Having lived through the previous ten years of Democratic Labour Party rule and equally experiencing first-hand the first 100 days of the new Mia Mottley-led Barbados Labour Party regime, we cannot in good conscience agree with Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn that the current Government should be issued with a failing grade, or that its performance has been more woeful than that of the last administration.
Yes, mistakes have been made since the May 24 poll, and, as appropriate, we have highlighted them just as we have celebrated the new administration’s many successes, but certainly from a performance standpoint the Mottley Government is by no means below pass mark.
On the contrary, our new Prime Minister has brought a renewed energy to that office that has been unheard of, at least in the last ten years, which is often referred to these days as ‘the lost decade’.
While we are not prepared to go that far in dissing the contribution of the Freundel Stuart-led regime, we feel there is at least one glaring difference between his Government and the current one that is worthy of highlight. It is in the vital area of communication.
From a situation in which there was a virtual blackout of public information and interaction with the press, we have now come full circle with this new Mottley Government.
Yes, there are still major shortcoming in this regard and certainly there is no freedom of information to speak of yet. In fact, on the heels of its 30-nil victory, there’s an alarming propensity by this Government and its agents to confuse naked public relations with what really should be authentic opportunities for serious engagement with journalists on matters of public interest, and even to expect journalists to behave like PR agents instead of serious professionals whose duty it is to pursue the truth and offer balanced critiques as necessary.
At the end of the first 100 days therefore we are still clamouring for a number of explanations, not only of Ms Mottley, but a number of her ministers, including Minister of Housing George Payne, who is yet to unpin his mouth about the unceremonial sackings that have occurred under his watch since May 24 at the National Housing Corporation.
We have also asked numerous times without the dignity of a response for a clear explanation as to why communications consultant Charles Jong had to be brought in from Dominica to head up the Prime Minister’s media team. Are there no such suitable individuals here, and is he still working for the Prime Minister of Dominica as well? The taxpayers of Barbados have a right to know.
The same with economic advisor Avinash Persaud and a whole list of other recent appointees to a Government that speaks loudly of the need for transparency and integrity in public life but evidently does not always practice such.
While we do not intend to hold our breaths in anticipation of the desired answers, it has to be said that in the first 100 days, we the members of the Fourth Estate have had more engagements with the current Prime Minister than we had with Mr Stuart in the eight years he was at the helm.
Indeed, it has been refreshing, if not journalistically fulfilling, to have a Government with an enormous appetite for social media.
In much the same vein, we believe our Government is deserving of kudos for dragging the Barbados Government Information Service into the technological age with live briefings, and the like. In fact, the full transition to e-government cannot happen soon enough for us and it is encouraging to have a leader who fully embraces such change.
Still, we didn’t like her so-called mini-Budget that was laden with taxes so much. And like the Barbados Economic Society we are worried about the impact of Government’s recent credit default on our ability to borrow internationally at commercial rates in the coming years. We are also very concerned about the state of our foreign reserves and the stability of our dollar as we await the bitter International Monetary Fund medicine that is to come.
And while on the surface BERT – the Barbados Economic Recovery Transformation programme – may seem harmless enough, we know that given the size of our national economic hole, it is going to take much more than a small scalpel to dig us out of our current mess.
All we ask therefore is for a level of transparency befitting of the task ahead.
If indeed we are all in this together then give us the tools so we all can equally prepare for that which is to come, especially since the next 100 days look to be even more economically treacherous than the first.