Errol Barrow Day 2010: Election Review of the Right Excellent EWB’s Splinter Party by ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ – NEW FEATURE
Here’s what we hope is a regular feature from a spirited individualwho is definitely opinionated about what pases for Government in our Gem of the Caribbean Sea;-
When The Bajan Reporter asked me to write a regular piece, I asked if I could remain anonymous, and use a pseudonym, so from this point on I will be known as The Devil’s Advocate. The reason being is that I am going to look at current issues and give another view of things, not necessarily my own opinion all the time, but an alternative perspective, and let you, the readers, debate it.
So for my first column I thought I would spend the day reading the DLP Election Manifesto and see if I thought they were doing a good job in keeping the promises they made in order to get elected. To say it made frightening reading is an understatement, I could have written thousand of words and raised over a hundred issues which have not been addressed. So I am just going to touch on a few areas and throw it open to you for your thoughts on the first two years, do you think the DLP are doing a good job and are they keeping the promises they made?
Lets begin with their own thought on Good Governance, the manifesto states “We will immediately introduce integrity legislation requiring a declaration of assets of public officials” Now I seem to remember them being challenged to comply with this a year or so ago but I cannot remember it happening? Immediately introduce? Two years is hardly immediate.
On a Modern Civil Service it says “Implementing customer charters in all Government Ministries and Departments to develop a truly customer focused, customer driven, public service” and under Hassle Free Service “ Make access to Government Services more convenient by the use of technology, e.g. telephone, internet and credit cards” So perhaps I missed the customer charters, which presumably would include Service Standards the staff should comply with for things like answering a phone, return a phone query, answer an email? This is strange because I have personally sent the same email 4 times to The Ministry of Labour with no reply. I know someone who met with The Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary 6 weeks ago to complain about a lack of response to letters, emails, faxes and phone calls, to The Prime Minister’s Office, Guess what? Senator Sandiford-Garner promised to investigate and get back to them, they still await an answer!
Tourism an area which lost $170 Million last year, “Draw up a Master Plan” I have not seen any evidence of it, this is needed now before it is too late! I do not joke about this because without a sound tourism industry Barbados is bankrupt. “Diversify and enhance the tourism product of Barbados by linking tourism to culture, sports, the arts and the environment” Who wrote this rubbish? If you think you can make tourism inroads by this I am the next President of the USA, and not being American this would be very difficult! Tourists do not come for Culture, the arts and the environment, they come for the beaches and the sun, Yes, a number come for Cropover but not any other events. If England are playing cricket here then sports tourism rises but none of the other test playing nations bring big numbers. Yes bringing sports teams to play here brings them in, and this is one area which really needs developing, but government cannot fool anyone by suggesting that Tennis pon de Rock, The CLOBI Cup and the Sailing World Championship being held here soon will bring in significant numbers of tourists. “Develop the concept of community tourism by training and motivating local people to provide accommodation and other services to visitors in their communities, link tourism to agriculture” What utter rubbish! Tourists in general want ocean front hotels with hot and cold running waiters, it costs a lot of money to fly to Barbados from the big three points of origin, UK, USA and Canada and when paying that sort of money you can also afford the luxury of a hotel. Look at the disastrous home accommodation plan from Cricket World Cup, how many people are still paying off loans (sorry I mean grants) from that? And as for agriculture, when you have seen one Black Bellied Sheep and one Cane Field you have seen them all!
Sports for All I will deal with all of these promises in one go, “Construct a National Sports Hostel for athletes from home and abroad” “Upgrade North Stars to an International Standard Stadium” “Build an International Standard Stadium in the East to cater for soccer and other sports” and “Develop Centres of Sporting Excellence in schools and communities” I have heard no mention of this hostel being proposed never mind built, North Stars, while a fine ground is nowhere near International standards, Never heard any plans in the east for another International Stadium, and to set up Centres of Sporting Excellence you need to start at the beginning and recruit and train the coaches! Have you heard of this happening?
Energy “Phase out the use of incandescent light bulbs from all Government Buildings by 2010 and private households by 2012” It says BY 2010 (Not in or by the end of), so has this happened? And what about retailers selling light bulbs, have they been told they will not be able to sell them by 2012, so don’t order too many? Has a Law been passed to effect this? Is there a supply big enough to replace all of the old bulbs?
Health Care for All Now I like this one and am looking forward to reading it, and wondering if they fail to meet the service standards which will be set out within it if they will pay compensation? “DLP will introduce a Patients Charter, increase the number of trained medical personnel, reduce waiting times at A & E, construct a new A & E wing providing more beds and equipment, expand the asthma bay, set up a GP Service as an adjunct to A & E to streamline patients entering it thereby alleviating long waits, and Upgrading and opening selected polyclinics 24/7” All great vote winning formula’s, can anyone tell me of one of these happening?
Finally I am going to finish with Lowering the Cost of Living This is an area that affects all of us on a daily basis so it is probably closest to all of our hearts! Now some of the wording on some of the statements within the manifesto are unbelievable gobbledegook, and non more so than under this heading so I am going to paraphrase some of them, but if you want to read the entire, undiluted version they are available on the DLP Website (though if I was them I would remove it, I mean you don’t want everyone to be able to refer to it before the next election!) “Review the basket of goods upon which V.A.T. And other impositions have been removed and expand it significantly” So what new items are there? I am assuming I have just not noticed this change! “Examine the feasibility of removing V.A.T. On Utility Bills for Households and Businesses” Well I am off to Surepay later and have just looked at my bills, and not only do they have V.A.T. on them, rather than decrease they have Increased! “Review items coming into Barbados, decide if the tariff’s are needed, and lower some and remove others” So which have been lowered and which have been removed? Perhaps the method of dealing with petrol (gas) and diesel falls in this? I mean come on, it must cost more to administer a 1 cent drop per litre price in gas than it saves! And finally “Barbados can rest assured that a DLP Administration will do something tangible and meaningful about this vexing issue of the cost of living, because we are beholden to no one” Well believe me I am not resting assured and actually you are beholden to someone, THE VOTERS WHO PUT YOU IN POWER, and remember, they can also vote you out again!
There are many more issues in the manifesto I could go through, but time and space here prevents this. So do I think Mr Thompson has kept his promises? No, but then all politicians lie to get in power the world over. Do I think he is doing a good job? Now if you had asked me at the end of year one I would have said yes, but year two has not been a good one. By now he should be acting on most of the above items. Would I give him another term in office? Only if he starts doing something rather than accuse me of .
What are the bright spots of the first two years? I think that the performance of two Ministers stand out. Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo is certainly on the fast track to future leadership of the party. She is well spoken, passionate and sets herself achievable goals. Though I still have never gotten to the bottom of why she was not at the Ryan Braithwaite presentations? Was she on vacation? Overall a good job. Secondly Richard Sealy has so far done a reasonable job in Tourism, however, this is going to be the year that makes or breaks him. Please do not try to comfort us with cruise ship numbers, we all know that this is not our major revenue. We need above average occupancy rates in a depression, no easy task, but I have a lot more faith in Mr Sealy’s efforts than his predecessors.
The Biggest “Foot in Mouth” Moments? Ronald Jones was winning this hands down, for his brilliant interview in September 2008, when speaking about one of the schools not being ready to open for the new term, and asking the pupils and their parents to clean and set out the furniture “Don’t blame me” I am sorry but if the Minister Responsible for Education is not the person to blame, who is? The word responsible should give him some clue! However just before Christmas last Mr Jones was beaten hands down, when Michael Lashley described Al Barack as “Frivolous and vexatious” I honestly could not see him remaining in his job for the rest of the day, let alone over a month now. I wish somebody owed him $63 Million Dollars and lets see if he finds that frivolous and vexatious?
To finish and throw the debate open to you, how do I rate the past two years on a scale of 1-10, I guess I would give them a 4, so what do you think? Is David Thompson measuring up to his pre election promises? Join the debate, and please remember, I have no affiliation to any party, I am just playing Devil’s Advocate.