Thursday, April 18, 2024

PEOPLE AND THINGS: Another case of WMD


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IT IS A not so well known fact that in politics one of the surest ways to ensure that a minister does not get fired is to demand that his boss (the Prime Minister fires him).

This reality arises from the fact that the only person who can dismiss a minister is the Prime Minister and, of course, it is unseemly that a Prime Minister is given instructions, least of all by an opposition functionary. As such, the call by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley for the “political head” of Minister Christopher Sinckler should always be properly understood as a strategy that would ensure that “her good friend” got to keep his job, no matter how adversarial the attack might have appeared.

On the face of it, both then and now, there are good reasons to call for Sinckler’s political head if such a call is framed in the context of our objective economic reality. While the economy was already in recession by the time Sinckler became Minister of Finance in 2010, it has clearly struggled to recover under his watch. The 2009 recession could not be blamed on Sinckler or his predecessor, but the 2013 recession is most certainly not evidence of his outstanding work. Recession aside, there have also been the downgrades by both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, and Sinckler himself admitted to some amount of capital flight occasioned by a lack of confidence in 2013.

In response, we have seen the Medium Term Fiscal Strategy, the Revised Medium Term Fiscal Strategy and the 2013 Budget all fail to turn things around and the mounting evidence of underperformance is clearly sufficient to justify someone’s dismissal. Prime Minister Stuart is however constrained by the fact that his actions would be interpreted as the opposition “calling the shots”. The fact that Stuart appears unconcerned is less a reflection on the soundness of the opposition strategy and has more to do with a peculiarity of this Prime Minister who appears not to lose sleep over much.

Paying attention

Drainage Minister Denis Lowe has clearly been paying attention to these events and he is presumably also aware of the mounting evidence that he, like Sinckler, has not been particularly effective. One need only note the frequent complaints from people about non-collection of garbage, along with the confusion surrounding the new trucks which Lowe assured us were not ordered since 2005, while he posed for pictures in front of a fleet of new vehicles in November of 2013 at Mangrove.

The more significant concern now, however, has emerged ironically from statements made in the Senate by Parliamentary Secretary Irene Sandiford-Garner, who expressed concern about the manner in which Harrison’s Cave was being run. This entity apparently received a cash injection of 16 million in 2006 and has been extensively refurbished but continues to lose money. Nevertheless, it has continued to find the resources to pay a CEO more than $12 000 monthly and agreed to pay one lawyer more than half-million dollars for reviewing a loan contract.

It is clear that for one reason or another the Cave was shifted from Lowe and one presumes this is due to the fact that his boss was so pleased with his performance that he thought it best to give this most valuable asset to someone else to run.

Essentially, it can be argued that Lowe has done an outstanding job of making a case for his own dismissal; however, now that his dismissal has been “demanded” by a group of renegade homosexuals, we can rest assured that his job is “safe”. This somewhat convoluted analysis reveals the extent to which Lowe’s political mind is considerably more sophisticated than one might initially think. The foregoing circumstances were all known to him; therefore the “gay conundrum” presented an early Christmas present which he fully exploited to assume the moral high-ground and escape answering the real questions he ought to be asked.

There is fundamentally nothing wrong with Lowe’s strategy; however, the fact that he has successfully exploited the adoption of a discriminatory posture to avoid answering important questions speaks volumes about us as a people. The Democratic Labour Party and its ministers have clearly mastered the use of the WMD (Weapon of Mass Distraction), which was effective in the 2013 campaign against Arthur, who trusted our political maturity too much and attempted a conversation about economic management. As history now repeats itself, one is inclined to ask (ironically on our 48th birthday) . . .  are we really this fickle?

 • Peter W. Wickham ( is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).

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