Wednesday, April 24, 2024

ON THE OTHER HAND: Battle won, war lost?


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Owen Arthur may have won the battle, but he may lose the war.
Mr Arthur’s achievements in office make him one of the outstanding prime ministers of Barbados. He had an incisive intellect; superb political instincts; was decisive; and was a voracious reader and quick learner.
But Mr Arthur has served three terms in office. He is past his prime. He has lost his tolerance for dissenting views, as comes naturally when you hold the reins of power for so long. Moreover, aging CEOs, when they insist on keeping command, are prone to serious errors of judgement: they aren’t aware that their reflexes have slowed and their instincts dulled; they’re under the illusion that what worked in the past must necessarily work now; they are less likely to seek fresh views since they think they know it all; and they surround themselves with those who flatter them.
Owen Arthur is showing bad judgement in seeking to lead the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) again, unless he has something in mind that the public is unaware of.
Admittedly, the circumstances are tempting. The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) leader [has died]. There appears to be a likely struggle to succeed him. The economy is in the doldrums. Economics is Arthur’s strong suit. Who but he can be the saviour of the country again? A reprise of 1994.
He should have resisted the temptation. Far from this overture leading to the culmination of a glorious career, it may end in ignominy. Mr Arthur would have been much better off fleshing out the role of elder statesman and making a mark for himself in the international arena, where he has earned enormous respect.
The BLP is unlikely to win the next election, though they should, in the normal course of events, gain more seats.
Prime Minister Thompson’s appointment of Chris Sinckler as Minister of Finance was a smart move. He’s bright, articulate, and by all accounts a good listener and a quick learner. He’s also energetic and a get-things-done person, which is precisely what the country needs now. You don’t have to be an economist to be an effective Minister of Finance.
Mr Sinckler has excellent advisers within the ministry, the Central Bank and other departments, not to mention a wealth of experience and wisdom in the private sector he can draw on.
In the absence of David Thompson, Sinckler perfectly complements Freundel Stuart, a fine intellect who has been a distinguished Attorney-General and a rock of solidity when he has had to act as Prime Minister in difficult circumstances.
If Owen Arthur thinks he will make parliamentary mincemeat of Chris Sinckler, he may be in for a surprise.
The change of guard in the BLP parliamentary party was not handled with the level of decorum of 1993 when Sir Henry Forde stepped down as Leader of the Opposition and was succeeded by Owen Arthur. The highly public leadership squabble not only leaves a bitter aftertaste in the party, but encourages some of the public to wonder about the motives of Mr Arthur. Certainly he and his backers have not dealt honourably with Ms Mottley.
Mia Mottley has lost the battle, but she may well win the war.
Decades ago it was obvious that two brilliant young Barbadians would one day be prime ministers of their country. Both were demonised personally. Yet David Thompson endured and prevailed. Fate however dealt him an unkind cut, with his passing yesterday.
Mia Mottley will lick her wounds, wheel and come again.
Owen Arthur has served this country well and his place in history is already assured. He should think carefully about his stewardship of the parliamentary party in the next couple of years.
l Peter Laurie is a retired diplomat and a commentator on social issues; email


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