Barbados’ main political parties launch election campaigns

Freundel Stuart

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and its main contender in the upcoming election launched their political campaigns over the weekend, with one outlining promises to fix the island’s economic and other social problems if successful in the May 24 poll, and the other pouring cold water on those promises and launching an attack on the political leader.

The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was the first of the two to launch, with leader Mia Mottley outlining the party’s remedy for the economic decline, public transportation woes, and the South Coast sewage problems, and repealing the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), restoring free tertiary education, raising pensions and other issues.

Along with the plans unveiled over the last several months, Mottley promised civil servants, who have been pushing for a salary increase for almost two years, that she would be meeting with the trade unions shortly after taking office to discuss this issue. She also revealed that if it is determined that an increase cannot be immediately afforded, a living allowance would be provided within three months.

“There are those naysayers who say ‘well how you going pay for it?’ …I have come tonight to tell you that this country of ours that has a BDS$10 billion (US$5 billion) economy and a BDS$4 billion (US$2 billion) Government expenditure, can be no different from what each and every one of you householders have to face every day and every week in this country,” Mottley said.

“When they [DLP] ask with temerity, ‘how you going do it?’ they know as well as I do that they have had at their fingertips the tools to make decisions about choices and about rejigging how we spend our money. I have come to Weymouth to tell you that this is not rocket science.”

In her hour-long speech, the Opposition Leader explained that the BLP was not making promises which were out of whack with the economic times, but rather was outlining the social safety nets and institutions to be safeguarded in the period of belt tightening to come.

Mottley said cutting out wastage, stamping out corruption and reprioritizing the country’s expenditure would give a BLP Government all the money it needed to fulfill its campaign promises.

At its launch 24 hours later, the DLP questioned how Mottley would finance all her plans, and also launched an attack against a woman it says feels entitled and questioned her competence to be a Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart argued that she was privileged and believed her bloodline gave her a sense of entitlement.

“We cannot allow those kind of thought processes to cast root again in Barbados; we left that behind a long time ago,” he told the thousands gathered outside the National Stadium.

Stuart went back to an article in March 2002 when Mottley became a Queen’s Counsel where then Chief Justice Sir David Simmons, in his citation, stated “. . . whose bloodlines spell and portend limitless and boundless opportunities for even greater achievement”.

Stuart said the days of people getting through based on their bloodline were long gone.

Both Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick warned that promises coming from Mottley on the platform could not be achieved.

Sinckler referred to a promise of increasing non-contributory pensions, pointing out that any increase there would run into millions and the contributory pensions would also have to increase.

Estwick said Mottley appeared to have a magic wand that could solve every problem, including the South Coast sewage crisis. He criticized her suggestion that the businesses there should be closed down and Government pay workers while the Barbados Water Authority worked on the crisis.

He also described as “hogwash” Mottley’s proposal to get rid of the National Social Responsibility Levy and other taxes, while increasing givebacks to the people.