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Good and bad of party politics


SANKA PRICE

Good and bad of party politics

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THE FIERCE, COMBATIVE SIDE of our politicians has been on display since the date of the general election was announced, and the sight and sounds have not been pretty.
The invective, derogatory language and offensive comments from several of the platform speakers of both parties have been most disappointing.
Quite frankly, I could never understand why qualified and competent professionals feel they need to abandon their good judgement and sink to the lowest depths when they put on their political hats and coats. I just don’t get their preoccupation with twisting obvious facts; their revelling in making sexual innuendoes about their opponents; and their constant suggestions that their opponent and his or her colleagues are corrupt individuals.
Politicians need to realize that these nasty statements not only paint an unflattering picture of their opponents, but they also say a lot about the speakers and how far they are willing to go to destroy someone’s character to be elected. Most important, too, is that they don’t seem to recognize how they debase their vocation as politicians and cast it in a bad light. This is why people tend to have little respect for politicians and consider them untruthful and untrustworthy.
This is probably what contributes to many people insisting that a politician give them something for their vote at election time, or at other times begging them to pay utility bills or assist with groceries as they figure the politician will get the money back from some underhand deal anyway. Such sentiments are indeed unfortunate.
How can we as a nation truly progress when nearly half of the population has been constantly told, and now seemingly believe, that if their party loses, those “nincompoops” from the other side who form the Government will be dishonest and not have their best interests at heart? By each side implying this and sometimes stating it outright, we are creating a potentially explosive situation.
Having covered general elections in four other Caribbean countries on a number of occasions since 1984, I recognize that most of my concerns about our uncouth political culture can be applied to other regional territories. This is a sad reflection of how lost a people we have become – but I live in hope.
That said, with eight days to go to polling day, I sincerely trust the quality of presentations will improve and we can start hearing precisely how each party proposes to tackle the problems we face, while pursuing policies to encourage economic growth.
From each party, I would like to hear how they propose to reduce our high fiscal deficit without cutting public sector jobs; how they will pay increased wages to public servants when presently Government borrows monthly to pay them; how they plan to get the economy moving without putting our foreign reserves under pressure and, consequently, endangering the value of the Barbados dollar; and how they intend to deal with the loss-making statutory corporations, which contribute to the rising fiscal deficit through transfers.
Playing coy doesn’t cut it. Neither is accusing the other party of planning to do certain things, but not revealing what you intend to do.
Here, I must mention the issue of privatization, which up to this point the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) seems to consider the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) Achilles heel and has been attacking them relentlessly on it.
The DLP’s speeches on how people will lose their jobs may have generated fear among some voters and swayed them. For sure their advertisements, especially the one with the pensioner being told she has to pay to travel on a Transport Board bus because it was privatized, has been effective as people are talking about it.
Politically speaking, it is a good strategy that may work to the DLP’s advantage. Realistically though, whichever party wins must move to make these statutory corporations more efficient to stop Government’s finances from haemorrhaging.
Whether they are disbanded, restructured or sold, it is critical that a decision be made quickly, given the precarious state of this country’s finances as revealed in the analyses from international agencies like Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, the International Monetary Fund and, just last Friday, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
The CDB’s chief economist Carl Howell said Barbados needed to urgently address its debt and fiscal problems for the country to return to strong growth.
Noting that debt problems could be resolved through either revenue or expenditure adjustments, Howell said that given the “already difficult fiscal effort” the country was making, attention would have to be turned to recurring expenses like goods and services, wages and transfers. He noted, too, that the issues of loss-making public enterprises and financing of education could be among the areas examined.
The privatization debate is therefore needed. Scare tactics are not useful. But then, one really can’t expect any betterin the midst of a political campaign.
•Sanka Price is an editor at the NATION. Email him at [email protected]

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