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BLP COLUMN: DLP flops on prices

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

BLP COLUMN: DLP flops on prices

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The most discussed issue in Barbados these days is the never-ending rise in the cost of living, and the frustrating failure of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government to make any impact whatsoever on this national affliction, whose chronic nature must exceed that of diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
  What makes the national mood particularly resentful is that for the past three years of DLP rule there has not been a single statement, action or activity, far less policy or programme, that could have made the public feel, believe or even hope, that this Government stood a chance of improving our material and psychological conditions.
 That’s largely because the Dems in the 2008 general election campaign had falsely accused the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) of refusing to control rising prices, because the Bees were in collusion with big business.  
 Thus the Dems gave the impression that they had all of the answers to the problem, and that was why for them “cost of living” would be job number one, two and three when in Government.
 No wonder then that the public has been increasingly speaking out about the damage that can be done by “putting boys to do men’s work”, with the truth and wisdom of this ageless observation having been repeatedly demonstrated by this DLP administration, involving management of the economy in general and the rising cost of living in particular.
 The general feeling is that it is only a sense of shame that is preventing the DLP from publicly admitting that it does not know what to do to turn around the economy, while overweening arrogance causes it to put the blame and responsibility on anybody and anything but itself and its lack of action and wrong actions combined.
 The most recent example of this implied but very real Government  incapacity was presented by Minister of Commerce Senator Haynesley Benn at last week’s Talkback public session at St George Secondary School. Instead of a comprehensive list of the positive steps his Government had taken against rising prices, he had to be reminded by the moderator that he still had not said what actions he had taken.
 Senator Benn’s pearls of wisdom included his shopping at five supermarkets weekly; that he had set up a broad-based committee on prices that produced a Cabinet paper that was being considered; and that he was building on a “very good” basket of goods formula left behind by BLP minister Lynette Eastmond.
 Parliamentary Secretary Senator Jepter Ince, who was also present, was just as non-specific in letting it be known that he was in the process of developing a “price mechanism” to bring down prices. At least he did not address the deficit, either physical, fiscal or otherwise.
But the DLP needs to stop making the public feel that it is utterly powerless where rising prices is concerned, blaming it all on external circumstances.  For the BLP team under Owen Arthur has shown in the past that the creative use of economic skills can help control prices here.  
That was when, for example, we reduced the size of Government’s tax take on energy products to keep down the price to the consumers of gasoline and diesel brought in from abroad at rising prices.
 It is time the DLP admit to itself what the public has already concluded: namely, that it does not have a clue how to manage prices and the economy.