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OUR CARIBBEAN: Now for the political countdown

Rickey Singh

OUR CARIBBEAN: Now for the political countdown

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WITH THE official mourning period over, and tributes paid in Parliament for the late much-loved 48-year-old Prime Minister, the countdown has begun on two most important post-David Thompson political events.
 The more significant will be the new national budget for fiscal year 20I0/20II, expected to be presented before month end by new Minister of Finance Christopher Sinckler. New taxes seem inevitable in this troubling economic season of rising cost-of-living.
Secondly, though by no means holding the sort of national interest and anxieties associated with the first budget to be identified with the administration of new Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart, will be this weekend’s annual conference of the parliamentary opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
There is a public perception that Sinckler, the former briefly-serving Minister of Foreign Affairs, who had made his mark in Thompson’s Cabinet as Minister of Social Care, is not comfortably seated in “the inner circle” of Prime Minister Stuart – either at the level of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP), or in the Cabinet.
That perception can only be authenticated, or dismissed as flawed, with the passage of time, which could well mean between a by-election in Thompson’s St John constituency next January; or prior to the calling of an expected snap general election later in 20II. It is felt that failure to call a snap poll to capture a favourable mood with the passing of Thompson, could prove a surprising blunder.
Speculation over the likely choice of candidate for the St John by-election has so far covered at least ten potential DLPites, among them Thompson’s widow, Mara, (who, as of now, has signalled no such interest).
 It also includes the exuberant Hartley Henry – often presented as a “political strategist” and “lead political adviser” to Thompson and his DLP administration. Henry’s recent open boast of being the “kingmaker” of Thompson’s political success, while the state funeral had not yet taken place, has been viewed as being in poor taste.
Former three-term Prime Minister Owen Arthur and now returned leader of the BLP, has already confessed to the political reality of the uphill task to win a by-election in St John away from the Dems.
Understandably, Arthur’s immediate concerns are more focused on this weekend’s BLP annual conference – here his endorsement as new political leader is of academic interest, but amid growing uneasiness about a disturbing level of division among party stalwarts.
Be that as it may, it is safe to expect that Arthur will seek to do the obvious political thing in his leadership address to stimulate interest in the Government’s new budget on which so much depends for success in the remaining two years and little more of the life of the current administration.
This crucial budget has been in the making even as David Thompson was bravely coping with pancreatic cancer and still took time to replace Dr David Estwick as Minister of Economic Affairs with Sinckler, to whom he also bestowed the Finance portolfio that was held by him.  
For now, we are left to be onlookers as both the DLP and BLP manage their respective internal divisions with a strong possibility of a national election battle in 2011.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.