Notes From a Native Son: February 21 is the First Day of the Rest of our History

Hal Austin

Hal Austin

They are off, the race is on, and thoroughbreds and also-rans are lining up as if they rightly deserve to be in this race. But, this is the general election that will define Barbados for the rest of our history; as electors we can either reject the old-fashion vulgar, always cynical rhetoric and demand dynamic new ideas and vision to rescue us as an economy and a nation. This is, or ought to be, the real deal.

As voters we can either retreat in to our comfort zones, and play the repulsive petty party game, or as citizens of a forward-looking nation we can make tough demands on those who aspire, who selected themselves, to be our political masters. Constituents must put hard questions to these candidates, they must demand clear and frank answers, no ‘maybes’ or ‘let me think about it’ or any other obfuscation or playing for time. But first, every candidate must pledge to freeze parliamentary salaries for the duration of the next parliament, they must abolish the scandal of parliamentary pensions and replace them with a one-off lump-sum pay off when rejected by the electorate (a six month resettlement grant seems fair).

Reviewing the Stuart Years:
People must ask themselves if the Thompson/Stuart years have delivered the policies and dynamism that the country needed at this particular time in our history. They must also reject any attempt to blame the previous government, an excuse that might have worked in the first months of coming to power, but as time went on, became more and more unacceptable.

They must dissect every aspect of the DLP government’s policies, economic, social, criminal justice – and ask themselves, in the quiet of their homes, if this is the best we should expect from this government. They must look in particular at the failure of economic policy, of the crisis in our schools, of the continuing abuse of the national insurance savings, of the collapse of law and order, of an army of unemployed (and unemployable). They must ask themselves, honestly, why are we still locked in the fatal belief that tourism will provide for all our needs for the foreseeable future.

Why did it not become clear to this government that they should have made an attempt to diversity the economy, even on a basic scale?

Why in their wisdom, with all their top notch advisers, could they not craft a sustainable economic strategy, apart from what the paper published by some of its wise men – and which the government went on to ignore?

Fourteen Years of Labour:
Once they have done that, they must take their forensic scrutiny to the fourteen years of Labour and ask the same questions: did a government that was in power for a period which included the fastest economic growth in world history done enough to bring some of that prosperity to Barbados? They must look again at the policies introduced during that fourteen year reign, and compare them with those introduced by the DLP government before making a decision. Then looking at themselves, their families, their communities and the nation as a whole, ask themselves what do we really need: jobs, education, decent housing, good health care, security in our homes, a safe environment – none of these is too much to ask.

The we come to the manifestos parties must declare in clear, simple language where they stand on the key issues, over and above what has already been outlined: immigration, nationality and citizenship, court administration, vocational training, funding for higher education, including the outdated Barbados Scholarship system.

They must say what they are going to do about the scandal oaf ordinary taxpayers subsidising the super-wealthy expatriates who settle on the best real estate in our country; they must say something about the financialisation of the country’s small and medium enterprises. People also want to know about a long-term compulsory saving scheme, which in time can act as the driver of a localised capital market; they want a proper public health policy, including ways to tackle the epidemic of obesity and the accompanying diabetes.

And they want a properly thought out leisure and tourism policy, over and above a surplus of hotels, and which includes sports and leisure centres, a monorail going East from the airport to Codrington College, a dry-ski slope in the Scotland District, a modern fishing fleet, with a modern export sector.

The two parties must also look again at our security, refocusing from the internal obsession, to protecting our boundaries and airspace. They must give serious consideration to abolishing the Defence Force, update the volunteer service and cadets, move most of the serving soldiers to the police or Coastguard and equip the Coastguard with good helicopters.

The nation also needs a proper sports programme, not only at the top end, but in schools and local districts, along with proper coaches and trainers.

Economic Policy:
In economic policy, we need a sustainable growth strategy, including a development bank or national post office retail bank; they need to privatise the Transport Board. Most of all, instead of running to the US government cap in had complaining about how the Americans subsidise their agricultural sector, we need to start at the beginning with a proper legal definition of Barbadian (Bajan) rum with an accompanying regulatory body, something along the lines of the French Appellation Controlee to oversee the quality of the product.

