The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) has reasserted the organization’s social democrat outlook, with its political leader making it clear that the financial imbalances in the economy were necessary to maintain its ideological commitment.
In its mid-year conference over the weekend, where members of the governing party heard reports of Cabinet ministers except Dr David Estwick, Michael Lashley and Dr Denis Lowe, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart assured the gathering at Queen’s College of the DLP’s firmness in its philosophy, while Finance Minister Chris Sinckler indicated that, since coming to power nine years ago, the party had put its beliefs over strict financial considerations.
Stuart cited the 2008 world economic crisis that engulfed Barbados at the time his party came to office, and said on Saturday that administering the country has been “challenging” and “required a certain strength of character, a certain fixity of focus, an understanding of our dreams and of our philosophical commitment”.
Billed DLP Facts, the conference was meant to assure party faithful that their elected representatives were doing the country’s work.
In delivering closing remarks, Stuart said the presentations by his ministers, had reassured him “that our democratic socialist philosophy is very much intact, and that the DLP . . . is very much the DLP that exists today, in terms of what it believes and what it is committed to”.
“Everything you heard here today . . . satisfies the criterion that people-centred policies, humanitarian values, and humanitarian priorities rank higher than commercial values and commercial priorities,” he contended.
The party president acknowledged that Barbados has a mixed economy of public and private sectors and he expressed a wish that it remain so, but added that “as a government, we have to adopt an attitude that is fundamentally different from the attitude pursued by private interests”.
As the man of the moment, on the heels of Barbados being hit by another international credit ratings downgrade and on the eve of his annual presentation of the Estimates of Income and Expenditure, the Finance Minister spent the longest time at the podium, explaining why Barbados was still in economic doldrums and projecting a future of better circumstances.
Promising revelations in the Estimates of a high level of cuts in expenditure and a significantly reduced deficit, Sinckler asserted that the Barbados economy was climbing out of the financial hole.
But he said it would take time to achieve these projected results since it must be done in a manner consistent with party philosophy.
“All it requires is a little time and some patience. Everybody wants everything to be turned around one time. It cannot be done like that,” he said, reasoning that moving any faster “would literally mash up the place”.
His remarks came against the backdrop of many economic commentators – including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Standard & Poor’s that downgraded the island’s sovereign bond rating last Friday – pointing to a halt in the printing of money through use of the Central Bank resources, and borrowing from the National Insurance Scheme as among the routes to economic revival.
But Sinckler said: “I would love if I could tomorrow, to wean the Government off both the Central Bank and the NIS because it costs us a lot of money to be in there.
“But we know that as a responsible administration, because of the situation we have facing us, it is not humanly possible at this time to cut that cord, because the level of disruption and instability it would cause in this economy will cause the collapse.”
He said the DLP has been “reasonably successful” in offering a “sensible deficit reduction, and economic reform”, unlike “the madman approach of the Barbados Labour Party, to cut this and slash that and destroy this and destroy that”.
“If it is that we are presented with a scenario in which we want to do a hatchet rush-job on bringing a deficit down and then decapitate the soul of this society, I think you need to find a different political party. That is not this political party,” Sinckler said.
“If we are to be found guilty for not decimating the social fabric of Barbados in order that we can hold up some book or magazine to say that ‘X’ number is right and ‘Y’ number is correct and they balance out, if that is the charge . . . I, Chris Sinckler, plead guilty and the Democratic Labour Party pleads guilty.”
In an apparent response to those calling for the Government to engage the IMF for a restructuring package deal that paves the way for low-interest borrowing, Sinckler dismissed that as unacceptable.
He said many countries that pursued such programmes may have balanced their budgets or even recorded a surplus, but “what they don’t tell you is about the social deficit that it leaves”.
“What they don’t tell you is about the poor people who are getting poor, the services that are not being provided, the schools that are closed, the medicines that can’t be delivered, and the level of crime that explodes beyond control.”