Mia Govt’s first year (1)
MAY 24, will mark the first anniversary of the Mia Mottley-led Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Government, and as such it presents a useful moment for engaging in a critical review of the performance to date. This reflection will be done in two parts: the first on policies and second on governance.
The BLP’s first year presents a classic case of the “hollowed-out” post-colonial state, whose internal policies have been hijacked by external economic forces. In such a context, irrespective of its domestic popularity (30-0), or its progressive intention, the Government prioritises adjustment to external economic demands over the demands of the domestic electorate. In the present neo-liberal context, this is couched as “getting the economic fundamentals right”, but in past instances the same phenomenon has been variously referred to as “attracting foreign exchange”, or “ensuring the correct investment environment”.
What is new, is the totalising and hegemonic nature of external economic constraints swallowing everything else. Given this reality, the “most successful” Caribbean governments are those which create space for safeguarding local needs while satisfying external demands, the mediocre focus only on the external, the worst destroy both the domestic society and economy.
It is against such a background that the pluses, minuses and contradictions of the BLP’s first term, can be assessed.
So far, the BLP’s positives can be identified in its purely “managerial” successes in meeting some basic infrastructural needs, which unsurprisingly, are not divorced from satisfying external economic demands: roads fixed, sewerage spills addressed, the country de-bushed and beautified. In other cases, like public transportation, water, and garbage disposal, though still unresolved, there is sufficient movement to suggest Government’s focussed attention. A similar view can be reached on inherited domestic debt problems associated with CLICO, income tax returns, and other commitments.
A major achievement was the restoration of the free university education for eligible citizens. This, along with Government’s resistance to Sandals, and its support for the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela, provide strong evidence of the Government’s conscious
philosophical stance against succumbing to external capital and global neo-liberalism, even while under tremendous economic pressure.
The main minuses so far, revolve around the fact that the popularly elected Government is by and large being directed by the International Monetary Fund. Public sector lay-offs, the trimming of statutory corporations, the increase in bus fare, the new sewerage taxes, the reduction in corporate taxes, all spring from the same source. This, indeed, is the source of the kernel of public disaffection towards the Government which, if left unchecked, can mushroom into rejection.
Just as the Democratic Labour Party’s campaign slogan of “Barbados is a society, not an economy” was undermined by the 2008 global economic crisis, then similarly is the BLP’s campaign slogan of “Mia Cares” now being negated by the IMF.
Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email [email protected]
PRIME MINISTER Mia Mottley. (FP)