Notes From a Native Son: Politicians Must Come Clean about Their Programmes for Change

Hal Austin

Hal Austin

Introduction:
In our democracy, politicians have the simple task of collectively being rainmakers, they simply bring talent together and, from that collection of outstanding individual instrumentalists, create a harmonic sound. Times of crisis call for innovative thinking, experimenting with new ideas, adopting what we in Britain call the Dunkirk spirit.

It is at historic points in the development of capitalism such as this that we see the best of what we have to offer, when the creators of new and imaginative ideas come to the fore, when those who have the future of Barbados at heart rise up.

With the sudden announcement of the general election, which gave off a smell of panic, we as a nation have had to sit and watch the humiliating nonsense of our leading politicians and the two rival parties, launching in to a campaign without manifestos, the roadmaps to their policies, for the first week or so. They were travelling up and down the country, talking themselves silly, without a detailed, or even outline, of the policies they hoped to introduce if the people of Barbados returned them to power. In other words, we have had a government which, after five years in power, could not come to voters with the simple message that they should be returned to finish off what they had started. Maybe, there were five wasted years and they could not ask people to vote for a non-existent unfinished programme.

Equally, the Opposition apparently failed to ask the electorate to vote for them on the basis of a programme for dynamic change if elected. It is not as if they did not expect a general election to be called, since the cacophony of political noise was about when the prime minister was going to announce the day; so, to be caught flat-footed as an Opposition party when carelessness, and to fail to wrong-foot the Opposition was an example of political incompetence. For ordinary Barbadians, this general election should be transformative, a roadmap for the New Barbados.

Failure of Government:
The brutal truth is that the DLP came to power unexpectedly and, in a moment of madness, started giving away public housing, a pay increase to public sector workers which bordered on insanity and, after nearly a year in power, has delivered a medium-term strategy paper that, in the main, the party proceeded to ignore.

To be fair, the DLP government was handed a flawed baton, after fourteen years of BLP rule, but it clearly had no ideas of its own, no political or economic imagination, to take Barbados out of the mess it had found itself in. Had not for his premature death, things might had been different under David Thompson’s leadership as he had been talking to a number of key people about policy formation and it would be unfair to question his intentions.

However, policy aside, the DLP lacked the will to tackle the embedded structural problems that, unless they are sorted out, will outfox any government of any colour. Added to that is the lack of a clear direction on monetary policy. Has the central bank got responsibility for monetary policy? If so, this is not clear from the Central Bank Act nor has it been made clear in practice. This needs to be clarified.

While it is true the DLP inherited massive current account and public sector deficits, all they did was to build on it to such an extent that it was clear they were like a paddling for survival. They allowed the governor of the central bank to amass a massive pile of foreign reserves, which sat there not working; they defaulted on their debt: Mr Barrack (Bds$70m, plus growing interest), the University of the West Indies ($180m), local business people ($50) and more.

It poured scorn on the ratings agencies when they downgraded the nation’s credit rating, retreating in to an old Barbadian arrogance rather than look at the issues rationally; then we ended up with two government departments arguing over the number of unemployed.

Then other key institutions started to collapse as government lost its bearings: education, criminal justice, the administration of justice, a housing crisis, the collapse of the hotel sector, to name but a few. The other major failure of government policymaking is the economic one of putting growth as the major instrument of poverty reduction, improvement in life expectancy and overall prosperity.

As the Nordic model has shown, and as has been mentioned on numerous occasions in my Notes, the treat to the social order is the major social threat facing Barbados. Getting the young people on the block, and in particular young men age between 16-24, many of whom have never had a formal job since leaving school, is the ticking social time bomb facing the nation.

The myth is that the wealthy white community and the black middle classes, with their hand guns (and even sub-machines), backed by an over-keen police force with so-called task forces and specialist squads, and a Defence Force that spends more time patrolling West Coast beaches than it does defending ordinary Barbadians, will control any social uprising.

Programme for Change:
The most important message of change must come from all new elected members of parliament that they will freeze their salaries for the entire duration of the new parliament, abolish the over-generous pension provision and replace it with a one-off resettlement payment. This will send a clear message that the New Normal will also impact the protected lives of politicians.

