The ink on Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s new administration is still drying and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Government must be given the opportunity and the assistance in putting this island back on even keel. We sincerely believe that Miss Mottley desires to have a successful tenure as political leader of this country and this can only be achieved by righting some of the prevailing wrongs that exist. All civic-minded citizens, no doubt, hope that Barbados progresses under her leadership. The island longs for a spell of rain after a protracted period of drought.
However, this is not a Mills and Boon tale with a guaranteed happy ending. There will be continued hardships for some time. Despite the partisan naïveté of many stuck in red or minted in yellow, it is high time that collectively Barbadians be utterly objective about their politics, examine closely and dispassionately that which is placed before them and come to conclusions mainly guided by their brains, even if their hearts still play an unavoidable human role.
Miss Mottley’s first days in office have marked a sharp contrast to her predecessor. In 13 days she has shown a greater willingness to communicate with the Barbadian public than Mr Freundel Stuart perhaps demonstrated in the last five-plus years. We expect this to continue and hopefully always in a context where she and the pegs in the BLP Government fully engage and not commandeer the communication processes. However, the onus is on the Fourth Estate to hold its ground in such circumstances in the interest of the people.
Already there have been some developments that do not provide good optics at a time when we are inviting the International Monetary Fund to the country and when austerity will become a way of life. The sizeable Cabinet of Prime Minister Mottley has received little complaint from the labour union movement or from those in academia who frequently rush in where others defer. Miss Mottley’s suggestion that despite her swollen Cabinet there will be savings garnered from the curtailment of wastage and corruption is bloated blarney. Barbados’ post-colonial history and the annual Auditor General reports do not suggest that either the BLP or Democratic Labour Party knows anything about “curtailment of wastage and corruption”. We cannot all be expected to have a Damascus experience on the way to Roebuck Street where history is now supposed to be rewritten.
We appreciate that Miss Mottley must find work for a number of professionals who might have given up their jobs and to place them on the backbench would not be as financially rewarding as they would like. But a spade must be called a spade. Miss Mottley’s own ministry is testimony to the additional burden on taxpayers. She sits as Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs and is encircled by Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn, Minister of State in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment Marsha Caddle, as well as the paid positions of chief economic counsellor Dr Clyde Mascoll and now economic advisor Professor Avinash Persaud. Overlap, overkill, overcooked, over-the-top, the apolitical can take their pick.
We note that Attorney General Dale Marshall has vowed to pursue any wrongdoings and wrongdoers during the last administration. And we support him. It is about time that if our politicians or public servants are found to have breached the laws of Barbados that they are held accountable. But since Mr Marshall is about to embark on his mission and since Government is a continuum, we implore him to stretch his crusading net beyond 2008. Promises were made by the last administration to recoup almost $1 million paid to a contractor for botched and incomplete work at the Kensington Lodge Estate. Similar promises were made by the Stuart administration to recover thousands of dollars paid to a contractor for not building the Crab Hill Police Station. Promises were also made to investigate the circumstances under which a proposed $80 000 bath at Silver Sands eventually cost $400 000. There have been several instances of possible malfeasance prior to 2008. Barbadians have grown weary and wary of illusions.
Tragically, workers were used politically in an illusionary mission to garner a 23 per cent salary increase despite the repeatedly stated difficult economic times. Amid strikes, marches and go-slows, the unions did not budge from that position. Now, suddenly, as if struck by lightning, they have reportedly agreed to take a four per cent increase without so much as a cough. These were cards played with political adroitness. But can workers ever trust the hierarchy of the National Union of Public Workers again?
At a time of spiralling gun violence, mayhem and murder in Barbados, and with the illegal drug trade at the core of this dilemma, a recent occurrence does not bode well. Players in the illicit drug trade and well-known to members of the Royal Barbados Police Force and the average Joe were part of the 900 invitees at yesterday’s parliamentary activities. It was their right as citizens to be there. But that they had official Government invitations must have been particularly galling to law officers who perhaps rubbed shoulders with them yesterday but must continue to pursue them tomorrow. Every youngster inclined to follow such a deviant path must have been emboldened at that aspect of yesterday’s spectacle which, among other things, suggested that crime, in fact, does pay. The optics there were not an illusion.