PURELY POLITICAL: Regime change?
I GOT A telephone call early this past Thursday from a friend asking how realistic it would be to expect regime change now to effect a turnaround in Barbados’ economic fortunes.
When I enquired as to what was behind the question, I was directed to the DAILY NATION’s back page lead GOVT CHANGE – Mottley: It’s the only way to turn around Barbados.
Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley was reported as saying that “if a change in government took place immediately, there was a highly likely chance that Barbados’ economy could be turned around in under three years”.
This was against the backdrop she painted from a World Economic Outlook for October 2014, published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that of 189 nations, Barbados’ economy was performing among the eight worst in the world, some of which were in war zones.
“Where confidence has deserted us, tinkering with economic policy will not work,” Mottley told the monthly business luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) at Hilton Barbados. “Nor is there any patent lack of strong and decisive leadership from our Government. For you and I both know that there is nothing wrong with Barbados that a strong dose of real leadership will not cure.
“Just as many Barbadians are suffering from chikungunya, our economy is suffering from ‘Freundelgunya’ – both equally debilitating”.
Now, I am aware that the Leader of the Opposition is an ambitious (some suggest, overly so, and impatient) politician and an experienced lawyer who is fully seized of the legal and constitutional requirements for a change in Government.
Surely, it could not be that, even beyond the wildest stretch of the imagination, she was calling for Barbadians to rise up and change their Government by extra-legal means? Nah, we Bajans are not that kind of people – at least not yet.
With that as a given, my next thought was: what could have been the real intent and purpose of Mottley’s apparent “call to arms” remarks at this time – less than a year into the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) second five-year term? On the surface, they simply made no sense.
But then, on reflection, the mist in the pool began to clear up. This year’s general election ended with a 16-14 victory by the DLP over the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP). The composition of the House of Assembly, however, would change dramatically within a few months with the resignation from the BLP of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur after 40 years to sit as an Independent MP.
With this unexpected move, arguments were raised to suggest it was highly unlikely that the former PM would support any Mottley initiative in the House such as another ill-advised no-confidence motion given the embarrassment with the October 2013 “silence is consent” disaster when only three Opposition MPs spoke.
Still, some wondered, what if, just what if, Arthur sensed with that acute political nose of his that there might be a chance for there to be a different type of leadership to be given to Barbados’s economic turnaround strategy?
The man is, after all, nothing if not a deeply loyal, patriotic Barbadian.
Would he then, it was asked, agree to use the astute sense of political timing (against the advice and restraints of elders in the BLP) that brought him success in the historic 1994 no-confidence motion against the then Prime Minister Erskine (now Sir Lloyd) Sandiford?
The thought was intriguing, to say the least.
Forcing the pace
But it emerged against a background of Mottley having been urged by individuals in several quarters to curb the tendency to “force the pace” as those familiar with cricket terminology, referring to any attempt by a player to hurry along the leisurely looking summer game’s momentum.
Mottley should heed that advice.
She has a sense of history and would, no doubt, be aware that at this stage of her political career, with few genuine leadership challengers within the BLP, she herself is perhaps the greatest threat to her future and the realisation of that long burning ambition.
To my mind, she must also be aware that such a call, whatever its purpose, and more particularly, within the bosom of what may be Barbados’ most conservative conclave, could have the opposite effect.
Yes, they recognise that the popularity of this perhaps least efficient of our Governments is waning; but they must be aware too, that a stable BLP may not be a sufficient, though it is certainly a necessary, condition for a change of Government.
• Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent. Email: [email protected]