EDITORIAL – Economy still the topi
By-elections are a natural feature of our system of Government which speaks to the requirement that, so far as possible, the people of a particular constituency should always have a representative in their Parliament.
They are held within 90 days of the seat being declared vacant, and as such are an inconvenient aspect of our system, since they occur at any time and may be caused by the retirement of a member, or by his death, or more rarely as a result of his disqualification.
The recently held by-election in St John was called consequent on the death of the member for St John, the late Prime Minister David Thompson, and for the first time in our history, such a seat was contested by a widow in Mara Thompson.
Since this had not happened at the death of Mr Tom Adams, nor when the late Right Excellent Errol Barrow died, either as incumbent Prime Minister in 1985 and 1987 respectively, there was additional poignancy to this election, and this must have been a factor in the voters’ minds.
Mrs Thompson must be congratulated on a stunning victory, which places her in a safe constituency and allows the governing party to retain its numerical strength in the House of Assembly and get on with the arduous task of managing the affairs of this country.
It is just as well that the governing party has not suffered a defeat in St John, which was unlikely in the first place, because it needs to deliberately focus its every energy on the several problems still existing in the economy of our country.
The prolonged uncertainty consequent upon the illness of Mr Thompson militated against earlier sure action to grapple with the economic situation and this may have had an influence on the growth of the deficit to levels deemed by most, if not all, commentators to be unsustainable.
In spite of the November Budget, that fiscal deficit still needs to be further vigorously tackled, and the likelihood is that any future measures necessary to keep it under control may be tougher than before.
And if that was not enough the Government still has the headache of trying to get the economy growing again, even in spite of the very slow recovery of the international economy in our major trading partners.
We therefore urge Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to set before this country his further proposals for the recovery of the economy, given the constraints of the international environment in which we are forced to operate, and we urge the Opposition to join issue with Government for the public benefit.
It would have been too much to hope for a serious debate on the economy in St John, and in the end, the attempt by the Opposition in the final week to focus on the economy was not successful.
The country needs to benefit from a serious discussion on the economy now, and we fear that it cannot wait until the Estimates debate in mid-March. There is too much at stake.