The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration failed on the economy but “held itself together” well in 2015, while the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) failed to convince the voting public that it is united behind its leader, political scientist Peter Wickham has argued.
Wickham told Barbados TODAY that the many attempts by the administration to steady the economy had been unsuccessful and Barbadians were no better off at the end of the year than they were at the start.
The Freundel Stuart administration has been trying to crawl its way out of a dire economic situation since the global recession in 2008 and has imposed several “bitter” homegrown measures in order to try and put its fiscal house in order.
“I think as far as those are concerned it is really clear that they would have to be given a failing grade because the economic situation in Barbados at the end of 2015 is no better than it was at the beginning of 2015,” Wickham, who is currently in the United Kingdom, said in a telephone interview.
“We heard suggestions that there could be economic growth and then we heard that those suggestions were revised and I think that fundamentally is the problem. Where are we regarding employment? Where are we regarding the economy? Where are we regarding economic growth?” he asked, adding, “Barbados is no further on in relation to any of those issues.”
He said Government’s only “saving grace” regarding the economy was the fact that it did not undertake massive layoffs like it did in 2014 when over 3,000 public sector workers were sent on the breadline as part of the 19-month fiscal adjustment programme.
“Nonetheless the situation isn’t improving and I don’t know that has helped,” Wickham added.
However, he felt the DLP did well to demonstrate party unity despite “some major political battles” during the year, chief among them the legal troubles of House Speaker Michael Carrington.
He said the fact that the party “still held itself together” was “remarkable” and surpassed all expectations.
“That could arguably be a major political achievement on their part . . . that they have actually been able to survive and more importantly they have been able to keep our attention away from the fact that there is much that needs to be done,” Wickham concluded.
However, he said the same could not be said for the Mia Mottley-led BLP, which was involved in a public row with Christ Church West MP Dr Maria Agard.
The party’s expulsion of Dr Agard and her subsequent lawsuit exposed cracks within the BLP, with some members openly questioning Mottley’s leadership and challenging her authority.
Wickham said this suggested the party was not as united as it ought to be.
“These issues seem to be suggesting that there are some weaknesses within the Barbados Labour Party as far as unity is concerned and if you recall on the last election the issue of unity was one that was challenging for the BLP,” he said.
The pollster made reference to an opinion poll conducted last year which seemed to indicate that while Barbadians were aware of the issues facing the Opposition party, they were not preoccupied with them and continued to believe that the BLP would be “a superior alternative” to the DLP administration.
However, he said there were lingering concerns which the BLP needed to address in the coming year.
“2016 is two years away from 2018 and I think this would be a good point that the BLP has to look to solidify in people’s minds the idea that it is a unified organization and remove any lingering doubts and fears that people may have that the organization cannot hold itself together behind the singular leadership of one person,” Wickham advised.