FRANKLY SPEAKING: Country suffering under DLP
During a speech to mark the 40th anniversary of her accession to the throne, Her Majesty The Queen was quoted as saying: “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis (a horrible year)”.
Except that I don’t have any sympathetic correspondents. If you substitute 2013 the above quote would apply to me.
In 2013, the grim reaper took two of my best friends; I was involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, which left me nursing an injury to my neck; debilitating pain from kidney stones had me laid up for just over two months; and I was forced to live under the worst Government that this country has ever seen.
At the beginning of 2014, I am starting to come to grips with the loss of my friends; the pain in my neck is not as bad; I have gotten some relief from the kidney stones; but there seems to be no end in sight for the suffering that I, like so many other Barbadians, am suffering at the hands of this inept Government.
I have attributed most of the events that caused me pain to be acts of God or accident. However, I do not believe that the misery caused by the Government can be classified as either. I have been racking my brain to understand how and why this country has come to this point. Eventually a pattern emerged which suggests that our predicament is not unprecedented during the DLP’s times in office.
In 1986 the DLP had been out of government for ten years, and they were desperate to return to office. In order to achieve that goal, they employed the gimmickry of Dr Richie Haynes delivering what they called an “alternative budget” with a raft of giveaways. Chief among them was a promise that every wage earner would be entitled to the first $15 000 of their earnings tax free. The promises resonated with the electorate and the DLP was returned to office.
As promised the DLP implemented its lavish manifesto promises but very quickly thereafter the giveaways proved to be unworkable. In 1988, Erskine Sandiford, who became Prime Minister after the death of Errol Barrow, was forced to repudiate the social contract with the electorate by reversing the Richie Haynes’ vote-catching election gimmickry. He also implemented a series of punishing measures to stabilize the economy. Those measures were so devastating that, from the floor of the House of Assembly, Dr Haynes likened them to a backstreet abortion.
However, elections were scheduled for 1991, and Prime Minister Sandiford told the country in 1990 that the economy was performing like Sir Garry Sobers. Despite the BLP Opposition’s protestations to the contrary, the electorate returned the DLP to office.
Immediately after the 1991 elections, it was revealed that the economy was in serious trouble. It turned out that Government refused to take early corrective measures to fix the economy, preferring instead to wait until after the elections. As a result and mainly because of the delay, the economy needed intensive care which required assistance from the International Monetary Fund.
The bitter medicine that was prescribed saw 4 000 public employees being made redundant; the remainder had their salaries reduced by 8 per cent for 18 months; and the unemployment rate went up to 24 per cent, just to mention a few. It is noteworthy that just prior to the 8 per cent cut of all public service salaries; Government increased the salaries of members of parliament by 10 per cent. In essence, when everyone else got an 8 per cent cut, MPs got a 2 per cent increase.
Again the DLP’s promises and assertions got them elected in 1991. And again the country paid dearly for three years for trusting their word.
The DLP lost the 1994 general elections and the next two to remain in the political wilderness for 14 years. Come elections 2008 the DLP pulled out all stops and published a manifesto packed with goodies. Civil servants were to be allowed to import duty-free cars and the cost of living was to be reduced significantly among other things.
The DLP won.
Instead of the “manna from heaven” that was promised in the manifesto, Prime Minister Thompson sought to raise $200 million in taxes in his first Budget. Ever since then the disposable incomes of taxpayers, especially the middle class has been steadily eroded by punishing or even punitive impositions.
Again the DLP’s exuberant election promises got them the Government, and yet again the electorate ended up with the short end of the stick.
This brings us to the 2013 elections. Central to the DLP’s election campaign was promises that there would be no privatization and no job cuts in the public sector. The electorate returned the DLP to office and the country is now facing a complete reversal of the election pledges in less than a year after the polls.
Again the DLP’s pie in the sky promises secured them the Government, and again the country is suffering as a result of trusting their word.
There is a pattern to the DLP’s political behaviour that cannot now be ignored. I am reminded of an old saying: Fool me once, shame on you: fool me twice, shame on me. The DLP has now fooled us four times.
• Caswell Franklyn is a trade unionist and social commentator.