For the past two months the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has been in full campaign mode, holding meetings virtually every week, with a view to touching every street corner, every household, every potential voter, in anticipation of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s announcement of an election date.
However, we regret to note that so far, the 2018 campaign has been high on drama and very short on substance.
Apart from the traditional mud slinging, little to nothing has been said in terms of how the BLP, as the most feasible political alternative, intends to wrestle our economic challenges to the ground and put us back on a desperately needed sustainable growth and development path; one in which our forefathers would be proud and which safeguards the future of generations of Barbadians to come.
Indeed there has been a lot of sewage talk spewing from the BLP platform in recent weeks, but apart from learned Queen’s Counsel Ralph Thorne’s suggestion to the affected residents and businesses that they should sue the very Government in which he intends to have a senior role in a matter of months, and Dr William Duguid’s warning that it is a serious health crisis waiting to happen, we are yet to be convinced that were the BLP in power, the south coast stink would immediately be no more.
In fact, it was interesting to hear the BLP’s Member of Parliament for St Joseph Dale Marshall recently taking his former political cohort, turned BLP enemy number 1, Dr Maria Agard, to task for suggesting that the Opposition was as much to blame for the current Government for the raging sewage mess.
Speaking in Parliament during the recent Estimates debate, Dr Agard contended that the south coast sewerage system was “fundamentally flawed from the start” and that the problems at the treatment facility started “with its implementation in the late 1990s and early 2000”.
In response, Mr Marshall suggested it was a case of sour grapes on Dr Agard’s part, after she was literally kicked out of the BLP more than a year ago.
Sour grapes or no sour grapes though, it would be refreshing to hear how our so-called “Government in waiting” intends to resolve the issue. And if, as is often said, the Stuart Government has no clue how to get us out of the mess, then cue us in on the BLP solution.
For surely, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, it cannot just be about leaking Cabinet documents to show that the DLP Cabinet has not been of one accord on this matter, given what we already know of the bitter infighting that goes on within our political parties.
As recently as last week, Opposition Shadow Minister of Tourism Ronald Toppin publicly questioned whether an adequate sewerage system would be put in place to accommodate that proposed 237-room Hyatt Centric Resort on Bay Street, while pointing to the already burdened Bridgetown and south coast systems and warning that the 15-storey hotel could worsen the island’s sewage woes.
However, the question we have for Mr Toppin is, would he be prepared as “tourism minister in waiting” to bring the Hyatt project to a screeching halt, given what it also means for the island economically? The same with the controversial Hilton sale, the proposed Sam Lord’s Castle redevelopment – all of which have seemingly not met the BLP’s public accountability and transparency litmus test.
We would also like to know whether Ms Mottley plans to proceed with the sale of the Barbados National Terminal Company to the Kyffin Simpson-led Sol group. And given all of the ink that has already been spent on the Grotto and other Mark Maloney-led housing and other developments, will these also be halted, or is it just a case of opposing now for opposing sake?
For surely, the BLP cannot boast of running a clean campaign that is devoid of mudslinging and dirty attacks given St James Central representative Kerrie Symmonds’ infamous ‘rat boxie” comment, in reference to the Prime Minister, which takes the cake for being equally as offensive and audacious as Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s comparison of Ms Mottley to Germany’s Adolf Hitler.
And while that may be fine and dandy for some, we don’t really care for the nasty insults, the parliamentary walk outs and the needless gimmicks on either side.
However, we can’t help but be concerned that little to nothing has been said to date on the BLP’s privatization plan ever since the muzzle was placed firmly on the mouth of economist and Christ Church East Central candidate Ryan Straughn last year after he publicly blurted out during the Eighth Tom Adams Memorial lecture of all places, that sale of the state-run Transport Board was possibly in store.
“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?” the economist had asked at the time before he was thrown under the proverbial bus by his own party.
But what about the loss-making CBC? The BLP has openly criticized it for alleged reporting bias, but are you willing to stick your neck out and say you will sell the state broadcaster if you retake the reins?
The same with education, will the BLP be immediately repealing tuition fees or is this just platform talk? Given the precarious state of our public finances, how will you be able to do that and to repeal the dreaded National Social Responsibility Levy at the same time?
And what about the equally dreaded IMF, is this an option for the BLP?
In short, while the DLP’s policies have failed, the BLP would have us wager on our future like uneducated fools so desperate to see the back of a Motley crew that we will agree to anything.
On the contrary, we the enlightened need a clear and credible alternative Barbados Sustainable Recovery Plan. And the sooner the better for all concerned, Ms Mottley.