Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by David Comissiong
There was a compelling reason why the overwhelming majority of the Barbadian people totally rejected the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in the 2018 General Elections and gave the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) all thirty seats in the House of Assembly.
The fact is that the combined DLP Administrations of 2008 to 2018 – the Administrations of David Thompson and Freundel Stuart – had virtually demolished Barbados :–
• Causing the Barbados economy to be downgraded 23 times in a row by such International rating agencies as Moody’s and Standard and Poor;
• So depleting our Foreign Reserves that we only had enough US dollars to purchase four weeks of imports;
• Bringing Government’s finances to a state of complete disarray and permanent crisis;
• Turning Barbados into the 3rd most indebted country in the World, with a Public Debt of $16.6 billion;
• Reducing Barbados to a terrible state of raw sewage running in the streets, garbage piling up all over the island, and extremely few Transport Board buses to transport our people;
• Imposing tuition fees on Bajan students at UWI, thereby causing over 4 000 working class Barbadians to drop out of the Cave Hill campus;
• Retrenching some 3 000 public servants;
• Inflicting massive Governmental and political corruption – to the extent that a leading DLP Minister is now incarcerated in a US prison; and
• Literally and figuratively offering our people no hope, no empathy, no sense of care, and no vision for a future.
The Mia Mottley led BLP Administration came into office in May 2018 and immediately took decisive steps to rescue Barbados and pull our country out of the dark hole into which the DLP had plunged it In an almost miraculous manner, the Mia Mottley Administration managed to get the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to accept and back its homegrown “Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation “ (BERT) Programme, and to turn around the fortunes of Barbados in a mere 18 months :-
• Government’s finances restructured and put in order;
• The Debt owed to our foreign creditors so restructured as to save our country $ 1 billion, and our overall debt reduced to $12.7 Billion after 18 months of effort;
• Our foreign reserves gradually built back up to some $2.8 billion;
• The sewage crisis solved;
• The country provided with new electric buses and garbage trucks;
• All public servants given a five per cent salary increase and Non-Contributory pensions increased;
• Free University Education restored to the youth of Barbados and their families; and
• Positive upgrades being bestowed on our economy by the International rating agencies .
And then in the year 2020 COVID-19 came out of the blue, crippled World travel and tourism, and posed a life and death public health challenge to People all over the World.
Fortunately for us in Barbados, our Government had by then already stabilised its finances, substantially increased Barbados’ stock of Foreign Exchange, and restored the international credit worthiness of our Economy As a result, our Government was able to finance all of the crucial COVID-19 Pandemic Response measures that were required to save Barbadian lives and to help Barbadians get through the very difficult economic situation that the Pandemic placed our country in.
This required Government to engage in some borrowing, but in spite of this, the Public Debt of Barbados is currently $13.1 billion – way below the initial $16.6 billion that the Mottley Administration inherited.
Without a doubt, the Pandemic brought hardship and suffering to virtually every country of the World, but the truth is that Barbados has done better than the vast majority of countries in responding to the Pandemic and protecting and assisting its people. And clearly, a lot of the credit for that achievement has to go to the Mia Mottley-led BLP Administration.
Can any Barbadian really imagine the type of havoc that the COVID-19 Pandemic would have inflicted on Barbados if – when the Pandemic hit us in 2020 – the country had still been in the crippled and poverty-stricken state that the DLP had reduced it to in 2018 ? And then, of course, there was also the magnificent way in which the Mottley Administration rallied the country to overcome the challenges of Hurricane Elsa and the La Soufriere volcanic ash fall.
The only real issue in the 19th of January 2022 General Election is for the BLP to secure from the People of Barbados a new Mandate to :-
• Keep the country united and focused on seeing the COVID-19 Pandemic through to its very end with as little loss of Bajan life as possible;
• Continue the mission of carrying the “Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation” (BERT) Programme through to a full and successful implementation;
• Prepare the country to meet the severe challenges that Global Warming has already started to send our way – challenges that will only intensify in the years ahead; and
• Carry forward our people’s historic Mission of continuing to develop Barbados into the equal, socially just, humane, caring, progressive, dynamic, culturally advanced, prosperous, self-determining and self-respecting nation and society that our ancestors dreamt about and strived for.
David Comissiong is Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM.