“Alea iacta est.” (“The die is cast.”)
– Roman emperor Julius Caesar as he led his army across the Rubicon river, Italy, January 10, 49 B.C.
A year ago today the die was cast.
Barbadians, unable to see the method behind the seeming madness of the Democratic Labour Party’s decisions, made it clear the DLP’s services were no longer required.
History was made. A sea of red rushed through the country, bringing a sense of hope, relief and belief that “Mia cares”.
From very early in her stewardship, Prime Minister Mottley’s effortless charisma and open and engaging style of public leadership have captivated the nation: there were major decisions on which the country was not briefed on. There was nary a fall-out which did not result in a swift summoning into a meeting with key stakeholders.
But after the camera lights are turned off and after the talk has ended, are the red-washed hues of hope Mottley offered still as bright as they were a year ago?
It should have been anticipated by Barbadians that upon assuming office, the Labour Party would have implemented tough measures in an effort to fix the country’s ailing economy.
And the country has made tremendous strides having seen its foreign reserves increase from a paltry $440 million to over $1 billion; its domestic debt has been restructured; the abolition of the dreaded National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL); several upgrades from international credit rating agencies.
But make no mistake; there remains a grey cloud hanging over this country.
Hundreds of public servants have been retrenched as a result of the homegrown Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme, with scores more set to lose their jobs.
The impact of a new Garbage and Sewage Contribution, as well as the introduction of a new fuel tax, were felt deep in the pockets of middle and working class Barbadians.
And one of the biggest talking points to date, the 75 per cent increase in bus fares, was hugely criticised.
There was always a price to be paid following the ineptitude of the DLP administration.
But even some staunch DLP supporters have agreed that Government has made calculated decisions which, while bearing short-term pain, have been designed to bear fruit in the long term.
Labour will, however, argue, and rightly so, that they have achieved the majority of the 17 critical targets highlighted in their 2018 manifesto.
Mottley’s administration would argue that they have successfully rebuilt the foreign reserves; dealt with debt – though not all of it; assisted the sugar industry and its workers; stamped out corruption; repaired roads; repaired the sewage system; dealt with income tax arrears and refunds, got rid of garbage and helped the country prepare for natural disasters.
They could also argue that several others of those mission-critical areas are currently being addressed, such as alleviating water woes and putting buses back on the roads.
Recently, two projects were launched which will address both issues.
The Transport Augmentation Programme (TAP) is already bearing fruit with the integration of privately owned public service vehicles (PSVs) into the operations of the state-owned Transport Board.
While additional buses have been promised to be added to the age-old fleet, PSVs in the meantime will bring added relief to help serve those less popular routes.
Additionally, the Water Sector Resilience Nexus for Sustainability in Barbados (WSRN S-Barbados) project will also help eliminate the water shortages being experienced by persons in the north and eastern parishes, particularly those living in St Joseph, St Andrew and St Joseph.
But our gains, as critical and crucial as they have been, have been overshadowed by the heavy burden which has been placed on the backs of workers.
The fact still remains that life has got considerably harder for the majority of Barbadians.
Yet, ironically, most of them are still willing to give Government more time to rectify the situation.
While they have cried out about those hardships, Mottley’s constant communication with the general public and her promise of a better tomorrow give pause for thought, and hope.