The manifestos of the DLP and BLP have been released about ONE week before the E-Day of February 21, 2013. Generally people pay very little attention to manifestos in most countries. A manifesto may be described as a political tool to get political parties elected. Although we know they are usually littered with pie in the sky promises, BU had hoped this one time around, given the unprecedented challenges which confront service-oriented economies like Barbados, the electorate would have been wooed and teased by a vision articulated by both political parties (espoused in the manifestos). How do they plan to navigate the economic and social milestones currently strewn in our path? Why is it this one time our people could not have been convinced to turn-down the political rhetoric, and instead, engage in a level of collaboration hitherto never experienced in democratic Barbados? As a highly regarded small predominantly Black country here was an opportunity created by the prevailing economic challenge for us to lead; a role which is not unfamiliar in the post-Independence period.
Kudos to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) for being ‘first’ out of the blocks with their Manifesto launch – a sarcastic comment you ask?. Although a trivial point, it has not escaped the notice of BU that apart from the first page which features an aggressive air-brushed image of Owen Arthur reflected on The Team for A Better Tomorrow, Mia Mottley’s photo appears in the most prominent position. To those with an ‘eye’ for these things it is called subliminal advertising and it is designed to draw the eye and create an impression in the minds of the electorate.
During the stewardship of the DLP government (2008-2013) a few issues have always occupied the attention of the BU family. Heading the list is GOVERNACE! On Thursday an increasingly cynical electorate will have to decide which party leads (by a nose) on the issue of Freedom of Information (FOI) and Integrity Legislation (IL) among others.
Related Link: Manifesto WATCH
We learned that from the FOI and IL, or what Denis Lowe called a Charter for Change which BU exposed in the McKenzie Files known as BUleak that neither Lowe nor DLP colleagues were eager to legislate and implement integrity legislation. In earlier BU blogs we also learned that William Duguid expressed a similar position on the BLP side. Prime Minister Stuart and party have bragging rights – at least an effort was made to table IL. From experience of how things get done in Barbados BU will argue that there is a lot of room between the cup and the lip. If it is one ailment which afflicts Barbados, we suffer from implementation deficit. Who do we give the nod? The party which brought IL? Or the party which because of a perception of corruption was booted from office five years ago?
Another issue which has been robustly discussed since the event is CLICO and BAICO, CLICO mostly.
The BLP has promised CLICO policyholders (does this include investors too?) they will get 100% of their money. The BLP obviously expects to benefit from 35,000 CLICO votes, or is it 14,000 which was clarified by Prime Minister Stuart on the campaign trail. The question to be asked: is the electorate capable of discerning when will this money be repaid?
Repayment, according to the BLP, is open-ended. The value of the repayment is set “as at the date on which payments of interest to them ceased.” Repayment will be made by means of “a combination of medium and long-term investment instruments and tax relief, where applicable.” We also learn that, “approximately $364.8 Million, which have now become a $76.7 million dollar problem given that the two companies have assets with a current market value of $288.1 million.” BU is unable to appreciate the arithmetic offered by the BLP. Also there is the legal reality. The CLICO matter is under the ward of the court and CLICO Barbados has oversight for premium written in the OECS. Please tell us how Barbados is able to beat home drums first which is promised by the BLP. Bear in mind the promise comes from the BLP, a strident proponent of regional integration.
The biggest suspicion thrown up by the BLP manifesto however is under the heading LAW and ORDER.
“The last Barbados Labour Party administration made the largest investment in policing in this nation’s history to make the job of policing safer.” So much money spent for such a reduction in services. The obvious question raised by this promise is – What about the safety of the people being “policed” from the Police?
“We must pay attention to the recruitment of new officers and the retention of serving policemen and women and do all that is necessary to increase the numbers of the Royal Barbados Police Force. Equally, a caring government must pay careful attention to the health and well-being of police officers.” It seems to BU the answer to all our problems is to throw dollars at the problem. BU is reminded that under former Attorney General Dale Marshall is when we saw the rot taking root in the Barbados Police Force. Has building a spanking Judicial Centre at Whitepark Road solve the problem of delayed justice by the Barbados Judiciary? “How will construct[ing] an ultra modern Headquarters at Central Police Station” dissolve the many complaints levelled against the force?
