BLP COLUMN: The assault begins
Barbadians would have welcomed the brief relief of the climax of the 2010 Independence celebrations, watered down as they were. This was after their sensibilities had been bombarded by a deluge of personal attacks from the Government benches against opposition Leader Owen Arthur.
But no sooner was Independence Day over, people were confronted by the harsh reality of Wednesday December 1 when their pockets felt the first bite of the most horrendous assault of taxes ever visited upon this nation.
Barbadians had already begun to sing “whole chicken gone up, other meats gone up” to the tune of PJ’s popular calypso lament of some years ago.
But what was starting to hurt already will make the $104 million the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) sought to drag out of their pockets in 2008 and 2009 seen like pittance.
The increase in gasoline prices, amounting to 31 cents per litre or $1.17 per gallon, one of the steepest increases ever, will have a severe effect on the whole economy. When the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) came into office in 1994, the tax on this product was 89 cents per litre, way too high. We reduced it by about 30 cents per litre giving impetus to the economy. Now this unwise DLP administration has carried the tax take on gasoline back to 95 cents per litre, pure economic madness. This is a major setback that will seriously reduce our prospects for growth. The Dems still have to grasp that it is unwise to raise the price of fuel so steeply. The economy just cannot bear it. This approach failed in 1991 and will fail even worse now.
But it gets worse. It is clear to all but the Dems that the increase in VAT is going to wreak havoc on consumers already reeling from high prices. This is unwarranted. But this DLP administration is not noted for deep and thorough thought, far less decisive action. They do have among them expertise to treat economic matters seriously. The evidence is there.
We wonder what has become of the Dem’s promised job No. 1, No. 2, and so on, as a campaign against high prices. What a colossal failure! On which they are now silent.
The DLP took office when, in spite of extremely high hikes in grain and oil prices, the BLP’s sensible policies saw inflation moderate to four per cent in 2007. In 2008, under the DLP, it mushroomed to eight per cent. The increase in fuel prices was a major factor in economic decline then and the same will happen again.
It is an undeniable fact that whenever the DLP is in office, the economy, and the whole society suffers. We well remember the early 1970s, when unemployment stood at 27 per cent, people had to wait in long lines for gasoline (except those who could use the DLP privilege pump), high prices were rampant and hopelessness prevailed. We vividly and painfully recall the early 1990s, when the DLP, under Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford, sought to beat their earlier record, but only managed to carry unemployment to its second highest level of 24.3 per cent. At that time the country almost ran out of foreign exchange and the only thing plentiful was despair.
The encouraging news is that in every instance the Barbados Labour Party has rescued the country and both BLP administrations under Tom Adams and Owen Arthur restored growth and brought hope back into our lives. We are still here, ready with Owen Arthur and his team to again lead this country back to prosperity and progress.