Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth Stephen Lashley today conceded that the Freundel Stuart administration had fallen short of engaging the public on national issues and it could no longer ignore the cries of the people.
Speaking on the Sunday edition of Down to Brass Tacks, Lashley rejected suggestions that the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was no longer popular among Barbadians, but admitted that the “discourse suggested that there was certainly a need for greater information sharing.
“… Of course in discussing with persons out there, they say to me that you need to have the Government being more responsive to our concerns, talking more with the public and that is one of the things that I agonize about.
“I think the country is at a stage where as many opportunities for public interaction as possible is very critical.”
Lashley would however not be drawn into calls to press Prime Minister Stuart to speak to the public more saying,
“I cannot speak for the Prime Minister. I understand it[calls], I hear it, but that is a matter for the Prime Minister to address himself.”
The Christ Church West Central MP added that it was a matter for each Government minister to look into.
“I believe each member of the cabinet have got to assess where he or she is in relation to the level of engagement. I certainly would not ignore that kind of public sentiment. I have heard it. Certainly I believe across the Government we are engage in much work, quite a lot is happening. There is a lot of good work happening within the government and therefore I think the whole question of sharing, educating and explaining to my mind are some of the areas that are missing and that is perhaps the cause for people to believe or feel the way that they do.”
Lashley however insisted that Government had held its own despite severe economic challenges.
He said even in face of the recent downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service, the Government had still performed credibly, citing that the economy had been stabilized and social safety nets were still in tact.
The Culture Minister highlighted that the national debt was still a concern and this was a sore point for Barbadians that the Government had a duty to address.
“You would see that much of what we have to do is related to paying debt that has accumulated over the years.
“The average Barbadian is concerned; they are feeling pain in a very difficult economic environment. I can’t assure people that this pain will not last for a certain time as we go through this period. I also believe and I share the concerns of Barbadians and it is indeed time that we have to communicate more effectively what the changes are.”
Lashley said the Government should have spent more time explaining its strategies especially during the period of structural adjustment, admitting it was “one of the negatives”.
“In times of difficult economic challenges any government would be wise to be much more forefront and open with the public and I think I have said that to my colleagues … and they would say that to you in terms of championing the cause of managing information in a much more robust way. I would say that is an area that we have to work on.”