If recent public opinion polls were anything to go by, it would seem that the next election is a far-gone conclusion and that the Mia Mottley-led Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is on course for a major victory.
That’s if the main Opposition party can successfully overcome a number of recurring public ‘nightmares’ that appear to be keeping its political leadership up very late at night, tossing and turning in bed in the elusive hope that by first light this inescapable bad dream would simply just go away, without it ever having to be confronted head on.
But alas, the nightmares keep coming back, again and again.
Most hauntingly this past week it would seem, was the suggestion made by the party’s rookie candidate Ryan Straughn, while delivering the BLP’s Eighth Tom Adams Memorial lecture last week, that the state-run Transport Board should be sold.
Given the lengths that the party has gone since then to distance itself from that suggestion, we believe it is only fair to conclude that privatization is one of those recurring nightmares that the BLP, like the present Government, is desperate to avoid, but will eventually have to face up to, especially if it gets its electoral wish.
Which essentially is what Straughn was hinting at in his economic lecture when he dared to ask Barbados, “when will we recognize that the Government of Barbados does not have to own a bus to deliver subsidized fares for any of its citizens?”
With the economy currently in dire straits, it is for us a most pertinent question to pose, especially given, as Straughn rightly acknowledged, the island’s social and economic conditions have changed significantly since 1976 when Mr Adams was prime minister.
However, with elections around the corner, it clear that no one is prepared to give an answer, much less be responsible for telling “the little old lady” that she will soon have to pay her own bus fare.
It was a strategy that the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) used successfully against the BLP in the last election.
So even though Rome may presently be burning all around us, the BLP will be damned to allow any political neophyte to cost them the election, even if his economic formula may later prove sound.
“Ryan Straughn is an economist, he is a young politician, he is new to politics. He gave a lecture, a lecture which was not edited and controlled by the party. He was allowed to give a lecture on his vision for Barbados, how he saw things going and he sees it in the terms of a technocrat,” was the way BLP General Secretary Dr Jerome Walcott responded to Straughn’s comments yesterday at a press briefing at the party’s Roebuck Street, The City headquarters to launch the BLP’s 79th annual conference.
It came mere days after Member of Parliament for The City Jeffrey Bostic had also sought to make it clear that Straughn did not speak for the BLP on the issue.
“Comrade Jeffrey Bostic was asked if this was a policy decision of the Barbados Labour Party and he was in fact correct [in stating that it was not]. Policies in the BLP are discussed and formulated at the level of the parliamentary group, where all of the individuals within that group have an opportunity to express that concern and the policy comes out of those deliberations. So Ryan Straughn is giving his perspective as a young person and as a technocrat and Bostic is telling you policy is decided within the party. At the moment the parliamentary group has not discussed those matters, but certainly we are working on those matters which will be revealed in the lead up to the elections,” the general secretary stressed.
Clearly this issue is proving to be quite divisive.
But while the goodly economist is left to lick his own political wounds, we are none the wiser economically with Government still trouncing around with 63 statutory boards in tow, numerous social entitlements, the International Monetary Fund knocking at the door and a humongous national debt of 140 per cent of gross domestic product holding us by the throat.