FOR THE RECCORD: Words for the wise
Politics is about propaganda – and some say principle; and the recently completed Estimates debate demonstrated this truth as clearly as anything.
The Estimates were laid against a background that was as interesting as it was challenging.
The death late last year of David Thompson propelled Chris Sinckler into the hot seat of the Ministry of Finance and into his first Estimates as Her Majesty’s Second Lord of the Treasury, with Mr Stuart occupying the post of Prime Minister and the titular historical title of First Lord of the Treasury.
As such they would both have a distinct and important duty to the House in matters of finance and economic policy. I was therefore much interested in hearing their speeches during the debate.
I was also interested in hearing the speech of Leader of the Opposition Owen Arthur. After all, he has more experience in managing the Ministry of Finance than any other parliamentarian, and his opinions ought to be heard by those who would be constructive and perhaps by non-partisan critics.
I may not qualify as either non-partisan or constructive, but it occurred to me that one should pay attention to the speech of Dr David Estwick who has been showing, a capacity to research and come to grips with, matters relating to aspects of public finance and economics.
The thing that struck me about Mr Sinckler’s speech was his style. He is an aggressive speaker who is not afraid to “mix it” and his speech reflected a certain pugilistic flair.
In boxing terms, he does not exhibit the artistry of Muhammad Ali who would float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Rather, he is the kind who relies on the power of the big punches to achieve his objective, and while such a style may not be ideal for an opening Estimates speech, the closing reply provided a better vehicle to throw the kind of punches that would resonate with his party faithful; and he threw them. Whether his punches landed or engendered confidence in the economy is another matter.
Allegations of “money wasted” by the Barbados Labour Party when in Government which would be useful now, provide the kind of propaganda fodder for party followers, since it is the kind of propagandistic yarn which is easily sold to the unsuspecting!
Mr Arthur’s speech was a most important one. A former Minister of Finance and Prime Minister, he presented the image of a man who has taken some of his time in Opposition to tend his backyard gardens and to trim his weight, and he cuts a leaner figure than when he was in Government.
By any rational assessment, his speech was a tour de force. For close to three and a half hours, without detailed notes, he gave a clear analysis of the problems facing the economy and with suggested solutions.
Future developments alone will tell us whether he is right; but history provides an answer. In 1988, 1989 and 1990, his economic analyses also warned of future problems, but he was ignored in the propaganda battles of that time. By January of 1991, the country was completely in the hands, and at the mercy, of the International Monetary Fund.
Time is indeed longer than twine, and an economy, like Pavlov’s dog, can be a conditioned and predictable animal, for economic consequences will follow economic action or lack thereof, as day follows night!
I was very impressed by Dr Estwick’s speech. His delivery was measured, and he appeared fully informed of the work of his ministry and its unfulfilled potential for the economy.
Moreover, he presented ideas that suggested a clear grasp of economic fundamentals as he forsook any inclination toward propaganda and focused more on the application of forward-looking, and new energy to the Ministry of Agriculture. A good and constructive speech!
As I listened, I thought that some of the principles culled from the speeches of Mr Arthur and Dr Estwick were worthy of inclusion in the Government’s economic strategy in these difficult times. Perhaps the Budget may tell us something more about where we are going, but wherever we are headed, a steady, precise hand is required.