The governing Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is moving away from its social democratic ideals of a mixed economy and is becoming a party of free enterprise, private ownership, and socially conservative ideas, political activist David Comissiong has charged.
In a strong condemnation of suggestions of privatization of state entities to help the country out of the current economic malaise, Comissiong charged that the DLP had become captive to “the backward political ideology of neo-liberalism”, therefore abandoning its commitment to the less privileged.
The Freundel Stuart administration has largely ignored the advice of leading economists, including former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, to divest state enterprises, other than the announced agreement to sell the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited to the Sol Group for $100 million.
However, with DLP stalwart Robert Bobby Morris last week suggesting that Government should consider selling statutory corporations that were a drag on the public purse, Comissiong stated that the party had lost its way.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, the attorney-at-law described Morris as the pre-eminent intellectual of the DLP, who, when he speaks publicly, “it behooves us to listen carefully in order to get some indication of the philosophical and programmatic directions that the DLP might be contemplating”.
Therefore, when Morris said while delivering the DLP’s luncheon lecture at the party’s headquarters on George Street, St Michael last Friday that the administration should not touch the Child Care Board, the National Sports Council, the Barbados Vocational Training Board, the Public Utilities Board, the Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the Welfare Department as it considered privatization, Comissiong felt the DLP was turning itself into a conservative political organization.
“It is hoped that the DLP has not abandoned the concept of the mixed economy and has resolved to reduce the Barbadian state to a minimalist so-called watchman state that would be so small and weak as to be incapable of truly protecting and fostering the interests of the masses of the Barbadian people,” the social activist said.
Comissiong also listed several other state entities, which he said Government must keep out of private sector hands. Among them were the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Grantley Adams International Airport, Barbados Port Inc, the Barbados Water Authority, the Sanitation Service Authority, and the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation.
In delivering his lecture last week, Morris had made reference to the sale of the Barbados National Bank by then Prime Minister Owen Arthur to support his argument that Barbadians should not be too quick to criticize the current DLP administration if it chose to embark on its own path of privatization.