Elections are now past us, a new government is in place, our country’s problems are still deep and there are several lessons, many positive, that can be taken away from the 2018 election cycle. I think the most profound national lesson is that people cannot live without hope. Whatever the challenges to be faced, the people charged with running a country must have enough intellectual and social capital to keep the citizenry invested.
Where these features are missing in governance, the collective will to move replace the government. Hope is the first component in any restoration. The people of Barbados have found a new source of it and now we buckle down to the hard work.
So what is this hard work before we end with some of the particular lessons each political party can take away from this historic victory? The hard work is that every sector in Barbados is in need of deep and urgent repair. The economic woes are generally understood across Barbados. However, the depth of them has been further revealed over the last few hours. With a foreign loan payment due next month and our peg teetering, the work will have to be swift, incisive and the correct remedy applied the first time around.
Added to the remedial economic work to be done, the social sector in Barbados will also need skillful navigation in order to arrest the declines we have been experiencing. In order to address economic issues, some classes of individuals may be made more financially vulnerable before the country is on an even keel again. The trick will be to ensure that the chasms as they currently exist in the social services are addressed so that people stop falling through them.
While the economic adjustments are continuing, people will need cheap access to counselling to manage financial pressures and or other life adjustments. The children of at-risk families will need management that removes this responsibility from the classroom. It seems a sound decision by the new administration, in a country that is ageing and having some difficulties with the management of elder care, for a new ministry to have been fashioned to address the issues.
I suppose to express it as a single lesson moving forward, Barbados will very much have to manage the economy in a way that the society is given a fighting chance to recreate itself for the next fifty years. The civil service and all other agencies will have to function in a responsive and people friendly way. Contriving will have to be a part of our national fabric again. Quite lofty sounding, except that this is exactly how Caribbean societies and indeed, all others, came about in the first place!
That leaves us to mention a few of the political lessons from the most recent election campaign in Barbados. I think Barbadians got quite excited about the power of their X. Many who had opted not to participate in voting over the last few years understood that while not voting can be a protest, it also results in them having to live under an administration which they did not choose.
Barbadians were unwilling to commit themselves to that fate and they used their vote to decisively chart their future. This meant that the impact of voter inducement was significantly diminished although it still occurred. The practice of vote buying is one that I would consider to be entrenched in the political process of Barbados.
Even in this election, where people had made up their minds to vote for change, some were still successful in wagering their votes. I am not enthralled by the habit of vote buying and I believe all should be done to eradicate our landscape of the practice. I believe that the repositioning of voting booths has gone some way in providing a deterrent to the habit.
Notwithstanding, I think this is the election where ‘eat them out, drink them out and vote them out’ took on a renewed meaning. Barbadians collected inducements for their votes but they were determined to see change. There was no seemingly clear connection between the gifts and how people ended up voting. This, in itself, should also go some way in making politicians think before seeing vote buying as an effective strategy.
The final lesson I wish to outline here is a clear one to political parties. There is a need for renewal and a different model for the political party in 2018. Barbadians have enough access to television and social media to see the changes being made to political organizations across the world. They are not in the mood to tolerate archaic values and modes of communication from the political class. The Democratic Labour Party has learned this lesson in the most finite way but the heightened interest in third parties and independent candidates means that is a broader lesson to be considered.
Congratulations to the new government of Barbados. May we live the change.
(Marsha Hinds is public relations officer of the National Organization of Women. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)