Whether fair or unfair, true or false, there has always been a belief or suspicion that Barbados Labour Party (BLP) governments tend to represent big business interests first and foremost – the so-called planter class – and all others afterwards. It has been a tag placed on the BLP by former members such as Errol Walton Barrow and Dr Don Blackman, as well as some historians reflecting on pre-and-post Independent Barbados. Taking into consideration that the party was founded by Sir Grantley Adams in response to the 1937 Riots, many might consider it an unfortunate and unjustified designation.
The elevation of a shopkeeper’s son to the leadership of the party in 1993 and his subsequent stamping of a grassroots element to that political institution, along with his efforts at enfranchising many marginalized black Barbadians through the transportation and construction industries, have arguably made Owen Arthur the greatest leader the party has had since Sir Grantley. Some might argue even greater than the late National Hero.
But recent undertakings by the BLP government suggest that despite the presence of a number of politicians with working-class backgrounds in its ranks, that average middle and especially lower-income earning Barbadians are once again not the primary focus of the BLP administration. Ironically, only today, from deep within the bosom of the 82-year-old institution former BLP government minister Anthony Wood accused his party of once again representing “big business” by stopping the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) from selling chicken wings. But there is something more sinister occurring in Barbados than mere chicken wings, siblings and divided loyalties. We suspect that Mr Wood is throttling on words he would like to say but averse to doing so. However, that is another story.
Notwithstanding, that a few weeks ago Minister of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Dwight Sutherland also drew fire for his handling of affairs in the car dealership industry.
But it was Government’s attempt to ghost elements of the Planning & Development (Amendment) Bill past unsuspecting Barbadians that is particularly egregious. We appreciate that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is kneeling on the neck of the Government and might do so for five years rather than eight minutes. It appears that the IMF’s dictate is that Government should raise revenues by any means necessary but keep its hands off its reserves. Hence Barbadians are being subjected to more taxation than they endured during the last administration’s “lost ten years” while Government tries to disprove Sir Winston Churchill’s taxation claim that one cannot stand in a bucket and try to lift up oneself.
And so, we delve into the ushering of the Planning & Development (Amendment) Bill by Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment Marsha Caddle. The aspect of the legislation that has aggrieved Barbadians is that which rips at the heart of lower and middle-income earning Barbadians’ efforts to acquire or improve on their homes. Most of those individuals, to use our Barbadian vernacular, “pick-pick” at their homes until they are completed as funds become available. That process could take years. The legislation that now calls for a priced occupancy certificate at every “pick-pick” and a possible dislocation during renovations is a slap in the face of the best of Barbadian traditions. And there is a sense that this has absolutely nothing to do with standards but merely is another of this Government’s veiled taxation measures.
The introduction of the Bill makes for interesting observation. The Bill was laid by Miss Caddle, debated and passed in the Lower House on June 2. It is instructive that on this date not one word was said about this specific element of the legislation. On June 24 during debate in the Senate, Government Senator and Minister of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology Kay McConney made reference to that section of the Bill. Details on that aspect of the debate were made public via the media on July 3 and the response of Barbadians was immediately and understandably vexatious. It is at this stage, almost a month later, that Miss Caddle’s perfunctory, public relations rejoinder to the furore was that Government would put on hold that section of the legislation because her administration listens to the people. But it is law now! And which people did Government consult or listen to before introducing the legislation? Did it take the furious response of Barbadians to initiate the rethink on this new tax? Politicians who depend on the votes of the majority must guard against simultaneously trying to insult their intelligence.
Bills are often uploaded several days or weeks after being passed and the media’s reports are therefore dependent on what is said when the legislation is actually laid in Parliament. The question must be asked: Why didn’t Miss Caddle say something about this most important aspect of the legislation on June 2?
Over the past two years whether with pensions, appointments, bills, regulations and other decisions, Government has introduced and then retracted a number of measures. It is as though it is testing the waters to see how far it can go and how much it can get away with. Transparency and accountability and all the other platitudinous jargon that sounded so sincere pre-general election are seemingly being sacrificed on the altar of expediency. Two lost years wrapped in public relations are no better than ten fashioned by mooted incompetence.
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