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EDITORIAL: A poll for serious debate

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: A poll for serious debate

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With an election not so far off now, we have no doubt that today’s poll will generate more than ordinary comment and interest, and that a thousand and one interpretations will flow from the lips of the learned commentators no less than they will from the countless men and women in the street who ordinarily notice these things.
Not all of us are as politically sensitive, and so there is a constant clamour by politicians to catch the attention of the voters, particularly the floating voter, and it is in this connection that the propaganda machines of the several political parties get to work as soon as one election is finished in wooing the voters with an eye to the next election in the cycle.
The vote is power and powerful, and our democracy demands the fullest ventilation of the competing policies especially at this time when the international economy is a factor in the matrix of events which have touched our economy.
Critical questions have arisen as to how we should best deal with these matters given that we are not disconnected from the international environment, and derive our existence, not so much from our domestic output, but from the export earnings gained from that output.
Our foreign exchange capacity will therefore occupy first place on any agenda to secure our future. Agriculture, tourism and international business sectors will therefore be of prime importance, and should rank as key ministries if the economy of this country is to be properly managed in the five-year cycle from 2013 to 2018.
Agriculture has the capacity to help us with our food import bill even if the economies of scale do not avail us of meaningful penetration of foreign markets because of production costs, and both tourism and international business are direct earners of foreign exchange.
Public debate for the next six months should focus on these three economic issues as well as on improving methods of business facilitation in the public service so as to make it easier and quicker for investors, both local and foreign, to cut through the red tape and get on with the business of being entrepreneurs in a more efficient manner.
In addition, how to harness the use of information technology and the rationalization of direct and indirect taxation for the better management of the economy should also figure high on those issues up for serious discussion by the political parties; for Barbados can experience some further and accelerated reduction of the fiscal deficit, especially if prudent policy initiatives aimed at a paradigm shift in the provision of some aspects of our social services become a reality.
Proper discussion by the parties, commentators and the people of any proposals touching on the issues must take place if there is to be meaningful exercise of the democratic right to select the best group of people to run the country.
We, therefore, feel that the public interest is well served if the issues likely to impact this country immediately after the election are calmly and properly debated.
No country can, or should, expect that the issues arising out of the current economic environment, local and international, to be properly ventilated, point and counterpoint, within the hurried atmosphere of a two- or three-week campaign.
There will be a slew of irrelevant red herrings, as is part of every campaign, and the important issues may not merit enough discussion time, if the salacious titbits dominate the election period.
We urge all political parties to consider the benefits to themselves, the public and the country if they were to regard the publication of the poll as an appropriate time to begin the political debate on the serious issues which will affect the immediate future of our country.