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PURELY POLITICAL: Is Sinckler now a liability for DLP?

Albert Brandford

PURELY POLITICAL: Is Sinckler now a liability for DLP?

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I have been through all of this – no-confidence motions, rumours of resignations, all kinds of things. It is not going to get me off my game and it is not going to cause me to lose any poise. – Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler responding to a report about being identified in an Internet sex video and that he had resigned from Cabinet.
A friend, noting that we are just shy of a year after the last general election, asked what would be the likely political focus in 2014, which is very early in the second term of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
My response was that the first, most immediate and pressing problem for the Freundel Stuart Administration would be to wend its way through the tricky maze it has created for itself with the planned layoff of 3 500 public servants, which has already started with about 400 from the Drainage Unit.
Other workers designated as “temporary” know that their turn is coming despite the frenzied last-minute posturing of the union since the Minister of Finance has publicly declared that this path was “unavoidable”.
It is an issue that will test the mettle and fortitude of every politician in the Cabinet, even those who are not politicians, and every other Government MP.
Of course, the major concern for all of us this year remains the fortunes of our battered economy. The Government will, therefore, have to treat with what I call the politics of economics, and especially its relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Then, it will have to deal with the politics of politics, particularly the rumours and media speculation about an imminent Cabinet reshuffle on the eve of the first anniversary of the February 21, 2013 electoral victory.
While I am persuaded of the need for Cabinet changes, I am less so about the timing. That’s because all of the Prime Ministers – from Barrow to Stuart – whom I have seen at work up close, have been loathed to allow even a perception of the Press calling their agenda.
Still, as Sinckler acknowledged, rumours are making the rounds and apparently those relating to his future in the Cabinet have been strong enough to prompt his denial.
Very subtly, however, we may begin to see a shift by the moving finger of blame from that failed minister to the accumulated and unrelenting pressure of the international financial institutions and credit ratings agencies, with the former, we are likely to be told, seeking to impose their harsh will on poor, unfortunate, mismanaged Barbados.
But no matter how the pending hardships of 2014 are spun by the propagandists in Bay Street and The Pine, there can be no avoiding the objective reality that Sinckler has been the public face of the austerity measures we are enduring and which will get worse.
The question is: at what stage does Sinckler become a liability to the struggling Freundel Stuart Administration?
Perhaps, Stuart’s opponents might suggest that a more pertinent question should be: how much longer can Stuart continue to use Sinckler as a shield for his own failure to be the face of effective leadership? Hasn’t Sinckler been punished enough for his role in the infamous Eager Eleven fiasco?
Stuart must now step out from behind Sinckler, acknowledge his errors and demonstrate a firm hand on the affairs of this country as Prime Minister.
Ignore, if you must, Prime Minister, the unsound recommendations of the Government’s leading technical advisor and pay some attention to the advice of the impartial experts who have neither personal nor partisan axes.
I was drawn to a Page 1 Comment, in the MIDWEEK NATION of January 1 (New Year’s Day), headlined Dawn Of An Uncertain Future – an unusual, rarely used journalistic device, reserved for only weighty matters.
In it, the writer, in calling for an end to the “pussyfooting” by Government, urged the alternative: strong, courageous, decisive leadership from the front.
“THE NATION invites Mr Freundel Stuart as Prime Minister of Barbados and first among equals, to assert control of our destiny in the resolute manner expected of those who wear the mantle of leadership.
“We remind him that the greatest single asset in the character of a successful leader should be a desire that is so strong that it does not admit of anything that will obfuscate or distract. Such is the requirement on the shoulder of Prime Minister Stuart as we enter 2014 this morning.
“THE NATION invites the acknowledged political head of our country to be forthright and frank with our people, recognizing that as firm craftsmen of our fate, as well as strict guardians of our heritage, this generation of Barbadians is prepared to write its name on history’s page through necessary sacrifices. But we must be led and inspired to act in a timely manner.
“Let this first day, this first month, this start of 2014, be the commencement of something special for this country of ours. And let it start at the top.”
• Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent.