The proverbial popping of champagne corks, the tumultuous adulation of the crowd and the scene of a sea of humanity clothed in red may have had a ring of inevitability to it all, given the historic events of May 24, 2018.
This was an anniversary celebration of an election in superlatives and precedents. The first woman and the first Independence baby boomer to lead a party into a general election emerged in command of an entire Parliament sans Opposition. All 30 seats.
This was not a general election but a generational election as young people voted in unprecedented numbers, not a few of them born in this century. Women turned out in historic numbers as well.
The Labour Party may with no little justification feel that its historic election is no less deserving of its place in the pantheon of electoral greatest hits than the BLP’s victory of 1976, the DLP’s of 1986 and the BLP’s 1999.
The campaign-style extravaganza, on a famed car park the Prime Minister teased, was about to be replaced by one of a raft of hotel developments along the urban corridor, was trademark BLP pomp and political pageantry at its classic election-winning best.
But it nonetheless struck a discordant note given the sobering and brutally painful times which this Government has been mandated to oversee.
The people of this nation made a profound statement on May 24, 2018, in handing Barbados’ Grand Old Party one-party Parliament. This is not one-party rule, even with its token Opposition seat.
No, we have not been here before with 30-nil. But we’ve been close enough in 1986 (24-3 to the DLP) and 1999 (28-2 to the BLP).
And we’ve been close enough with austerity measures, IMF programmes and threats to our way of life. But no, we have not quite been here before. Not this close to Greece.
The actions in Carlisle Car Park speak louder than rhetoric. The event still managed to become a tone-deaf anachronism given enormous pain being felt on servants of the State.
Perhaps the BLP should reserve its celebrations until the much-touted large scale investment unveiled on Sunday night actually arrived.
As the throngs of supporters wearing their “Mia Cares” t-shirts walked away from a car park, they got into vehicles which since midnight must consume the second-most expensive petrol in the world, at US 1.96 per litre.
This costly anomaly long precedes the addition of road tax to the fuel taxes announced last year.
Just as the previous administration did, some taxes are fixed and forgotten. The removal of NSRL was, we submit, low-hanging fruit in Government’s revenue-grabbing tree.
Taxation, piled on by Chris Sinckler under the Democratic Labour Party, remains a significant part of the price of petrol in this country, now on par with oil-producing Norway.
The Government urges other Caribbean countries to support LIAT while charging 60 cents on the dollar for every air ticket. Unchanged from the last administration.
The removal of virtually all income tax credits by the DLP, especially on mortgage interest, home improvement, even doctor’s visits, have sunk middle-class fortunes even lower, even with modest adjustments of tax bands.
But water bills, raised by over 60 per cent by the last government, have since been doubled under the current regime. In the meantime, the thing our taxes pay for – garbage collection – is even harder to come by.
And bus fares have shot up by 75 per cent, while bus service remains patchy at best, absent at worst, limiting the capacity of working Barbadians to hold on to the jobs they have been able to earn.
And yes, thousands of people are out of the jobs they once held in the public sector.
The BLP would do well to rely on typically Barbadian values of pragmatism and tempered enthusiasm given the pain of those whose situation may not be their own fault but are now our collective responsibility.
This brings us to a final caution about dissenting voices. If we are to take the Prime Minister’s encouraging declaration, “all hands on deck”, then voices of disagreement should be embraced by the administration.
They are other perspectives worthy of attention. The Government must not think itself in sole possession of truth even if it considers itself in possession of the facts. It must oppose efforts by underlings to squelch debate or worse, practice the politics of personal destruction.
There is still much work to be done.
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