After a two-year reflection on the 30-nil drubbing at the polls, former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is looking back at his administration’s ten-year stewardship without regret.
In his first major political response since the May 2018 General Election when he took full responsibility for his party’s showing, Stuart maintained that his legacy was akin to those of Barbados’ father of independence and National Hero Errol Walton Barrow, Tom Adams and Owen Arthur.
In the early stages of his lengthy address to scores of people gathered at the Princess Margaret Secondary School, the former PM challenged the notion that troubling economic indicators which occurred under his tenure were unprecedented.
A resolute Stuart, maintained that the DLP administration tasked with tackling fallout from the world’s greatest economic crisis since the great depression had performed admirably in the circumstances.
“The Democratic Labour Party between 2008 and 2018 did not have the luxury that Barrow had or that Tom Adams had or Sandiford or Arthur had. We had to deal with the worst crisis that happened in the western world since the great depression and some people say was the worst in 100 years…The crisis with which we had to deal was much more severe,” said Stuart.
The former PM recalled that in June 2018, former Prime Minister, the late David Thompson took office at a time when global oil prices had spiraled to the unprecedented US$145 a barrel. Between 2011 and 2014 after he had taken over as Prime Minister, Stuart contended that oil prices were still well over US$100 a barrel as he described current oil prices concerns as “child’s play”.
“Government had to be managed in such a way to take account of those realities. So what is it that we did in that period and why can’t we all feel proud that the Democratic Labour Party was able to manage this country and keep it stable between 2008 and 2018?” he asked to rousing applause from the crowd.
Taking listeners on an extensive history lesson, the former PM recalled Barbados’ 22.4 per cent unemployment figures and 40 per cent inflation under Barrow linked to the 1973 oil crisis in which global prices increased by 400 per cent.
“Not even the great Barrow was able to impart confidence in the people of Barbados from 1973 to 1976…… and of course Barrow paid for it by losing the government in 1976. How do you win a government when 22.4 per cent of your people are unemployed and inflation is running at the type of rate I just described?” asked Stuart.
He then pointed to Adams’ time in office which was impacted by excessive oil prices in 1979 due to a revolution in the oil-rich nation of Iran, and a recession in the western world. This, he said, cost Barbados $49 million in foreign reserves.
“[It was] not because he was a bad manager, but because external shocks required us to make some adjustments and those were the reverberations that Barbados had to feel,” the former PM explained.
He pointed out that another global oil crisis that occurred during Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford’s tenure and the 9/11 terrorist attacks under Owen Arthur all presented external shocks for which they could not have been prepared, particularly when managing small, open, import-driven economies like Barbados’.
“What those leaders had to go through all had to do with the fact that our principal trading partners, whenever they got into trouble, the reverberations are felt here in Barbados. Nothing new happened here between 2008 and 2018. It had happened under Tom Adams, it had happened under [Sir Harold] St. John, Sandiford, and Arthur. These things happen when you are leading a country and the idea that you can just localise your analysis of what is happening, without taking account of what is happening in the international arena where your principal trading partners are affected is really just absurd,” Stuart said.