FRANKLY SPEAKING: Barbados deserves better
By now the members of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), who were elected to form the Government in 2008, must be saying to themselves that governing is not as easy as we thought it would have been.
They published a manifesto promising the world, but have actually delivered precious little. So far it would appear that the DLP administration have come down with a bad case of reverse Midas: everything they touch has turned to fools’ gold.
Fortunately for them, they have been able to explain away their failure by blaming everything on the so-called global recession. Thankfully, it seems as though they have come to the realization that their reliance on that excuse for failure is becoming somewhat threadbare.
As a result, they have resorted to scare tactics to convince the electorate that they deserve another term to finish the devastation, as some might say.
I am convinced that it is a major part of their strategy to drive fear into the hearts of public workers by suggesting that the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) would pursue a regime of layoffs in the public sector if returned to office. That strategy is weak and relies on the short memories that politicians have attributed to fellow Barbadians. Such reliance could very well tip the scales in favour of the BLP.
Even with short memories, Barbadians will remember the pain that was inflicted by a DLP administration when, in desperation, they used layoffs as a remedy to balance the budget in the early 1990s. Three thousand public workers were sent home and in some cases both breadwinners in the same household marched into the ranks of the unemployed.
The dubious distinction of mass layoffs in the public sector belongs to the DLP and they would do well to avoid reminding the electorate of their failure that saw them spending 14 years in the political wilderness. If they are to retain the Government, the DLP must articulate a vision that would convince the suffering masses that relief is near at hand. Shouting invectives and innuendo from the platforms will not work again; our memories are not that short.
On the other hand, the BLP smell the Government’s blood in the water but they are merely circling, refusing to go in for the kill. They appear to be labouring under the impression that they have to do nothing; that the DLP will self-destruct and the country will run back to them seeking forgiveness for removing them from office in 2008. The conditions that are prevailing in this country are made for opposition politics, but the BLP is failing to drive home the advantage.
It could be that the leadership of the BLP do not want to expose their candidates to the electorate just yet for fear that they will run out of steam and fall flat when the elections are eventually called; or that the glue holding the fractious BLP needs to set before they can be taken seriously by the electorate.
No one in their right mind would believe that the fairy of conflict resolution has waved its wand and Arthur and Mottley have somehow reconciled.
Human nature is not like, that but politics is about the acquisition of power, not human nature. They will do everything that is humanly possible to give the outward appearance that all is well with the BLP’s soul long enough for the electorate to deceive itself into believing that the armed truce that exists between Arthur and Mottley is really a peace treaty. If or when the electorate buys into that picture of unity, the DLP’s days will be numbered.
Whatever the BLP do, they must convince the country that they have been purged of the arrogance that was built up in their system over 14 years. It is not a case of taking Epsom salts and all those bad things will pass away. Barbadians are forgiving, but is five years long enough for them to be in purgatory? The answer to that lies with the DLP because the country is at a stage where people are angrily saying, “Before none, any”.
The country is sympathetic to the DLP because most people would tell you that one term is not sufficient, but sympathy does not put food on the table.
Barbados deserves much better than what is on offer by the two main political parties. The DLP are seeking a second term with little to nothing to show for the time that they held office.
They seem to be saying to the electorate: If the economy improves, then we will see. Their opponents, on the other hand, seem contented to wait in the wings and allow the Stuart administration to crash and burn, not realizing or even caring that the entire country is suffering as long as they get power.
• Caswell Franklyn is a trade unionist and social commentator.