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ONLY HUMAN – Love-hate affair with politics

Sanka Price

ONLY HUMAN – Love-hate affair with politics

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CONFIDENCE IN AN individual and, by extension, those closely associated with him or her, is the key ingredient in making our democracy work.
It is the reason we are drawn to that person’s party and political programme.
It is why we vote for them and place them in Parliament to enact legislation, regulate agencies and raise taxes to govern the country as well as implement or enhance initiatives that would further benefit us and our families.
Why we place our confidence in these people, though, is another matter. That is, the same individual whom we trust today to look after our interests, we may have rejected him or her a few years before, and may do so again some years in the future.
This happened to Father of Independence Errol Barrow, for example. After three successive victories, he was rejected by the electorate in 1976, only to be returned triumphantly in the general elections of 1986.
Given this love-hate affair, politicians often speak of the fickleness of the electorate and this, in my estimation, has given rise to a political class that says and does what is necessary to secure electoral success.
This situation too, has encouraged even more political posturing, propaganda, misinformation, and character assassination. Politics has become a profession literally with “a morality of its own”, where truth is often the first casualty, and accountability is an often used word, but that is seldom a reality.
One thing I fervently believe is that you deserve what you get for the standards you set. Therefore, the only way we can improve our condition is if we demand a better level of performance from those around us.
For sure, if you don’t, you will be forced to exist in below par circumstances, and remain in relationships that do not satisfy you.
The public and our politicians are in a relationship. Like all liaisons, it can be both sweet and bitter depending on the issues raised and how they are handled.
One issue which Barbadians are particularly anxious about is their high electricity bills. They want them lowered now.
Opposition leader Owen Arthur has proposed that this can be done through a $35 million subsidy through the Barbados National Oil Company Limited (BNOCL). He said that with a profit of more than $50 million at March, 2010, and profits expected to exceed $60 million last March, the company was in a position to help cushion electricity bills.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has dismissed the idea of a subsidy saying the BNOCL “does not have that money”, and that the Arthur administration’s “ill-conceived” subsidy had almost wrecked the company.
Here, Sinckler is referring to the reported $80 million in debt the company had when his party took over the reins of power in 2008 because the Arthur administration had a subsidy on diesel.
Their rationale then was that as it was the fuel of business, the subsidy would keep the price of production down and serve to sustain the productive sectors and in so doing, maintain jobs.
Their reasoning now is that the subsidy would ease the squeeze on consumers, and the company would be able to recoup the monies overtime.
Sinckler said that while on paper the BNOCL might appear to make profits, liabilities had to be carried forward from year to year, and that this administration could not afford to be “reckless” in its economic policies.
Is Sinckler’s assessment the right one, given what happened in the past with BNOCL?
Or does Arthur’s proposal have merit and deserves being analyzed? Who can we, the people, trust on this? In whom do we have confidence?
This is where transparency comes in.
If the public had been privy to documentation on the state of BNOCL prior to 2008 to present day, they would be able to make an informed decision. Unfortunately, they only know what Sinckler and Arthur are stating and fall in line behind the viewpoint they agree with.
This is folly and only perpetuates partisanship.
For there to be truly participatory government, every effort should be made to have the facts through documentation on hot button issues revealed for all to peruse. The public would then be better able to decide for themselves what course of action they think is best. And if the Government’s view differs from what seems to be the popular opinion, as administrators they would be able to explain to a better informed public why their measure is the wiser option.
I live in hope that one day we would have greater transparency in all matters in public life.