Then, the new government must spell out within its first 100 days – the honeymoon period – a detailed programme for change. As I have said before, the chorus coming out of the central bank and the ministry of finance that the economic mess Barbados is in is caused by the global banking crisis and the following recession is misleading. They are being economical with the truth. If they are looking for ideas, how about these (both long and medium term):

  • turning Barbados in to the health and education centre of the English-speaking Caribbean with a range of schools from prep to centre university;
  • a new property tax on super-homes;
  • tax expatriates on their global earnings;
  • introduce an inheritance tax;
  • increase vehicle road tax;
  • rebuild the centre of town, with court yards and youth centres;
  • introduce a congestion charge for vehicles coming in to the city during the rush hour;
  • Set up a rum making institute, as part of the community college;
  • Introduce a new higher rate income tax of 60 per cent for those earning more than $200000 a year;
  • Tax corporates on their Barbados revenue, rather than declared profits;
  • Abolish the Defence Force and expand the uniformed police;
  • Introduce a hypothecated health budget and ring-fence the national insurance scheme;
  • Create a Barbados domiciled retail bank;
  • Introducing compulsory long-term savings;
  • A nationwide house building programme, both private and socials;
  • programme that within ten years 70 per cent of household electricity must come from solar, wind or wave energy;
  • Establish a food security agency;
  • Upgrade the hospital, introduce new contracts for doctors and focus health care policy on the community;
  • A network of leisure centres;
  • Build a dry ski slope in the Scotland District;
  • Reform the planning system;
  • Create a dynamic small business centre;
  • Make all entry level public sector jobs a job-share for 16-24 yr olds;
    These are just some examples off the top of my head to emphasise that politicians have a lot to talk about on the campaign.

Analysis and Conclusion:
The DLP government failed because it was not persuasive or focused, had not worked out a programme for government and, having been in government, was too stubborn to take good advice. In the end, their stewardship of the economy has been marked by stagnant growth, or more truthfully deepening recession (technically two consecutive quarters of negative growth) that signals that austerity and falling living standards will be here for years. For it is clear that no matter what the official figures say, real median wages must be lower than they were in January 2008, with public sector wage increases driving up the average. Again, whatever the official figures say, the real numbers for unemployed and underemployed, especially for the 16-24 yr olds, the real figure must be bordering 25 per cent – wasted human talent which a small nation can ill afford.

So, whatever politicians may say on the hustings, there is a lot to talk about over and above personal abuse and peddling slogans. The expensively educated technocrats are also to blame. Quite often they promise more than they can deliver. Without getting technical, the central bank has not made public its key methodologies, including its use of dynamic stochastic general equilibrium, so it is very difficult to analyse its models, so in the main, one has to take the central bank’s assumption as given – or not. I do not. That aside, neither the minister of finance, who was quite clearly out of his depth, nor his key advisers, had any solution to how to stimulate the economy without expanding public sector debt.

In the final analysis, the issuance of government bonds were a case of smoke and mirrors, although it has now become key government method of raising money. As I have warned before, there is a strong likelihood that government would default on its gilt obligations, afterall it has done so with Barrack, the UWI and others.

While DLP spokespeople have been good at sloganising they have not shown any backbone for making tough decisions. This is a time for bold and courageous decisions by an electorate, many of whom have been unemployed for a number of years, and even many of those in jobs are just one or two pay days away from having their homes repossessed by the banks.

This is the importance of this general election.

0 responses to “Notes From a Native Son: Politicians Must Come Clean about Their Programmes for Change

  1. @Notes for am Native son.
    I plan to answer your two submissions seperately because I see in both of them a series of assumptions that are way off the mark, and in your latest a number of suggestions that the government has either already put in place, are working on or which in the current circumstances either do not make sense or are unworkable e.g.in the type of democracy we live under; like the democracy you live under in Britainb, the technocrats and bureaucrats remain in place whichever government wins the electionm abd advise the incoming ministers. They determine the direction the country goes in Did you ever watch the television series “Ydes Minister” and Yes Prime Minister” You could learn valuable lessons about how the system works. More later/

  2. “Change”
    you can never trust a politician or a snake as they will always bite you,
    If anything was ever worth fighting against as humans beings on principle is against drones so come and join me

  3. another idea would be for a duty and tariff free enterprise zone wher goods can be manufactured or assembled for sale outside barbados without incurring the high levels of tax currently in place which discourage the mfg sector. this would lead to higher paying jobs and reap tax for the govenrment from profits made by these companies

  4. The Current Account deficit spiked from 2008 under the DLP.

  5. For those who speculated otherwise the disclosure on the BLP Manifesto identifies Coles Printery in Barbados. It is amazing why party hacks would lie about stuff like this which is verifiable.

    One day coming soon.

  6. Healing Up The Land, Torch Of Freedom, Lost All Sense Of Direction

  7. @David

    night does run till day catch it.

  8. We know that it is the Permanent Secretaries who run the government on a day to day basis and not the ministers, they do not even need to take direction from ministers and often ignore them, however these ministers run their own shows to the detriment of the taxpayer, which begs the question “what do we need the ministers for”?? I said that to say this. Some years ago I understand a Permanent Secretary looked in the face of a minister and allowed him to know “I have seen ministers come and go, but Permanent Secretaries are permanent” I heard some of them are millionaires, just like the ministers, so go figure,you cannot make this stuff up.