A new government must reform the central bank, which at times looks as if it is asleep on the job, with a powerful board of trustees overseeing the governor and with power to hold the office holder accountable. There is also an urgent need for an industrial strategy, which both parties seem to have abandoned. And, within the first one hundred days, any new government must settle its outstanding bills, including Barrack, the University of the West |Indies, pensioners, government employees, and small business people. If necessary, print more money and spend some of the reserves – and the portfolio of hotels which no government should own in the first place.

Small Government:
The key should be small, but effective government, and this should include carrying out a comprehensive audit of government assets and departments and deciding which to privatise or sell off.

Social Policy:
One of the first social policy programmes should be the creation of a vibrant third sector, good social entrepreneurs capable of providing many of the goods and services that we now have to import. We urgently need better consumer protection legislation, a right in law (and not anecdotally) of public access to all beaches and anyone infringing this will be committing a major criminal punishable with imprisonment.

Analysis and Conclusion:
Of all the post-Second World War general elections, and even that for the West Indies Federation, this is the one that is going to define us for the first half of the 21st century. This post-globalisation election will draw a line in the sand: there will be no going back on the gross incompetence, dishonesty, ignorance and sheer intellectual laziness which has marked long periods of government since 1952. Not only has the leading parties got to spell out how they will rule Barbados for the first term, but they must promise to resign if within the first 100 days they do not set out a roadmap for achieving ALL their election promises.

Given all this, there was an element of panic in the government giving three weeks notice of such an important general election and, further, announcing it through the good offices of the Government Information Service. But we have been here before, raising serious questions about the electoral law and the constitution.

Under our system of government, parliament – that supreme body – should have been the first to hear about a pending general election, rather than the ignominy of parliamentarians getting their news from the media. Sandiford did the same with the 1991 general election which followed the meltdown of his office, with ministers rejecting the whip, by calling an election while in New York. Such disrespect for parliament was wrong then, and is even more so now.

This should be an election about change, the dynamics that would catapult our society in to the genuine middle of global economies, and not just by government officials cooking the books and fabricating numbers. It should be an election about rescuing the energies and talents of young men and women wasting the most important years of their lives on the block or in dead end jobs. It should be about making our over-ambitious university deliver on the promises behind its creation, its major obligation to a small island society. It should be an election about how best to get our uniformed police officers walking the streets and talking to ordinary people, young and old, rather than parading around in four-wheel vehicles. It should be about how to save our environment with sustainable policies, not just loud rhetoric.

This general election should be about reasserting the primacy of Barbadian law above outdated, medieval religious and cultural practices; it should be about integrity and honesty in public life. It should be about reversing the technological poverty of the vast majority of Barbadians, of removing the black boards in schools and replacing them with white boards, of putting a laptop in front of every child from the age of five, of establishing a dedicated sixth form science and technology college.

In the final analysis, this general election should be about putting our little island right; we may be small, but we can still set an example to the rest of the world.


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19 Comments on “Notes From a Native Son: February 21 is the First Day of the Rest of our History”

  1. Observing(...) January 31, 2013 at 8:22 PM #

    A welcome change from the B-D rhetoric. Feb 22nd will tell.

    Just Observing


  2. David January 31, 2013 at 9:16 PM #

    The DLP’s achievement report delivered at Bay Street last night.


  3. AOD January 31, 2013 at 9:41 PM #

    1991 did not follow Sandiford’s meltdown, 1994 did, but point taken. Every election is the most important…but if we are truly honest with ourselves there can be no political solution to this crises from either party. It is not the politicians fault it’s our fault, we are responsible because we tolerate mediocrity for leadership, and the electorate is sheepish, weak and pathetic. If bajans had any self respect they would vote independent where ever possible, or don’t vote at all. NOTHING will change with these fools.

    Ignore this process, educate yourself, empowered with observation, honest assesment of circumstances, truth, reason, logic it will become obvious what this sorry state of affairs really is…. Barbados is suffering a severe shortage of sovereigns and patriots. But citizens always get the government they deserve.

    P.S Excellent point on the Rum issue, it is ridiculous that Barbados is not synonymous with Rum…as in Cuba…Cigars. Scotland….Whisky


  4. Observing(...) January 31, 2013 at 9:59 PM #

    This document has “holes” in some ministries. It would seem that only 3-5 really performed over the 5 year period. Its also littered with policies and plans.
    Achievement may be the wrong word in some cases.

    Just Observing


  5. AOD January 31, 2013 at 10:02 PM #

    Before I forget, I wholeheartedly endorse the proposal for smaller government, we cannot afford our government, it is parasitic, obstructive, expensive, wasteful and ineffecient. Borrowing to pay economically non productive civil servants, may sound good in the short run, but the deficits kill you in the long run, all the while making business more difficult to conduct because of the bureaucracy, inefficiency and lethargy. But how can we fix this with the corrupt parasitic political class we now have in the DLP and BLP. coupled with a dependent social class growing ever larger and kidnapping this democracy. The fatted calf is tick infested, and what is needed is an irradication of the ticks….while there is still a calf to save.

    The most wastefully spent money is that which one has not had to work for or earn….A Democracy lasts right up until the point when those who do not produce vote for leaders to spend the fruits of production on themselves. At that point the path of righteous citizens is beset on all sides by a vampiric political elite and parasitic dependents.

    Dear Barbadians please vote for all non pocket lining, non nest fattening inclined, non SOB candidates…This just might be our penultimate chance to save this country.


  6. lawson February 1, 2013 at 12:19 AM #

    You are a very intelligent person i ike reading your well thought out articles but would not people that are invested heavely in the island expat or not have the most to lose


  7. David February 1, 2013 at 1:37 AM #

    A key pillar of our so called democracy is the Fourth Estate. What can be done to insulate this important realm of the estate from the deep pockets. People power and a voice championed by the fourth estate requires synchronization/harmony.


  8. Well Well February 1, 2013 at 6:51 AM #

    Let’s hope the electorate when voting bear in mind that no one knows when the recession will end, so whatever lies the politicians are inventing cannot fly.


  9. David February 1, 2013 at 10:53 AM #

    Hal touched on the issue that any new government should pay Barrack, Clico and others even it means raising public debt. An observation worth sharing is the fact the FSC has asked BIPA to delay its court action but the BIPA has refused. The point here is that Alair Shepherd is representing BIPA and Adrian King is representing the FSC as legal counsel.

    The observation which BU has: isn’t Adrian King a member of Alair Shepherd’s partnership (Inn Chambers).


  10. Franky February 1, 2013 at 11:42 AM #

    I tip my top hat Mr.Austin. Well written.


  11. boiz February 1, 2013 at 12:26 PM #

    We need more of this thought provoking perspective. Balanced and also…I support the diversification of our Tourism Sector, for example – during crop over season – Barbados should be a conference venue hub. Let’s export/hustle our Intellectual Property, more fora for entrepreneurs (outside of baskets and jams), consider our creative industry for a change, Can there be a ministry for Entrepreneurship? There is a small company – out there which for example can assist with our security of low/small offenders…Electronic Tagging…reduced cost on our Prison Services….there are quite a few more needing support!


  12. Enuff February 1, 2013 at 4:28 PM #

    @ David

    Inn Chambers is not a partnership, but a group of lawyers sharing an office building :-). Adrian King get out licking this past five years though.


  13. Enuff February 1, 2013 at 5:37 PM #

    @ Observing
    When you have to list that internal and external cracks were repaired at a post office you are scraping the bottom of the bucket. By the way the $400m (the Advocate said $800m) last year is finished?


  14. David February 2, 2013 at 1:21 AM #

    Here is a good article:

    Bad government is one of business’s biggest problems. In the rich world it is too burdensome. In the poor one it is too patchy. And everywhere it is too slow and inflexible, hogtied by vested interests and red tape, or hijacked by ideological zealots. What can be done to turn government into Marx’s admirable “committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie”? Business folk have a long list of reforms in their back pockets. But three ideas deserve particular attention.


    Are you sure?


  15. Fractured BLP February 2, 2013 at 4:23 AM #


    I am sure that Mia and Owen do not wish to touch that “note” and “call the elections” saga.

    For them It is about the BLP showing the face of UNITY …..BLP style !!!

    They both prefer to take the route of being publicly exposed. Mia somehow believes she would be the beneficiary. She knows the public both ( B and D ) ain’t too please the way she was removed from office. ( There are bajans out there in local in parlance saying….ah too glad she try to get back at he….)

