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PEOPLE & THINGS: P.I.G. politics

Peter Wickham

PEOPLE & THINGS: P.I.G. politics

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Some weeks ago businessman Ralph “Bizzy” Williams coined the phrase “PIG” in response to a question regarding the party he supported politically and it was curious that his colleague Mark Maloney exploited a similar phrase recently when asked a similar question.
This most unfortunate acronym (for Party In Government) appears to communicate the illusion that the individual does not support this Government because it is the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), but supports this Government because it is in Government.
 Moreover, we should also be clear that the said individuals previously did and would still support the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) as enthusiastically if it were the government, not because it was the BLP, but because it was the Government.
Personally, I find the term and the sentiment it connotes somewhat disturbing since it helps key stakeholders to escape an important social responsibility, which is no less essential than the responsibility to work with the government that has been elected in reverence to the will of the people.
This is the responsibility to speak up when things go “wrong”, which is no less important than the responsibility to champion the cause of a government that is doing things “right”.
Since the February 2013 election, we have had an interesting period in our political history where the DLP narrowly won in what seemed to have been as much of a surprise to “Dem” as it was to us.
Consistent with the natural willingness to accept “God’s will”, we claimed shelter under the assurance that the two key promises of saving jobs and no privatisation would keep us economically “dry” for the next five years.
Some 17 months later, Barbados is a very different place from that which we envisaged since the Dems have set about dismantling every single assurance they gave and have even compromised principles which we assumed were a hallmark of their philosophy.
It is therefore not surprising that analysts such as myself are frequently asked, what do you think we should do and what do you think will happen?
Since I take my social responsibility seriously, I have both publicly and privately expressed the view that this perilous state of political affairs is in and of itself a threat to good governance since this Government does not have the political capital to advance the policy agenda necessary to rescue us from the economic precipice over which we seem destined to stumble.
There are others who have suggested that this Government also lacks the competence to take us forward and while I have my own reservations about that perspective, I have restricted my comments to the former concern.
The analyst/commentator is entrusted with a platform which it is presumed s/he will use to help elucidate and often emancipate society and it would be shameful if s/he abdicated his role by saying s/he is a “PIG”.
 It is, however, clear that the role of other social partners is perceived differently and as such we have several influential business persons across this nation admitting that they funded the DLP’s (and BLP’s) efforts at re-election but also now effectively stating that they have no responsibility to raise concerns about the manner in which it is operating.
Thus far the leadership of the BLP has been out front with a challenge to the Government, while a few responsible analysts and commentators have been raising concerns in the face of considerable venom from the DLP and its supporters.
In the past CTUSAB played a coordinating role in opposing a set of proposals that were tame compared to these, but on this occasion the burden of organising a march has fallen to a brave octogenarian, whose potency will obviously be compromised.
It is fascinating that last week a chorus of concern erupted from places that have to date been far too silent, and we are finally hearing from the likes of BAMP, the Bar Association, the Private Sector Association, the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association and some of the more enlightened sections of the church and BARP.
These entities have finally been inclined to speak out in opposition to a tax which impacts negatively on them and their membership and one hopes that their protestations will also not be dismissed as the logical machinations of persons who are “Bs”.
The sceptics will hopefully soon realise that the issue about which these entities are complaining is but a single symptom of a body politic which is severely ill. Their immediate concern relates to the plight of their constituency, which either cannot deliver health care or pay this tax, but the issue is far wider.
 Our problem is not specific, but holistic and political. It is related to a Government that is both unsuited and unable to perform an important task and our situation will simply not improve no matter how much we put our collective shoulders to the wheel since the necessary guidance to steer the ship continues to be lacking.
• Peter W. Wickham is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).