WHAT MATTERS MOST: Differences between the 2
IS TYPICALLY SAID by political observers that there is no real philosophical divide between the two parties. If this statement was true in the past,it is no longer the case.
There are fundamental differences between the two, including the separation of the economy and the society, the role of Government in the pursuit of growth and development, and the delivery of social entitlements.
It is unimaginable that a modern political party would even attempt to distance itself from the management of an economy on the grounds that the building of a society is more important.
This desperate attempt to separate these two fundamental pursuits speaks to the failure of the current Government to understand the need to govern, not only by certain rules and regulations, but to do so by planning with specific, stated goals. This is a fundamental difference!
The eloquence of language permits Michael Manley to contextualize the link when he wrote that “What set Errol Barrow apart was his understanding that social justice must rest upon economic foundations, it is to be more real than rhetorical”.
“This led him, in turn, to a commitment to economic integration as the only viable framework within which economic development could be pursued.
“Following the inexorable logic, Barrow grasped the relationship between a regional economic framework and a political environment in which sovereignty so newly won could be defended.”
The role of Government in the pursuit of economic growth and development changed character with the attainment of Independence.
The change brought with it an appreciation of the need to live within our means while exploiting our social/creative talents.
Man’s development was never intended to be purely economic, since most of man’s happiness is derived from the comfort of his social environment and not necessarilyhis material wealth.
In less esoteric terms, Government is expected to be able to meet its current obligations from the collection of Government.
This principle is the bedrock of fiscal prudence proposed by the political philosophy of democratic socialism and it has been practised by all administrations, except the current one, since Independence. This is fundamental difference!
Indeed the current depressed state of households and businesses is a byproduct of the failure of the Government to listen to advice in 2008, when it was told that the way to stimulate an economy in a recession is through capital works programmes and not through breaking the bedrock principle of fiscal management.
In the absence of accounting gymnastics, conditions for economic growth have been compromised by the Government’s inability to invest in capital projects because of its obsession with correcting the gap in its current account.
This is a new characteristic in the Barbados economy that has been evident in Jamaica for the last two decades, where high private sector investment is accompanied by anaemic economic growth.
It is self-evident that public sector investment is obviously a necessary partner in the pursuit of economic growth and development. This is another fundamental difference!
Notwithstanding its attempt to separate the society from the economy, the Government’s failure to appreciate that education is still the most essential social entitlement is best demonstrated in its attitude to funding the University of the West Indies and the accompanying negative comments made in public.
Given that education is no less important than it was in the past, it is imperative that any Government recognize that social justice still rests upon economic foundations and that the link between a new economy and society is a new education.
Therefore investment in education cannot be compromised and the expansion of university education cannot occur too quickly, unless the education itself is not relevant.
Of all the prices in the economy other than labour, the pricing of energy products is arguably the most critical to the overall allocation and distribution of the country’s limited resources.
And if there is an area in which the current Government has gone absolutely wrong, it is in not understanding its role in the importing and selling of gasoline, diesel and other refined products.
Just a few critical examples have been cited to demonstrate the extent of the philosophical divide that hitherto was not deemed fundamental in the body politic of Barbados.
However, over the last four years, issues have emerged to clearly establish a political divide on fundamental issues.