Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today Inc.
A friend who may be closer to the Democratic Labour Party than he is willing to admit once accused me of ‘buying into the Mia Mottley myth,’ whatever that construct is supposed to be.
Firstly I have read so much History that I am unlikely to buy into any kind of political myth-making. Most political statues no matter how iron-clad, have feet of clay.
Secondly, Miss Mottley is still too young and inexperienced in the office of Prime Minister to have created any kind of governance culture even remotely resembling mythology or coherent theoretical construct. Miss Mottley came to the office of Prime Minister at a period of real existential crisis. The crisis was at the time primarily economic including a rising debt to GDP ratio, political stagnation, and social dysfunction marked by rising crime and social indiscipline. It was not a good inheritance. But after the acknowledged deficiencies of the previous regime, there was hope for an energising renewal.
However, the incoming BLP government was overtaken by unforeseen ‘events.’ of disillusioning proportions. None worse than the global COVID- 19 pandemic which wiped out much of a Barbadian economy heavily dependent on Tourism. Still battling that ongoing global crisis, we are hit by the effect of the St. Vincent volcano explosion. What is equally alarming are the disruptive effects on our children’s schooling from February 2020 to the present.
The 24th of May will mark three years since Miss Mottley’s assumption of office and it might be fair to say that facing these extremely difficult challenges, she has equipped herself quite well. Unquestionably the determining characteristic of her political persona is her confidence and sheer energy.
That energy that encompasses every sphere of governance has prompted foes and friends alike to raise concerns about her personal health. Policy-wise, access to funds from financial lending agencies has forestalled economic and social collapse.
A capital works program has constrained unemployment, but there must be serious concerns about the rising levels of debt that must be repaid. Prospects of a significant ‘rebound’ of the economy between 2020 and 2023 to the extent that growth outstrips debt payment are highly questionable. Talk about a quick revival in tourism to anything resembling pre-COVID levels is little more than wishful thinking.
The Mottley administration is, generally speaking, to be complimented on its handling of the Pandemic crisis. Countries far better equipped than Barbados have done far worse. This is particularly valid in relation to the speed and thoroughness with which the present administration laid out the facilities at Paragon, the Enmore Centre, The Blackman-Gollop School, and Harrison Point. Generally speaking, the protocols were ably managed.
The slip-ups involving the Bus-Crawl, the Pub-crawls, and more recently, the clusters around the Northern Church reflect an unspeakable level of Barbadian mindlessness. In the latter case, it reflects the folly of the religiously foolish or the foolishly religious. I may be wrong, but it appears that it is becoming increasingly difficult to appeal either to people’s cognitive faculty or their moral intelligence or both.
The vaccination campaign in Barbados has gone far more efficiently Barbados than in some parts of Canada. The continuing threat of the COVID virus and its variant strains could further aggravate Barbados’ problems, both economic and health-wise.
Miss Mottley likes to get things done and see things done.
She has assembled a quite accomplished number of ministers who bring the same zeal and energy to their tasks. She is however prone to rush things arguably without a sufficiency of thought and scrutiny.
On Thursday, April 22nd Brass Tacks, Dr. Katrina Hinds noted that with Barbados due to become a Republic by November 30 this year, there has been no public debate on what form Republican status would take.
This is a serious issue. Will we wake up one morning to find that Barbados has suddenly become a Republic? This is not an issue for sophomoric, obscure discourse and for image-making symbolism over existential substance.
There are some issues proposed by Miss Mottley herself that will require in-depth thought and broad consultation. The first is the abolition of the Common Entrance Exam and replacing it by we know not what. Education is not fast food and should not be hurriedly prepared for easy public consumption. The consequences could be dire if appropriate thought is not given to such a measure. The second is the notion of increasing the Barbadian population by 80,000 or some such figure.
The long-term effects of that if not carefully examined and managed, could alter in Miss Mottley’s own words ‘the kind of people that we are.’ It could lead to the further dispossession of the same poor black people that politicians like to claim they represent. Similarly, we are told that our pantheon of National Heroes is to be expanded. For what reason and to what end? As far as one knows there has been no widespread public demand for more National Heroes.
Heroism is a lofty requirement, not to be taken lightly. In an age of mediocrity, we have begun to make light of terms like icon and iconic, merit, and emeritus. Does one acquire the designation emeritus simply because one has retired from an iconic position? We are playing fast and loose with titles and unearned statutes.
Mia Mottley appears to stand head and shoulders above anyone else in Barbados’ contemporary political class. Given the apparent decomposition of the opposition DLP, she could lead this country for some time. The people and in particular the disengaged middle-class intelligentsia must not allow the country to fall victim to a de facto one-party state. It is too early for any leader to be looking towards a legacy. The legacy will be decided as they say in the legal profession ‘on the merits.’ Ralph Jemmott is a respected retired educator.