As a student of history, I have closely observed political, social and economic developments in Barbados over the past thirty years, and have now reached the conclusion that there have been forces at work in this country to ensure that special interest groups get what they want at the expense of the good of Barbados.
Since the death of His Excellency, Errol Walton Barrow, this country has gone through periods of destabilisation, apparently unrecognised by the masses. First of all, soon after the national hero’s death, his party imploded as a result of skulduggery. No one has been able to properly or credibly explain the vote of no confidence against Sir Lloyd Sandiford in 1994. In my view, he was a victim of collusion by the private sector, labour and political interests; collusion not seen in Barbados since adult suffrage. Remember that this same Sandiford had taken courageous decisions in the early nineties to save the Barbados dollar, and, following his forced removal from office, Owen Arthur inherited an economy which was growing. Indeed, the late Sir Richard Haynes told Mr Arthur that he had a “good wicket to bat on’’.
Mainly because of a good economic climate worldwide, our economics trained Prime Minister was able to keep Barbadians happy for a number of years. However, few noted that there was no effort to restructure the local economy; the price of land and house building spiralled out of the reach of middle-income workers; we lost two precious assets – the Barbados National Bank and the Insurance Corporation of Barbados and our debt was becoming unsustainable.
The Democratic Labour Party returned to office at the start of what was to be the most devastating economic crisis since the Great Depression. Mr Thompson’s death signalled the start of a relentless campaign by the opposition party, aided by the private sector, certain unionists and sections of the media to apparently get rid of Mr Freundel Stuart. Personal attacks, false propaganda and what can only be described as sabotage were all seemingly employed to make sure that the Government failed. The forces were nearly successful in 2013; then all the stops were pulled out in 2018 to bring about the desired result. As I have said before, the DLP Government played into the hands of its opponents through the poor execution of policies, indecisiveness and failure to communicate effectively with a population that was hurting as a result of the economic situation.
Yet, the Government did a number of good things which I note that the special interests voices have, like Squealer in Animal Farm and Trump, been trying hard to erase from people’s memories. Almost every speaker on radio and television has tried to outdo each other in blaming the last Government for all manner of evil and giving the impression that what is positive must be attributed to what has transpired since May 24th.
Can we forget that our country went through the recession with our dollar intact, public servants and pensioners being paid on time; no defaulting on debts; nursery and sixth form education expanded; a serious attempt to build a renewable energy sector; improved opportunities for development of cultural industries; access of nearly every citizen to information technology; free bus fares for school children and I could go on? I am not trying to argue a case for the DLP’s re-election. What I am doing is asking for balance in our discussions. The party has been punished by the electorate for its shortcomings. Let us not try to bury an organization which helped to build modern Barbados.
Interestingly, there is hardly any attempt to critically analyse the new Government’s policies. We have even seen an attempt to make it appear that the high price of fuel is not a problem. Carefully selected members of John Public are used to make flattering comments about each measure taken. We are not doing the BLP Government any favours when not even the media is prepared to critique flawed decisions. I fully support the idea of giving the administration a chance to implement its strategies for the improvement of the economy, but that does not mean we should blindly support every initiative.
At this juncture, Barbados needs visionary leadership which, unfettered by an unholy alliance with the traditional business class, will focus on reforming our educational system to meet modern needs; making adequate provision for a gigantic leap in the renewable energy sector; helping to maximise the potential of young innovative entrepreneurs; facilitating the development of agri-businesses, sports and culture, and genuinely restructuring the Barbados economy.
Meanwhile, it is my hope that the shadows behind the manipulation of our political, social and economic life will be unmasked and the masses of Barbadians will become educated enough to insist on full participation in nation building.
(John Goddard is a retired teacher at St George Secondary School and former senior teacher at Harrison College.)