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FIRING LINE: Hand over mouth


Shantal Munro Knight

FIRING LINE: Hand over mouth

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I always have twin emotions when the election season comes around. On the one hand I am repelled by what passes for basic good sense and decency, on the other propelled to remain engaged because of a sense of civic duty.  
When it happens that we have the presentation of Estimates Of Revenue And Expenditure on the cusp of the election season, I usually listen with one hand over my ear and the other over my mouth. The hand on my ear helps me to sift through the mountains of verbosity that usually escalates whenever there is such a presentation.
That on my mouth is my usual stance whenever I am in a state between horror and expectation, or laughter.
The hand on my mouth, though, actually was in place prior to this year’s presentation. It started when it was announced that Miss Mia Mottley would lead the Opposition’s response.
Now, honestly, we all know Miss Mottley is quite capable; anyone who doubts her ability to rise to the occasion I would suggest is doing so from a dishonest assessment of her track record. But really, does the Opposition believe that anyone in Barbados with a half-brain actually thinks that this move signals some sort of unity within the Barbados Labour Party (BLP)?
Are we now to believe that all of the bad blood and animosity expressed publicly and as recently as the contest to represent the BLP in St James North is now set aside, and we have one big happy family? What a thing!
It amazes me the compromises that politics and the aspirations of power force one to make. At the same time, perhaps, it does demonstrate the maturity of our party system that it allows for internal contestation, which does not have to lead to fracture of the political party. Moreover, that people can put aside their differences in pursuit of a common goal which unites them, regardless of how fragile and empty it might appear to the rest of us. I remain hand over mouth in expectation to see how long it will last.
I would be honest and say that Government’s presentation of its Estimates Of Revenue And Expenditure, led by Minister of Finance Christopher Sinckler, did not excite nor disappoint me one way or the other. I expected in the context of an imminent election that there would have been some “giveaways” and measures purely designed to create the feel-good sentiment that should win elections.
The Opposition’s cry that it was an election Budget had no depth; that is the game of politics. If in power we would have expected and perhaps received no less from them.  
What is interesting for me is that I polled a few people who would normally be engaged in discussions over events such as this. Their reaction was the same: there is a lack of expectation from this Government, which is disturbing. While people recognize that indeed the economic situation is a complex one, there is no atmosphere of expectancy that this Government has anything new and innovative to offer.
There is no confidence that indeed it has – borrowing a term from a friend of mine – the intestinal fortitude to rise above the narrow confines of politicking to make the hard decisions and at the same time chart a new course. So my hand over mouth dropped dejectedly to the side. Nothing much to get excited about.  
With that said, there were some interesting moments, like when the Prime Minister indicated he had not read the forensic audit report on CLICO. I am sure what he really meant to say, and will perhaps use the next occasion to say, is that because he recognizes that this issue affects so many Barbadians who have placed their hard-earned money into CLICO, that his administration is steadfastly seeking to ensure they have an authentic copy of the report that they will seek justice if justice is to be served regardless of friends or foes.
I would perhaps, if I were he, go on to add that his administration would steadfastly pursue a resolution as ardently as they gave support to the Four Seasons project. That would really be reassuring for all involved.  
On another note. Kudos to the Prime Minister for appointing Senator Kerryann Ifill as President of the Senate. A well deserved appointment, which gives one hope that people can be appointed based on merit alone in our political system.

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