THREE months after the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) completely routed the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in the May 24 poll, the euphoria of victory is giving way to unchanged reality.
The Mia Mottley administration is approaching its First 100 Days in office and the new Prime Minister and her government are starting to feel the full weight of the burden they now shoulder.
Economists predicted job cuts, which the prime minister has confirmed. The new government has also engaged with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bridge important financing gaps.
There’s not only talk of possible currency devaluation, but – as with the Ross University case and Dominica – also being accused of ‘stealing’ a major investment from a people still suffering greatly from post-disaster trauma and stress syndrome.
The BLP administration’s CARICOM policy is also under scrutiny at home, with at least one major newspaper, BARBADOS TODAY, commenting that Bridgetown’s tourism policies under PM Mottley ‘should not be dictated in Castries’.
Interestingly, the lengthy and blistering editorial, rather unfairly, used a photograph of the Saint Lucia and Barbados PMs in the company of some Barbados tourism officials to suggest, very strongly, that PM Mottley was sidelining her local team and taking tourism policy instructions from PM Chastanet.
PMs Mottley and Chastanet do have a close political relationship. Neither disputes this. But it is indeed a bit quite elastic to suggest that the Saint Lucia PM dictates Barbados’ tourism policy.
As complete as the BLP’s victory was, the new administration hasn’t taken long to find that the resulting public expectations are also equally at a maximum.
The honeymoon is over and all eyes are on Barbados.
There’s no parliamentary opposition to blame — or even to court — and no room either for escaping blame – merited or not — for all that goes wrong.
Unfortunately, the two-party electoral system is so deeply rooted in Barbados that, like the UWP and the SLP here — the width of the partisan political divide is such that the necessary social and economic transition may not be as smooth as needs to be in this time, especially when sugar and rum no longer rule the Bajan roost, tourism is no longer what it used to be and even Flying Fish have deserted Barbados’ waters.
It’s much too early to predict the extent to which Mia Mottley will be able to so turnaround the philosophical and ideological underpinnings of the party founded by the late Sir Grantley Adams and led by his late son JMG ‘Tom’ Adams as to overcome current macroeconomic problems without ordinary Barbados having to pay a high price.
The late Errol Barrow must be rumbling inside to see how the party he established and with which he led Barbados into Independence could have become such a victim of the vagaries of the ‘first past the post’ Westminster electoral system as to have been so mercilessly slaughtered at its last outing.
But dead the DLP is not — never mind its parliamentary absence – and the BLP will be very mindful that the two established Barbadian parties are so embedded in the system that no one can rule out the DLP eventually regaining steam down the road – especially as (another lesson learned by the SLP here) having reached the very top, the BLP has nowhere else to eventually go but down.
However, what matters most today, here and now, is the extent to and speed at which, after its First 100 Days, the Mia Mottley administration can so come to grips with the problems of state — of which there are many more than immediate solutions therefor – as to start meeting public expectations and begin making that difference promised and voted for.