EDITORIAL: Paving way forward
Elections are over, the Cabinet has been sworn into office, as have been the senators recommended by the Prime Minister, and Parliament sits for the first time during the course of this week.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and his colleagues are to be congratulated on having pulled off a nail-biting win, and should now expect to receive the goodwill of all Barbadians, tempered by such constructive criticism in keeping with the traditional decencies associated with our adversarial system of politics.
In one of his first official statements, just after the swearing of his Cabinet at Government House on Friday last, Mr Stuart declared that the “restructuring of the economy around the use of renewable energy and the more efficient use of our energy resources was a front burner issue in the Prime Minister’s Office”.
He made it clear that such restructuring was an issue which he and his party had been talking about during the campaign and that as the “ultimate Minister of Energy”, he would “ensure that the programme got going as quickly as possible”.
This statement is of more than passing importance. The Prime Minister may have moved manifesto promises back to the primal position which they should occupy in our political landscape. Sometime ago another prominent politician appeared to scoff at the sanctity of manifesto promises.
We hope Mr Stuart’s statement represents a reassertion of the traditional view. Already some other aspects of our electoral system seem to be under insidious attack, and if it is true that small foxes spoil vines, then we need to pay attention to the details of the system and ensure they are always supported.
We now await the Throne Speech at the opening of Parliament on Wednesday and thereafter, the laying of and debating of the annual Estimates, which should be unusually interesting because of two factors.
In the first place, the larger numbers of the Opposition will demand the most vigorous attendance schedule on a Government which will recognize that any defeat in the Lower House on a critical issue will almost certainly mean an immediate return to the polls.
Secondly, the major problems of the economy are still with us, and we can hardly sit back and wait for an improvement in the global economy.
Foreign exchange preservation and the major job losses in the private sector are serious problems separate and distinct from any aspects of energy that affect the economy.
The two parties appear to be on opposite sides of the fence on these issues and the clash of ideas in the Estimates debate should allow Barbadians and investors to get a ringside seat of a vibrant democracy at work.
As was said before and during the recent campaign, it cannot be business as usual, and the assertion by Prime Minister Stuart last Friday that while not imperiling the foreign reserves, they have to “give a little life to what is going on locally at the business level and put consumers in a position where, by their spending, they can stimulate business activity”, sounds very similar to the Opposition’s manifesto promise and solution, which was rejected by the majority of those who voted last month.
The Prime Minister has assured us that he and Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler will be talking through some of these issues during the Estimates so that the country will be clear where it is headed over the next few months.
We anticipate that Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley and former Minister of Finance Owen Arthur will also be talking through these issues too in the days ahead.
We hope that when the dust settles in our Parliament, the local economy and our people will benefit, for at the end of the day that is what is most important.