A DLP ‘May Day’ Distress Signal for Barbadians (LETTER TO THE EDITOR) by Henderson Bovell

Research shows that “Mayday signals” are so serious that they must only be communicated when “there is grave and imminent danger to life.” That is why most countries are said to impose huge penalties for false, unwarranted or prank distress signals. But making promises is a DLP trademark and that is the dilemma. Under the bold caption: “Overhaul Coming” the Barbados Advocate of May 2, 2012 reported Prime Minister Stuart as having said that ‘a complete review and overhaul of all legislation concerned with the rights of workers in this country can be expected within the coming months.’ Could this be yet another in a never-ending-series of “unwarranted or prank DLP distress signals?” The DLP is not known to keep its promises and in any event – Mr. Stuart was Attorney General of Barbados – up to 2010!

While genuine assistance for workers would most definitely be welcomed as, ‘great news’ by any patriotic Barbadian, it is not ‘breaking news’ that the Prime Minister was addressing workers on the occasion of May Day or that a general election is around the corner and that for some time now – the DLP has been talking about a wage freeze. In fact, while inflation is now said to be 9% and rising fast – the pay of workers is not able to keep paste because of flawed DLP policies.

The Public Service Act; the Employees Rights Bill; the Safety and Health at Work Bill are all progressive pieces of BLP legislation. Without fanfare, it is the BLP that gave security of tenure to thousands of Casual Employees in the public service of Barbados, thereby removing them from their previous status of, ‘permanent contingency, under DLP rule!’

Furthermore, by managing the economy well and ensuring economic growth, an Owen Arthur-led BLP created the conditions where the workers of Barbados were happy. But that was before they became innocently immersed in the DLP’s society of errors: poor judgment; flawed policies and bad decision.

Telling Barbadian workers that they are in a better position than the workers of Greece and Spain is silly, especially when no sensible person would disagree that it was fiscal recklessness which led to the crisis in both countries. This should be of major concern to the DLP. Without intervention from Barbadians, instead of the ‘pathway to progress’ the DLP promised, Barbados will end-up like the very Spain and Greece, the DLP uses (as a diplomatic way) of telling Barbadians, ‘stop bellyaching,’ and to: ‘don’t worry… be happy!

But! What are the facts? It was cheap credit, a lot of which is said to have been provided by German banks, which caused a huge real estate bubble in Spain. And, as you know, all bubbles have to burst at some time. When the one in Spain did, it “devastated Spain’s construction, with spin-off negative effects such as: high unemployment; a slowdown and ultimate meltdown of the economy and the undermining and of previously strong public finances.” It is also said that at the time the bubble burst, the Spanish government had – absolutely no public debt at all.

It got worst! Creating a cushion (spending to create social safety net) compounded by plunging revenues, resulted in a budget deficit. Sounds familiar? It should because that it now the reality in the DLP’s society. Today, Spain is having “considerable trouble cutting public expenditures. Because the cuts that now have to be made are so severe, that country keeps missing its deficit reduction target by a large amount.” Isn’t the DLP missing the targets of its Medium term Fiscal Strategy (MTFS) also?

According to the former NAB Chair & popular commentator - "Then there is Greece, which is said – cooked its books to fool the EU so it could join. If it is true that the DLP too, is trying to trick rating agencies - Standard and Poor’s (S&P) and Moody’s – in order to avoid a downgrade (despite its fiscal recklessness) then a promise of amending labour legislation ‘within coming months,’ will be of little help or comfort to workers, especially given the rate at which businesses are already closing."

With the economy on a fast free fall from prosperity to crisis, the DLP mayday distress signal might just be justified.

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