“I pledge allegiance to my country Barbados and to my flag, To uphold and defend their honour, And by my living to do credit to my nation wherever I go.”
Barbadians everywhere are disturbed about the social and economic challenges confronting this nation. Sadly, there are too many pressing issues that are being sidestepped or downplayed by the current administration. Doing so serves no good for a population that is daily feeling the anguish of turbulent economic performances which have been formulated and followed by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in government.
The many downgrades, the numerous pronouncements that are laced with promises of better days ahead have become intolerable and no longer fanciful to the ears. Furthermore, the callousness and arrogance of the Freundel Stuart Cabinet inspires little or no confidence, with hope of relief extended only by the constitutional arrangements of a law-abiding society. The people wait – but with pain for Prime Minister Stuart to exercise his legitimate right.
The DLP parliamentarians and some of its waning supporters are preoccupied on those things which may be considered politically expedient in an election year. Together, they have failed to bring Barbados from the brink of disaster. These are truly troubling times; the people are fed up. Generally alarming is the fact that partisan politics is inhibiting the political class from doing the right things. Democratic traditions are in contradiction with the need for good governance, thereby pushing many to assert that the country needs serious reforms including the right of political recall.
Such calls have swelled over given that failure and crises have become embedded and characterize the executive arm of government. Barbados, by most objective measurements, appear to be a society and economy worse off today than a decade ago. The DLP promised much in 2008 and realistically failed to deliver, despite winning again in 2013. Not heeding sage advice, the DLP continued its policy options which have led Barbados into social and economic tailspin.
Last week, Moody’s, with another downgrade, indicated that: “Despite the government’s efforts to contain the fiscal deficit and alleviate pressures on foreign exchange reserves, the fiscal deficit remains large and credit risks have increased in Barbados. The debt burden has risen in recent years and will continue to do so for the next few. Domestic and external liquidity pressures on the sovereign have increased.” Moody’s concluded that “the likelihood of a credit event in the near-term (is) very high, given lack of fiscal adjustment and increasingly limited financing options.”
Despite the dismissive tones coming from the lips of PM Stuart, a high deficit persists coupled with the foreign reserves dropping to low and dangerous levels. Additionally, the local debt keeps climbing with a Bloomsberg Markets report insisting that: “The (central bank) governor being fired would have rattled investors simply because it shows some kind of instability there at a policy-making level … [because] the governor had started to come out about how bad it really is” in Barbados.
The same report added that “the 2-to-1 peg with the U.S. dollar is starting to show cracks, and an all-out balance of payments crisis is a possibility.” Surely, these statements were neither conceptualized nor made by any of the political parties in Barbados. Yet, they repeat warnings that have come from economists, political scientists, and the business community in Barbados.
Hence, it is reprehensible that PM Stuart, in wanting to dismiss critics and those calling a spade a spade, would insolently suggest that Barbadians are “being imbued with a sense of our own inferiority, or a sense of our own inadequacy.” Utter nonsense! Just imagine Barbados’ principal public servant contending that “rating agencies can only downgrade Barbados’ credit worthiness, its ability to borrow. They cannot downgrade Barbados itself.”
Boy, was he ludicrous! Stuart simplistically added that “the most they can do is to say to us that if you want to go and borrow, because we’ve downgraded you, persons who might be inclined to lend you will make the money they want to lend you more expensive.” It seems PM Stuart is disconnected from reality. The rating agencies influence the investors we seek out in a competitive global environment.
Contrary to PM Stuart, Barbados can look around and realize that we are not “on a much sounder footing” as compared with the economy that the DLP “inherited in January 2008.” The DLP Cabinet has lots to be ashamed about and must have been disgusted as thousands of Barbadians demonstrated on an overcast Saturday afternoon. Against DLP calls to boycott the Barbados Labour Party-inspired Step Up If Yuh Fed Up march, Barbadians took to the streets. A protest march and rally represented one way of reclaiming people power.
Regardless of the outcome of the next general election, it is absolute that new and inspiring national leadership is required. As such, Barbados requires a proactive Mia Mottley and not a procrastinating Stuart or ill-prepared other. As a matter of honest reflection, it must be emphatically stated that the Leader of the Opposition has consistently demonstrated the type of empathy, tenacity, accountability, and decisiveness that are necessary for leading a troubled nation.
Indeed, considering the battles and the tantrums thrown at her by past and present personalities within a male-dominated political culture, it is obvious that Mottley’s back is broad. With candid sobriety, she arguably has the intelligence, confidence, perseverance, and political capital that will ensure Barbados moves away from the bleak years it has been experiencing since 2008. Both her passion for national service and resoluteness in the face of hostility and trumped up charges, especially with the nefarious claims of fear-mongering by reckless DLP spokespersons, illustrate that Mottley is the best person to drive the vehicle of progress for the Barbados nation.
Alongside the BLP and its operatives, credit must be given to the many who are rekindling interest in the directions that the country must go. Of course, there are some less inclined to support either of the two major political parties. Yet, it is possible that daring men and women who present themselves to the electorate may want to serve, not out of personal grandeur, but national necessity. It is essentially good for democracy that persons are ready to utilize their skills on top of using their constitutional rights to see the back of a DLP administration that has performed miserably for the past nine years.
At the same time, the perception or likelihood of victimization by the DLP will keep a few potential candidates from coming to the forefront, even as the dawn of an election approaches. The ‘new’ parties and candidates, inclusive of so-called ‘independents’, have been thus far ambiguous at best and, at worst, calculatedly low-keyed. The public wants to see and hear alternatives from all those on deck. Perhaps such will minimize the discourse suggesting that party deviants are advancing a stage for personal vendetta and/or attack.
Barbados can no longer tolerate the burden of a failed government. The nation cannot accept the DLP’s distortion of the realities. Soon enough, the Barbadian people will decide for love of country.
(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant.