A University of the West Indies (UWI) political scientist is cautioning the Mia Mottley-led administration to remain focused on the critical issues affecting the economy, even as it hurries to honour its 2018 general election manifesto pledges.
Dr Kristina Hinds, a lecturer in political science at the UWI Cave Hill Campus, gave the Government a passing grade so far for its attempts to live up to the expectations of the Barbadian public.
“I think so far they are doing quite a good job,” Hinds told Barbados TODAY in an assessment of the Barbados Labour Party’s first month in office.
However, she warned that the administration would face some testing times ahead, particularly in relation to its decisions on the economy.
“These are some of the issues relating to the economic situation in the country, including some of the ramifications for the possible default on our debt, and we would also want to keep our eyes on the type of IMF [International Monetary Fund] deal that Barbados enters into, if indeed it does,” she stressed.
Government said it had put together a strong negotiating team for July 2-12 talks with the international lending agency for balance of payments support and debt restructuring.
Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn said at the weekend the IMF had already begun requesting data which Barbados was in the process of finalizing, and that Government was working out the details on what was required to grow the economy over the next ten years and the particular path to achieve sustainable growth, whilst at the same time improving the delivery of public services to the level that Barbadians expect and deserve.
Hinds saw all of this as a good sign of a “very energetic” start in office by the Mottley administration.
“I think it is a positive start to the five years. But again, very early to make a proper assessment of how the Government is doing,” the political scientist said.
“It is symbolic of the level of support that the Government has been given. So I think the Government is trying to live up to a lot of the expectations and promises that the people have and I think so far they are doing quite a good job,” she said.
However, the UWI lecturer expressed concern “about a climate emerging in the country” in which people appeared unwilling to criticize Government because of the BLP’s overwhelming victory at the polls.
And while she sought to absolve the administration of blame for this attitude among its supporters, Hinds said this must be monitored closely to ensure it does not get out of hand.
“I am a bit concerned about a climate emerging in the country in which people may feel that they cannot be critical of the Government or that they cannot speak freely about policies that are being implemented or proposed because of the overwhelming mandate the Barbados Labour Party has been given.
“I don’t think anybody would want Barbados to be the kind of country where you cannot speak critically of the Government because it has been given an overwhelming mandate to govern,” she said.
“So that’s one of the things I am very cautious about and am watching very carefully to see how that develops.”
Since taking up office following the May 24 poll, the Mottley administration has kept several of its campaign promises, including the repeal the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy.
It has also abolished the road tax and replaced it with a fuel tax; announced a pay rise for public servants; an increase in pensions and the return of free tertiary education.
However, it has also imposed a number of taxes, including a Garbage and Sewage Contribution (GSC) equivalent to about $45 per month for households and 50 per cent of the water bill for businesses and a Health Service Contribution at a rate of 2.5 per cent, with 1.5 per cent of incomes being paid by employers and one per cent by employees.