With the current term of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration already past the three-year mark, the start of the so-called “silly season” –– when politicians take to the hustings and sometimes make the most outlandish statements to win votes –– will soon be upon us.
By the end of this year, as the Freundel Stuart Government moves closer to the penultimate year of its mandate, campaigning can be expected to gradually begin moving into full swing amidst the usual speculation as to when the actual date of the next general election will be announced.
Given the prevailing mood of the country, the next general election may prove to be a watershed in our political history. Recent opinion polls have shown a rising level of voter disenchantment. Public distrust of politicians also seems to be at the highest level since Barbados became an Independent, sovereign nation 50 years ago.
The people are understandably disappointed and sceptical because our elected representatives in so many ways have failed to live up to expectations in recent years. On the campaign trail, they convey the impression they have an answer to every problem. Once elected to office, however, what we then hear quite often are excuses for lack of performance.
In an obvious bid to shift public attention from their own failings, it is customary to hear elected administrations heaping blame on their predecessors for the problems they are confronting, as if the people have not already dealt with them by voting them out. When it is not the previous administration, it is the Public Service which is blamed for the lack of delivery on key
Isn’t it about time that our Governments move beyond the scapegoating and seriously focus on tackling the burning issues that matter to the people? It is only through providing meaningful solutions that deliver on the campaign rhetoric, that there will be hope for a recovery of public trust in politicians.
The people are looking for performance, not just sweet-sounding rhetoric.
If a previous administration created serious problems and evidence of criminality is found, then it is the responsibility of an incumbent to ensure the prosecution of offenders. It has become customary at election time to hear of corruption allegations. However, after winning the election and settling into office, nothing else is generally heard.
If the Public Service is frustrating the effective implementation of a Government’s agenda, which was approved by the general populace, then it is the responsibility of the particular administration to fix the problem. The political directorate must understand they are elected by the people to provide solutions that improve their lives. The Public Service’s role is to facilitate their implementation.
Listening to some politicians as they complain, one gets the impression sometimes that they consider themselves impotent to take on the bureaucracy, whose inefficiency in various ways costs the taxpayers and the country as a whole. Complaining never solves problems. What does is decisive action implemented with sensitivity and compassion.
If Barbadians are truly desirous of achieving meaningful change, the best chance is through collective action. For example, the creation of a powerful people’s lobby to set standards for politicians, get political parties and candidates to sign on before the next general election, and then ensure they are held accountable in office for their performance.
Every administration and MP, both Government and Opposition, should also be required on an annual basis to publish a list of achievements during the preceding year, as well as plans for the coming year, based on commitments given at election time and in response to issues which may subsequently arise. In this way, the average citizen will have a tool to monitor and evaluate the performance of Government and their MPs.
Our current 50th Independence anniversary, which is being promoted as an occasion for celebration, is also a time for serious reflection. Generally speaking, the first 50 years of Independence were a good experience, but we have still fallen short in some critical areas –– for example, the failure to improve our governance.
We need to itemize these deficiencies and commit as a people to resolving them in pursuit of a stronger and better Barbados.
The period leading up to the next general election is a timely opportunity to start a national conversation on these issues to ensure that real and meaningful change does come to Barbados beyond simply changing the personalities running our affairs. The people acting together can make it happen. Leaving it to the politicians carries the risk of waiting until the twelfth of never.