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NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: Nothing but empty promises

Caswell Franklyn, [email protected]

NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: Nothing but empty promises

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The next general elections are constitutionally due in approximately two years. Very shortly I expect that candidates, from both major politically parties will be out on the hustings trying to convince the electorate that they deserve the people’s confidence.

In my view both parties have been underperforming in their respective roles and neither has done anything to distinguish themselves in the eyes of the voters. If anything the opposite is true.

Numerically, the Opposition is the strongest ever, and in the Barbados context it could not be any stronger. But instead of taking the fight to the Government, they seem to be lying around waiting for the Government to crash and burn.

I well remember that the Opposition which resulted from the 1986 general elections consisted of three persons; but they gave the Government a torrid time. However, if the current Opposition is remembered, they will go down in history as inflicting some telling blows on themselves leaving the Government relatively unscathed.

The most egregious blow, and the one that showed their inhumanity, was going after one of their own who was seriously ill; and eventually expelling her from the party. Its internecine warfare and failure to oppose are now notorious. They exhibit nothing that would demonstrate to the electorate that they merit elevation to government. 

Unfortunately for the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), their performance in office has been lacklustre at best. Admittedly, they came into office in the grip of an economic recession but the Government used that reason as an excuse for poor performance, which appears to be bordering on incompetence. They seem to have some sort of reverse Midas effect; everything they touch fails to produce a favourable outcome. They are clearly out of their depth and are tenaciously clinging to power, but certainly not for the good of the country.

Neither of the two parties in the House would fare well if the electorate were to judge them on their performance. This country therefore has a serious problem since, like nature, governance abhors a vacuum. So unless a credible alternative emerges, Barbados’ fate would remain in the hands of people who show only ambition but no aptitude for adequately managing the affairs of this country. If both parties were asking the electorate to return them on their performance alone, the Immigration Department would have to issue work permits to constitute a cabinet.

In my estimation, the Opposition is guilty of failing to keep the Government on it toes.  On the other hand, the Government has been unfaithful to the electorate by failing to carry out its manifesto pledges.

Even if the country continues to let the administration use the world economic challenges as an excuse for its dismal failure to halt the country’s slide into moral and financial bankruptcy, they cannot be excused for not performing in areas that would not require money. The 2008 manifesto is replete with unfulfilled promises that would not require any significant outlay of the country’s scarce resources. It demonstrates to me, if to no one else, that the Democratic Labour Party’s only intention would have been to win the election.

On pages 6 and 34 of their manifesto, the DLP gave a commitment to ensure that at least 40 per cent of all Government’s procurement requests for goods and services would be reserved for small and medium-sized enterprises. So far that promise has been honoured in the breach. Further, at page 42, the DLP promised within 100 days to introduce the Agriculture Protection Act that will require a two-thirds majority of both Houses of Parliament for a change of use of land from agriculture. Also, at page 43, they promised that they would make it mandatory that any change of zoning of land would be approved by Parliament. Along with those went the promises to introduce integrity legislation and a code of conduct for ministers of government.

I can go on but I think that the point has been made. How can the people of this country continue to repose confidence in a party that consistently and historically fails to honour solemn commitments? Rather than do the things that they were elected to do, the Government seeks to distract the country away from its ineptitude by introducing the prospect of Barbados becoming a republic. Maybe they are serious about republicanism and refused to put it in their manifesto since they never seem to implement those pledges.

Caswell Franklyn is the general secretary of Unity Workers’ Union and a social commentator. Email: [email protected]