Year One of the BLP
The Barbados Labour Party, romping to power with an earth-shattering 30-nil triumph on May 24, 2018, led by the nation’s first female prime minister, immediately got down to business with its “Mission Critical” agenda of 17 key actions to save the Barbados dollar, restore stability and growth and build a new economy.
It’s been a dramatic 12 months filled with an International Monetary Fund deal, debt negotiations, a South Coast clean up, garbage woes, public transport troubles, higher fares, fees and taxes, and more. Barbados TODAY invited key newsmakers from the year that was to grade the Mottley administration’s performance. Here’s our recap of Year One of the BLP.
by Kareem Smith
Hundreds of Barbadians are yet to experience the positive changes in their standard of living, which they were expecting, when they elected Mia Mottley as Prime Minister.
The pain of structural adjustment has made life particularly difficult for middle and lower income earners, who have been forced to cut and change their lifestyles to make ends meet. Nevertheless, many continue to sacrifice with willing hearts as policy makers attempt to nurse the country’s sick economy back to health.
Barbados TODAY spoke to a wide cross section of citizens from varying backgrounds and across different parishes, but complaints about social and economic pain from government’s corrective measures have generally been the same.
“I am pretty happy and I will give them an “A” grade for their quick attempt to get the Government back on a track, along with the rebuilding of the economy and some of the problems that caused us to constantly print money,” said well known Apostle, Eliseus Joseph.
“People are having a greater sense of hope and security and I think that people are beginning to feel a little more settled after the past administration and the challenges the country was put under and clearly there were a lot of things that were being done, which left a lot to be desired. The economy was in disarray, money was being printed and there were a lot of challenges, which caused apathy among Barbadians.”
Joseph however pleaded with Government to add a more humane touch,when carrying out other harsh measures in the future.
“My challenge is the retrenchment and the redundancies and the organisational changes. I believe they should have been done with a more caring perspective, because there has been a lot of carnage for people who have been forced to leave their jobs.”
Meanwhile, Janelle Gilkes argued that Barbadians, for a long time knew that the country’s dire economic situation would require tough reforms. She however asked that Members of Parliament, members of cabinet and their designees, maintain a high standard of integrity. She also called on other qualified citizens to scrutinize the actions of Government.
“What is necessary is not just an opposition that speaks truth to power, but for different spokespersons from different industries and sectors giving input. I don’t only want to hear from Government and Government’s representatives. I want to hear from industry leaders, human resource experts and specialists.
“I want to hear a greater conversation happening, because it’s only when everybody puts forward their perspectives and ideas that we can really get the best of anything that is going on in the country. So we need more dialogue so that we can really be clear that our best and brightest are on the ball and are taking part in this recovery and that we really have the best ideas circulating and being taken seriously,” she said.
At Half-Moon Fort in the rural parish of St. Lucy, Dave Jackson’s view was much more straightforward.
“The former government wasn’t running things so good, so we needed change for Government to look after the interests of the people. I’m very satisfied because this is the party that I voted for because I wanted change and I’ve gotten change. There’s still a lot of work to be done and I know that with Ms. Mia Amor Mottley we will eventually get change. I know it’s going to take a little while, but things will change.
“The only thing that I want to happen now in St. Lucy is for the jetty down by the fish market in Half Moon Fort be rebuilt so that fishermen could use it,” he added.
Another man who was relaxing with friends at the same location shared an opposing view.
“At the end of the day, it is we, the poor people who are feeling the brunt of the pain. The bus fare went up by 75 per cent. You’re taking away from the poor people without giving them something, but yet still make it seem like you’re doing something,” said the elderly man, who did not want to be identified.
“No, you’re just taking away, because there has been no increase to poor people’s incomes and you did it on two different occasions, with the bus fare and the increased water bills. Poor people may not want to come out and say these things but that is what it’s all about,” he added.
The outspoken man was also unhappy with the leadership of Peter Phillips, who won the seat after decades of DLP stewardship. He questioned Government’s decision to repair roads in areas like Cave Hill St Michael, when large sections of the West Coast and parts of St. Lucy needed to be repaired.
“I am seeing no improvement in St Lucy. The roads need to be done… we used to have donkey carts and the road used to be better. Even across the West Coast is very bad and needs to be fixed.
Meanwhile, Richard Rollocks, who was working at a bar in the area, said he is feeling “a lot better” after the first year under the new administration.
“I hope that they would get things back together. I am hoping and praying that things would get back to normal.”
At Six Mens’, Frank Gilkes, the former President of BLP St. Peter branch said that relative to the country’s current economic situation, the PM is doing “a very good job”.
“I still think that we have a long way to go and I think that what she is calling on the people of Barbados to do, which is to stay the course, is a good thing. It may seem a little ‘tight’ right now but I know that eventually, we will overcome. Barbadians are resilient people.
“I think that we need to do a lot more work in the creative economy. We hear a lot of talk about it and that is an area that I am involved in and have a lot of concern about… I am not going to be too critical of it because I know it is still early, but I am looking forward to the day that this Government will do more for stakeholders in the creative economy,” he said.
Another man in Speightstown, who specializes in painting and trowel plastering also showered the Government with praise.
“To be truthful, the Government’s first term in office has been difficult because this Government had to pick up from where the previous Government left and it’s going to be very rough from the start, but I am pleased so far with what is going on,” he said.
Many others did not want to openly speaking about political matters, but primarily pleaded for a permanent solution to the country’s economic problems. [email protected]