The decision to appoint former Prime Minister Owen Arthur as Government’s Chief Economic Advisor is an admission that the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is incompetent when it comes to handling the economy, says political scientist Peter Wickham.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY this afternoon, Wickham said the move defied logic, as it appeared destined to do more harm than good to the DLP’s political standing.
In addition, the pollster said he was unable to determine how Arthur’s distinguished political career could be boosted by the possible alignment since it was difficult to anticipate the former prime minister’s political strategies.
“The logic eludes me, but having said that I don’t fully understand Owen Arthur as a politician and I can’t competently predict his moves because I really don’t know,” the Caribbean Development and Research Services pollster said.
Barbados TODAY first broke the story on Monday of the former Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader’s possible appointment as head of Government’s economic advisory team.
Yesterday, Arthur all but confirmed he would lead the restructured National Economic Council that will advise the Freundel Stuart administration on fiscal and economic matters.
“Yes, I can confirm that I have been approached by [Minister of Finance] Mr [Chris] Sinckler, [and] yes I can confirm that I told him that I would be willing to serve,” Arthur said.
However, Wickham contended that if the appointment becomes official, the DLP Government would be contradicting its longstanding claim that it had inherited an economic mess from the Arthur-led BLP, which lost the 2008 general election after 14 years in power.
“For them it doesn’t make sense because you appoint the person that you have just identified as being responsible for the economic situation the country is in as your Chief Economic Advisor. What could be the possible benefit in that?
“My sense is that the DLP sees this as an opportunity to use Arthur’s relationship with [BLP leader] Mia [Mottley] or lack thereof, to their political advantage. But to me the deeper issue is the things you have already said about Arthur’s policy and worthiness,” Wickham argued.
Arthur has stated that his decision to accept Sinckler’s offer was not influenced by his broken relationship with Mottley. Instead, he insisted it was his civic duty to help, especially in light of the fact that he had been travelling up and down this region for several months now dishing out economic advice in one form or another.
“I could not possibly be giving advice to other people and say no to a good and honest overture to me to give advice to the Government of Barbados,” the independent Member of Parliament for St Peter said.
However, Wickham was not convinced that the public would see the matter through the same lens as the former BLP leader, suggesting the Opposition party was better off remaining silent about this latest political development.
“If there were any Barbados Labour Party supporters who had delusions about his feelings about them and not wanting them to be back in office now, he has helped to confirm that this is his view. He has clearly decided that there is no longer any benefit to him nurturing a relationship between himself and the BLP and he has thrown his lot in with the DEMs and their efforts to make confusion.
“I think Miss Mottley is well advised to say nothing. The Barbados Labour Party has one of the most competent economic teams that a person can put together. They have Clyde Mascoll, a former Minister of Finance; they have Ryan Straughn, who is an economist, and Mia Mottley, who is a former Minister of Economic Development in what was the most successful administration in the last quarter century. So I don’t know that they need to worry too much about losing Owen Arthur,” he stressed.
When contacted this morning, Mottley refused to comment on Arthur’s pending appointment, while Mascoll, the BLP’s economic advisor, said he did not want to be drawn into the debate. Mascoll, a former leader of the DLP who crossed over to the BLP before losing the St Michael North-West seat to Sinckler, told Barbados TODAY that having “given up politics”, he was concentrating on his work.