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DLP has lost its way

Clyde Mascoll

DLP has lost its way

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MR SPEAKER, I rise from my watery grave to offer the country, which I led to Independence, the benefit of my wisdom.
It is evident even from my position of eternal rest that my beloved country is on a course of destruction. The current members of the Government, who seem not to be schooled in the principles of democratic socialism, have no concept of the philosophical moorings that undergirded the foundation of labour parties in the region.  
Apart from securing Independence for the country, perhaps I am best remembered for the introduction of free universal secondary education in 1961. The latter delivered the pathway to upward social mobility for many Barbadians.
Unfortunately, since my physical departure, the party’s focus has been on conflict resolution and not effective public policy. There is inadequate preparation and detached leadership.
Mr Speaker, consistent with the passage of time, it became necessary to extend universal privilege to tertiary level education. And there is no doubt that on any set of objective criteria, it has contributed to the country’s socio-economic development.
The economic basis upon which such privilege could have been granted and sustained to the people was outlined in my 1973 Budget speech. The late Michael Manley would later observe that Barbados, more than any other country in CARICOM, understood the nexus between social justice and economic development.
It is therefore impossible to understand, how any Barbados Government would even contemplate stripping the underprivileged of education, no matter what the level. Furthermore, there is no compelling evidence that university education has become too expensive to carry for the Barbados Government. Instead, what is clear is that the current administration has no philosophical compass that charts its economic priorities. There is clearly no vision!
Mr Speaker, two fundamental economic mistakes have been made since 2008. Again my 1973 Budget speaks to the fiscal principle of ensuring that government revenue covers current government expenditure, a principle that has been abandoned. Prior to 2008, every administration, Bee and Dee, including Erskine’s early 1990s Government, adhered to the principle.
This fiscal principle was taught by one of my mentors, Professor Harold Laski, of the London School of Economics. Arthur Lewis, who was an active member of the British Labour Party in the 1950s, reinforced the principle in his speeches to the party and in his academic writings, which will remain for as long as my eternal rest.
Its abandonment reinforces the disconnection between this unprepared crop of Dems and those that laid the foundation of the party. Quite frankly, financial resources are never enough if the uses to which they are put are not prioritized. In this sense, the Government does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem.
Unfortunately, when a government does not constrain its current spending within its revenue budget, it has to borrow for the wrong reason; that reason is consumption and not investment. My position on increasing the national debt supports investment, which has been fully ventilated in this Parliament, especially by the other side, and it remains my position.
However, the difficulty with the current Government is that it has increased the national debt significantly but there is no infrastructure to show for it and no economic growth with which to identify it. In short, the Government has no economic compass.            
Mr Speaker, the other fundamental mistake that is connected to the first is increasing the cost of living through domestic tax policy. Increased taxation has been used like the sword of Damocles against the purchasing power of Barbadians. Again, the lack of a compass forces this administration to become obsessed with the arithmetic, rather than the philosophy that ought to inform the fiscal numbers.
In pursuit of this Government’s uncharted journey, the poor, whose causes my party attempted to champion from its inception, have been led to darkness. There will never be any justification in your world or mine for treating the least able the worst. Thank God in mine we are all equal!
On the current path, the rate of economic recovery is being compromised by keeping square pegs in round holes. Not even in my eternal space is it possible to turn the wheels of motion, if there is such a misfit. The time has therefore come for Barbadians to be realistic in recognizing the major constraint to the country’s future growth and development.
I will rise again to speak on a point of privilege in the fullness of time!
• Clyde Mascoll is an economist and Opposition Barbados Labour Party spokesman on the economy. Email [email protected]