ALL AH WE IS ONE: Election hints
THE RECENTLY CONCLUDED Barbados Labour Party (BLP) annual conference, in which the full slate of candidates for the next general election was unveiled, set in train a political response from the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), which has provided important hints of the issues around which the next poll will be fought.
Significantly, the hints of the DLP’s expected re-election narrative have come, not from the political leader Freundel Stuart, but from the Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, who was speaking at a Sunday branch meeting of the DLP.
The first hint was Sinckler’s insistence that the election should not be fought on the economy alone.
Cleverly, while acknowledging that “every election is always about the economy”, he argued that it is precisely because this is a given, that Barbadians should focus on other issues. This downplaying of the economy is not surprising, since it is the DLP’s most glaring failure as it heads into a new election.
In addition, Sinckler was astute enough to “update” his party’s stance on “privatisation”. This was perhaps seen as tactically necessary, especially given the fact that the Dems had fought the election as the anti-privatisation party and had developed a narrative around the BLP as a party of privatisation which would deny the poor and vulnerable of support for essential services like public transportation.
What is more, Sinckler is fully aware of the fact that it was the DLP which had swallowed its own vomit and had, in its last term, reduced Government support for services like tertiary education, flirted with similar approaches in public health, had privatised the national oil company, had given significant portions of the public sanitation business to the private sector, and had reduced the size of the public sector as part of a general embrace of a neo-liberal privatisation outlook.
In this regard, therefore, he took it upon himself to express, above and beyond anything heard by his political leader and, sounding like the political leader himself, his party’s policy on privatisation.
Fully aware of the DLP’s inability to extricate itself from the accusation that it had in fact become the party of privatisation, he sought to draw the line between privatisation in the social sector and the privatisation of corporate assets such as the Arawak Cement Plant, Almond Beach and the national oil company. In his words, the DLP would never allow privatisation in the social sector.
Sinckler’s final major hint, as part of the retreat from an economic debate, was his promise to fight the election on “moral” grounds. In this regard, he called out the “Christian soldiers” to fight against the moral threat which he hinted resided in the BLP.
It will be interesting to see how these narratives evolve in the coming months, and how little the economy will feature, in the minds of the people.
•Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email: [email protected]