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ONLY HUMAN – Stuart’s time to shine

Sanka Price

ONLY HUMAN – Stuart’s time to shine

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THE THIRD ANNIVERSARY of this Government’s ascent to power on January 16, 2008, passed with no significant acknowledgment.
Probably it was overlooked as the country was consumed with the St John by-election campaign. Or maybe it was ignored because after three years there are few positives to report.
Think about it. Since January 16, 2008, this country has been on a political and economic roller coaster ride with all the twists, loops, unnerving turns, sudden drops and dizzying heights that come with such.
Politically, we had two Prime Ministers, a state funeral, two Cabinet reshuffles, two Opposition leaders, and a by-election.
From an economic perspective there has been a significant hike in food and gas prices, utility bills, a rise in unemployment and substantial increase in Government spending.
If that wasn’t bad enough, violent crime has become more shocking, with its most abhorrent consequence being the deaths of six women after a firebombing in the course of a robbery.
And for good measure we have had flooding and even a side swipe from a tropical storm.
So the last three years have been dramatic. Barbadians have had to deal with more significant events in that short time span than in the 14 years of the last regime. No wonder then that this Government has not really settled – though some may suggest differently.
And, given that the members of the present Cabinet, bar one, were put in place by late Prime Minister David Thompson two weeks before his passing, we can reasonably expect Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to do his own Cabinet reshuffle soon to fashion a ministerial team for his own vision.
Hopefully, it will not be as tumultuous as the last shake-up.
So where does that leave us, and what can we reasonably expect for this year and beyond?
You don’t have to consult a crystal ball to realize that we can expect more drama at every level of society. This will happen because:
 The Opposition Barbados Labour Party is energized and are ready to take on the Government on every issue and non-issue;
 Businesses and trade unions seem to be on a collision course which could prove fatal to any recovery in the economy.  The former are becoming more agitated in the face of dwindling profits and rising production costs, while the latter have made it clear that their intention is to get greater job security and better benefits for their members.
 And all of this is playing out against the backdrop of hikes in 99.9 per cent of items and services available, increasing unemployment, and reduced purchasing power by middle and higher income workers owing to Government’s new tax on their allowances.
This is the Barbados that Freundel Stuart will have to lead, in the first instance, until general elections are constitutionally due in 2013.
It is a country crying out for competent leadership, innovative planning, efficient implementation, and most importantly, confidence in our leaders and institutions to guide us  along a sustainable path.
This is Freundel Stuart’s moment. It is his time to shine.
Do I believe he is man enough for the job?
Based on his statements and how he has projected himself, I think so. I would be fortified in this view, though, if he would move with haste to put his stamp on his administration.
And though he does not have any credentials in economics, my confidence would be buoyed if he surrounds himself with some of the best brains in this country, and consults widely before a policy position is arrived at.
I was particularly impressed with his statement on the prospects for greater employment last Sunday. He confessed that one of the greatest challenges of the Government is having sustained employment for Barbadians. That was either a slip of the tongue, or an honest assessment of the situation. I choose to believe the latter.
I particularly wish the Prime Minister would not fall victim to the spin and half-truths some elements in his Government persist in disseminating as information.
Given his emphasis on the need to do the right thing in Barbados, I earnestly hope he puts a stop to this. I know that there are those who would cynically shoot down my hopes by telling me that, after all, he is a politician. I still hope.