In a week when Barbados was again soundly warned of the need to urgently reform its economy, Lynette Eastmond and her fledgling United Progressive Party (UPP) must, at the very least, be given credit for stepping out from behind the election blinds, if only temporarily, to deal frontally with the need for Barbados to urgently enter into a formal arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or other reputable international funding agency to restructure our dying economy.
While Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and his ruling Democratic Labour Party and Mia Mottley and her main Opposition Barbados Labour Party continued to tip toe around the topic, while secretly making one pact or another with the IMF, out stepped the brave Ms Eastmond and her untried and to a large extent, still unknown UPP team, to say what no other political party has been willing to say amid the ‘mother-of-all’ political battles that is still to come.
“We will review all options for borrowing, including [going] to the IMF”, Eastmond said during the launch of her party’s Economic Manifesto this week, echoing the advice of most, if not all, of this island’s reputable economists in the face of a worrying deficit of 5.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), a national debt in excess of 100 per cent of GDP and dwindling reserves of less than $600 million.
Ironically, that proposal seems to have fallen on deaf ears, and given the snobbish nature of our political process itself, it message has apparently been lost, given the low level of public feedback to date, because of the current low political stature of its messenger.
The fact of the matter is that the UPP at nine months old cannot boast of even a fraction of the support of the two main political parties which have dominated the Barbadian political landscape and have been all that Barbadians have known since the achievement of political independence 51 years ago. Therefore, when Eastmond speaks, understandably, she carries nothing of the weight of a Mottley or a Stuart.
In fact, in this dog eat dog political world, we all know talent and know-how are often trumped by charisma, fancy slogans and other factors. Which explains why the United States is currently led by ‘The Donald’ and Dr Clyde Mascoll, despite his economic prowess, was never able to rise to the top of the domestic political ladder.
In the same way Eastmond’s career has been one of struggle in which she was never able to effectively make the transition from technocrat to one who can actually capture the imagination of the electorate to the extent of getting them to vigorously mark an ‘X’ next to her name and assure her of a seat in Parliament, despite numerous tries and her obvious penchant for analyzing what needs to be done and setting it out clearly and succinctly for others to understand.
It therefore remains to be seen what will be her personal fate and that of her UPP at the next polls now that she has made the switch to The City and is about to face a far less formidable opponent than Dr David ‘the bulldog’ Estwick.
However, given the obvious indifference of Barbadians to third, fourth and fifth parties, we believe her fight could actually be tougher this time round now that she has shed her proverbial BLP political garments for a bigger and brighter orange-coloured UPP cloak.
But given our tenuous political state and the obvious failure of both the BLP and the DLP to articulate a sustainable economic path for this country, we believe it would be foolhardy for us to write off any political party at this stage, or even to make anyone feel entitled to the leadership of our Government, in the absence of the needed proof of not only capacity, but a sheer willingness to do what is right when it is right.