The silly season is upon us and the electorate can expect to be bombarded with promises of varying amounts of manna from heaven by the two major political parties. I would caution both the BLP and DLP, though, not to make extravagant promises which they know they cannot honour.
There is enough cynicism and mistrust of politicians among the citizenry for those seeking public office to add to the state of disillusionment. In any case, while die-hard supporters may swallow every word of their party leaders, many Barbadians are too educated to believe that there are new messiahs arisen in our midst, ready and able to turn water into wine and to give sight to the blind.
Barbados is experiencing a huge deficit, a debt crisis and foreign exchange challenges. How in such an environment can we afford to abolish revenue earning measures and restore tuition fees for university students? Is it not better for the parties to propose plans to reduce the deficit, create an enabling environment for the foreign exchange earning sectors of agriculture, manufacturing and international business and keep refreshing our Tourism offerings?
Another issue needing a response from the leaders of the two great parties of state is the relationship with the International Monetary Fund. Barbadians have a right to know whether the leaders of these parties intend to seek an arrangement with the Fund or whether they are planning home-grown solutions to our economic woes. And what about statutory corporations? Are we in for rationalization of any or all of these?
As far as social services are concerned, I would like to see each party give us an idea of how it will fund health care. I fully support Senator Fraser’s view that the most democratic tax would be a health levy to be used only for health purposes and not subsumed in the consolidated fund where no one would be able to give account of how it is used.
There is need for a radical transformation in education. We have gone too far with the expansion of sixth forms now. What is needed is more attention on and increased recognition of technical and vocational education to produce the skills necessary for young Barbadians to find productive employment and to create their own jobs.
In addition, we need to reform primary education so that less emphasis is placed on the iniquitous Common Entrance Examination and more time spent on ensuring that each child learns the foundational skills before moving on to intelligently zoned secondary schools. Assessments done at ages 7, 9 and 11 should be undertaken with the aim of identifying and correcting deficiencies, especially in English and Mathematics. Civics, Food preparation and Health should have a prominent place in the school curriculum.
We need to know how the parties are going to fight crime and violence and reform the Criminal justice system. We can no longer afford the periods of eternity taken to have cases heard in court. This is a small country, and the authorities must have some knowledge of those who organize and facilitate guns coming into this country.
Certainly, the semi-literate young men I see being carted off to prison for drugs and gun crimes have neither the resources nor contacts to be able to run the gun and drug trade. Is it not time that the real maguffies be brought to justice? We want to hear how Mr Stuart and Miss Mottley propose to deal with this vexing issue.
As a Christian, I also wish to know the parties’ stand on same sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana. Are we going to bow to international pressure and legalize same sex marriage, or are we going to continue insisting that marriage is a contract between a MAN and a WOMAN? Our children are already experiencing a state of moral confusion; trying to figure out who is Dad and who is Mum will only make things worse.
Marijuana may have medicinal purposes, but laboratory testing and appropriate dosages of any beneficial extraction from the plant are necessary before use should be approved under doctor’s supervision. Allowing citizens to smoke ganja with gay abandon is likely to create health problems which will burden our health services later on. So tell us, Mr Stuart and Miss Mottley, do you propose to legalize the herb?
As the various candidates roll into our nooks and crannies, heights and terraces, let us pin them down to the specifics of policy and not accept unrealizable promises of a new heaven on earth.