    Go back to the pictures of the PELICAN / LIME first year presentation ceremony. Mia made her request to PM Stuart ( to call general elections ) moments before she asked him to present the prizes to the winners.

    HINT : HINT : There were plenty of journalists and recorders around that night ! PM Stuart knows he can publicly piss parade on this subject……and Mia CANNOT deny it !!!!!!

    And one can sympathise with Mia’s request to PM Stuart… was only a mere few months earlier that she was brutally struck down during the embroyonic stages of her leadership development. Albeit by an individual who, years earlier, had said he is finished leading the BLP.

    You would recall Owen did not respond either when PM Stuart publicly disclose that Owen, in the presence of other persons at UN House , told him not go to the first ” Nation talk back ” discussion…… as it was foolishness (but Mia was there though !!).

    Well the BEES called for elections…..

    So right now it is set up to show that Owen has more BILE for poor Mia…..than a SMILE !

    The DEMS will continue to REPORT to the nation…….while the BEES will continue to GLOAT to the nation .

    This election is about CHARACTER and LEADERSHIP…..the public of Barbados in the coming weeks will understand why.

    Stay tuned to a big screen near you.


  16. DavidB February 3, 2013 at 9:44 PM #

    @ Fractured. . .

    President Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton fought a bitter, bruising battle in the democratic primaries in 2008. No one seeing that fight could ever imagine that the two of them could be anything but enemies for life.

    Who could forget Hillary’s “Shame on you, Barrack Obama!” or Obama’s ”You are likeable, I suppose, Hillary” comment.

    When it was all over Obama won, and it was clear that both Hillary and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, were deeply wounded by the experience. Indeed, many of Hillary’s supporters remain opponents of President Obama to this day. Many thought the rift between the two sides would be unbridgeable.

    Yet, the Clintons, to their credit, came around and endorsed Obama in the presidential election. And, when Mr. Obama assumed the presidency, he asked Mrs. Clinton to be his Secretary of State.

    What a Secretary of State she has turned out to be, and what a stellar relationship these two leaders now have!

    The point is that leadership struggles are, by definition, bruising. The real test, however, is the ability of the erstwhile contenders, after their fight, to work together for the good of the party and the advancement of country.

    I know it is politically opportune for the Prime Minister and the DLP to try to make much of alleged notes or conversations with Owen Arthur and Mia Mottley at the height of their leadership struggle.

    But, at this stage, any such material (if it does exist and that is a big “if”) is simply irrelevant because the leadership issue has been settled, at least for the time being.

    That is how party politics work. People struggle for leadership and, if the “defeated” person is mature enough, they lick their wounds, accept the temporary setback and wait until another opportunity arises that may be more favourable to their cause.

    In this regard, Ms. Mottley has shown remarkable common sense, character and poise. No wonder she continues to be so highly regarded among the electorate.

    The DLP should perhaps give this issue a rest unless they can show any CURRENT discord between the Mr. Arthur and Ms. Mottley, or among others in the party.

    Look at how the PARO ads are backfiring. People are wondering who would be so crazy to self-identify as a “paro” and then expect to be taken seriously. Check out Ricky Singh, Chantal Monroe-Knight and other commentators.

    Clearly, what may “work” for party insiders and supporters may not resonate with outsiders and independents.

    One thing that both political parties should look at after the election is over is their leadership selection processes. There is no good reason why the grass roots members should not be the ones to elect the person they deem most suitable to be their political leader. Such a move toward democratisation might very well encourage more persons to participate in the political process.


  17. Well Well February 4, 2013 at 7:27 AM #



  18. Astonished February 4, 2013 at 7:14 PM #

    WORLD RECESSION means all over the wold last time i checked, NOT BARBADOS ALONE, bear this in mind barbadians. The way some people are acting and speaking makes it sound as though it is only centered around this beautiful island of ours. Wake up people, there is no magic wand to fix the economic crisis out there as people would want us to believe, think, think people and show that we are not as stupid and blinded as they believe we are


  19. Well Well February 5, 2013 at 8:37 AM #

    Some are using the world recession to mislead and steal taxpayers money, we also know that.


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