  9. Where is the the BLP going to get all this money from to do all the things they said. the Sugar industry dead. the tourism industry dieing. exports minimal, production ???1, and the only thing on their manifesto is increasing taxes on the middle class by 25%. that is a lot of of money, Taking from the backbones of the Country, do you all know a Teacher with a Associative Degree is only eligible for $125.000,mortgage, and a Teacher with a BA $200.000. mortgage. have you all look at the prices of houses and land in Barbados lately. yet the BLP wants to take 25% of taxes from their money.
    Secondly the BLP is going to take the vat back down to 15%, but that will not solve any thing, the Merchants will raised the prices and then add on the 15% vat like they did when Owen put on the 15%vat and Sinclair the 17%vat , the Merchants in Barbados have to get a 300% profit for every thing
    Chicken in Barbados is to expensive, so is Pork The Chicken farmers told James Paul that they can supply the Barbadian public with chicken so to stop importing, so he stopped importing , the chicken farmers then stop producing a lot of chicken so that they could keep chicken prices high, and when they is a glut they put the excess chicken in storage, so that the chicken prices can keep high
    Solution take vat from ALL food items, regulate the prices so the merchants do not control prices, import chicken and pork so the chicken framers can have competition and stop price gouging, put 25% vat on all alcohol, [ not produce in Barbados]; and cigarettes and cars and use the money from those things to put programs in place to produce more food and other Barbadian products.

  10. When a recession hits with such devastation, the first people who are wiped out is the middle class, one has to ask where will they get the middle class from to tax????

  11. It appears as though to hear Sinckler say it, he and his buddies have the CLICO FORMULA, my question is, were Thompson, Sinckler, and Stuart not partners/buddies of LEROY PARRIS, were they not instrumental in enabling and condoning what the policy holders are experiencing and are they not listening to the shit that is now coming out of their mouths??? With the exception of Thompson of course. Clearly this crowd is utterly shameless. Both parties were buddies with Leroy Parris.

  12. I as one of Owen Arthur’s harshest critics supported his stand in relation to debates and his party’s appearance on the CBC.Last night tells me either I was wrong in my support or that party is cloaked in hypocrisy.Owen Arthur can prove me wrong by accepting the challenge offered by Haynsley Benn.

  13. Some say that he has nothing to hide.Others say he is some genius.Why not come and silence me and the other critics?Owen Arthur we are asking you to sit in front of the cameras,you Mr.Master Tactician and debate the little pipsqueak that DEM idiots dared to run against you.

  14. Hamilton,

    Do not bother with Owen Arthur he will be exposed more cruelly than at Haggatt Hall in Jan 2008.

    Right now Miller and David ( of BU ) are off to the Channel Islands………to destroy any bank records they believe may still be lying around !

    Ya think it easy ?

  15. How could it be possible for any politician, anywhere, would ‘come clean’. If we were Martians we would be led to believe that you were from another planet too. There should be no need to raise this question because the answer was always clear. If we refuse to learn from our history we are destined to repeat it, somebody once said. We are afraid that Bajans are about relive history. And the future is unlikely to be any better than the past. More deeply, that people can continue to be misled by the political theater, still, speaks to deep, maybe a genetic typology even a psychosis. It almost remind us of the misguided power of religion. No body goes to church but once there is a death everybody wants to feel closer to a nonexistent god. As if some evangelical dispensationalist summoned some holy political spirit to bamboozle the like of Hal Austin. Austin is by no measure an unintelligent fellow, some say, but that he would want to make demands of political parties, the members of which are unlikely to see their constituents as often as they are right now, a month from now, buys into the notion that these gangsters are in a position to influence the economic landscape. Austin must know that his shopping list cannot be considered absent more fundamental issues. Issues once ignored leave no space for Austin’s anachronistic yearnings.

    We again call on the people of Barbados not to forget the recent, and not so recent, tract record of the DLP and the BLP. The people know that these criminals have used them over and over again for personal interest as they served larger transnational corporate interests. The intelligent people of Barbados have a proud tradition of ignoring these political minions in large and growing numbers. The people of Barbados are well poised to deliver a deadly blow at the heart of this evil political system. Such a blow would send a message to the servants of empire that their time is gone. With a turnout of less than 30%, this election, the DLP and BLP servants of empire will be running to their queen searching for answers. NOT ONE VOTE FOR DEES OR BEES!

  16. In all of this, please do not lose sight of the fact that Hanesley Benn is Owen Arthur’s cousin and blood is thicker than mud. Anyway, it’s time for one term governments………………..next…………

  17. I don’t know when people will learn that you cannot be continually making the same mistakes infinitely and ad nauseam, yet expect different results.

  18. Barbados Underground Talkshop

    ..

  19. PLANTATION DEEDS FROM 1926-2013 AND SEE MASSIVE FRAUD ,LAND TAX BILLS AND NO DEEDS

    TO DIRTY TO LONG TO COME CLEAN , THEY HAVE TO GO

  20. Pingback: Black Men Power: William T. Shorey |

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