BU has sufficiently highlighted our inefficient, ineffective and moribund judiciary system in the Tales from the Courts. Again the solution of the BLP is to “improve the administration of justice by ensuring that the Supreme Court and its Registry are adequately staffed at all levels including expanding the size of the Judiciary.” Let BU give the BLP the benefit of the doubt that the promises will make a difference. How will it be implemented? We want to know!
The DLP manifesto followed (meeting finished in the early Saturday morning 16 Feb 2013).
Like the BLP’s manifesto it makes a lot of promises, many of which we know will not be kept. And early scan of the DLP manifesto gives the impression – compared to the 2008 DLP manifesto and the 2013 BLP manifesto – that the promises seem more conservative.
Starkly evident to BU when we compare DLP promises to those of the BLP, a conservative FISCAL approach seems to be preferred. This probably reflects the personality of Prime Minister Stuart. There is the perception that the BLP will spend a lot of money – which BU believes we not have – to increase the number of civil servants and their benefits . Similar appears to be absent from the DLP manifesto. The reality is that many of our key markets continue to make massive cuts in government spending. Our major market in the EU countries (especially Britain) and in the USA and Canada – countries from which we source our financial aid may legitimately question why are they are cutting government spending and we giving pay hikes to a moribund public sector.
Surprisingly one of the areas which the DLP manifesto fails to address is the rot in the JUDICIARY and GOVERNANCE system. It is a no-brainer that until this is addressed in the most aggressive manner, all the talk about revitalizing the overseas business sector and foreign investment etc. makes a nonsense. BU genuinely believed with the coming of Marston Gibson – delivered by the DLP – we would have seen an improvement in the judiciary after David Simmons.
On page 55 of the DLP manifesto, in the section dealing with LAW REFORM: “while adhering to the a strict observance of the protection of rights, especially those basic human rights which the Founding Fathers of our nation thought to be fundamental to the protection of the basic freedom as to enshrine them in our constitution.” But it ignores the fact that we have a justice system where these rights “fundamental to the protection of the basic freedom as to enshrine them in our constitution” are breached daily by the very justice system that is sworn to uphold them. Again in BU’s Tales From the Courts several of the issues have been highlighted: 1) holding people on remand for years without bringing them to trial and often, after years of remand, the charges are dropped, 2) despite being told by victims that they have arrested the wrong person, continuing to hold that person on remand on the basis that a confession under duress has been extracted, 3) having civil cases drag on for in excess of 20 years at first instance, not even having gone through any appeal process – that adds another decade to the process 4) the habit of the Registry of losing files which in the age of technology should have been scanned and filed electronically with access to judges on a Network/Intranet and 5) the high level of Barbados decisions overturned by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Bottomline, neither political party has addressed the important requirement of timely and efficiency delivery of justice, a key pillar required to support any stable society, a society which the DLP likes to tout.
BU has left the subject of TOURISM to last. It is a volatile industry but one which Barbados is heavily dependent. All sensible Barbadians understand that tourism performance will be affected by the economic challenges being experience in our key markets; mainly the UK. What Barbadians have been annoyed about is the fact our performance continues to trail our Caribbean neighbours. The CTO is reporting 5% growth in long stay arrivals across many markets. Barbados recorded a 5.5% decline during 2012. January 2013 was down 8.2% across all markets and an alarming 18.4% down from Canada, one of the markets least affected by the global recession. Most alarming has been the lack of engagement by Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy and government with Barbadians.
A review of the BLP manifesto shows that it consulted with stakeholders; BU does not glean the same when we scan the DLP manifesto. The DLP promised to restructure the Barbados Tourism Authority Board early in its term (2008). We are about to enter another election (2013) and no restructure. How are thousands of voters who work in the hospitality expected to vote in the circumstances?
What is absolutely scary about General Election 2013 is that many fear the return of Owen Arthur, yet the same group is uninspired by a DLP government, who for the first three years of its term seem to be caught like a deer in headlights. The BLP finds itself on the verge of regaining government and relegating the DLP to the ignominy of a one term government. How the BLP has done it can be attributed to a DLP government who many believe could have done better.
Is it possible we are entering a period in our history which makes a third party or independent appealing?