvious acrimony between the dominant players?
We have the Opposition with a motion of censure against the Speaker of Parliament; and we have Ms Mottley wishing that we could do away with the Minister of Finance. While the first has little or nothing to do with the state of the economy, the latter position seems a tall order. We would think that any national group of reconstruction would want Mr Sinckler present to ascertain first-hand what he did and didn’t do, and why we are in this precarious position.
We are at the crossroads; and the route we take from here could put us deeper into Mr Arthur’s perceived peril, or bring us to a place of ilumination. There is little to gain right now in pounding the Prime Minister or wallopping the Minister of Finance –– furthermore banishing the latter. Of course, having made a case for restraint on the other side, it would be useful and refreshing –– nigh tranquilizing –– if our Government ministers and other representative speakers were less combative too, for all the stress and criticism they may suffer.
If there is one thing that strongly suggests that our Government needs all the help and support it can get is its jagged faith over its declared stand there would have been no job cuts in its restructuring of the economy. Clearly, for all its efforts, the Government was overwhelmed by the economic challenges –– not uniquely; not alone.
We have indeed reached the point of national reconstruction. Let us together get our economic structure strengthened and our famously acknowledged stability secured. We insist; let’s fight for the partisan spoils later.
The time for peace and goodwill is now –– at least for a truce!