Thursday, April 18, 2024

ALBERT BRANDFORD: BLP’s Covenant of Hope


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THE OPPOSITION Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has taken the unusual step of putting into the public domain, as the pre-election season warms up, a document that’s not a manifesto, but a firmer and more durable commitment.

It’s called Our Covenant of Hope, described as a philosophical exhortation that captures the party’s journey thus far and puts the future in a code of principles and vision.

The BLP seems to be demonstrating its understanding that it must not only show how the current administration has underperformed but its own capacity to offer hope to Barbadians.

In the midst of Government’s celebrations of the 50th anniversary of independence, when Barbados is at one of its lowest ebbs, the covenant is a reminder of the need for renewal.

In the current political environment of uncertainty and despair, there is a sense that the decision making lacks context and permanence. Public policy is giving way to the dictates of the present without serious regard for the longer term effects on Barbados’ growth and development prospects.

The document embraces the following phrase – strict guardians of our heritage – with reference to the BLP’s leadership from its inception. The message is that Barbados may be celebrating its 50th year of independence but its political history is much longer.

And there is Johnathan Sacks’ definition of covenant: “Covenant occurs when two individuals or groups, differing perhaps in power, but each acknowledging the integrity and sovereignty of the other, pledge themselves in mutual loyalty to achieve together what neither can achieve alone.”

That captures the essence of the post-1930s journey that started with severe disparity in power among the governed and governors and yet there was recognition that Barbados’ transformation could only come about if the two groups found some common ground.

This turbulent, yet enriching, period of transformation laid the foundation for Independence.

The end of the first 50 years is being threatened by an uncharacteristic increase in poverty and a noticeable decline in social values in the fifth decade. This increases the political resonance in the covenant.

The message of together we can achieve becomes more attractive in a period of decline.

In a world of increasing diversity, it is difficult for Barbadians to escape acknowledging the integrity and sovereignty of each other. These two moral concepts are carrying broader meaning in an era when individual rights are becoming even more paramount.

Social values are being reshaped in an environment where the relationship between the governed and the governors is one that is not only reflecting differing powers but also differing spirituality.

The overarching vision of a new national consciousness speaks to a “Barbadian who is confident, happy and conscious of moral, spiritual and cultural values. One who is compassionate and charitable towards fellow citizens, regional neighbours and visitors to our shores and who has a multicultural and multi-ethnic awareness.”

These are prerequisites for enhancing Barbados’ capacity to improve workers’ productivity and by extension the economy’s competitiveness.

In every sphere of life, the issue comes back to the condition of the human being. The document reflects this in its pledges to public servants, children, young people, people with disabilities, senior citizens and the diaspora.

The ultimate politics is that the contents constitute the basis for ongoing engagement with the people.

While Government is celebrating the anniversary year-long anniversary, the BLP has a document to discuss the way forward. The former is for the most part looking back, which provides a contrast in the circumstances for Government. The latter is a look ahead, which provides the hope of a better Barbados.

According to political leader Mia Mottley: “It is a covenant of hope between us and you. We will come to you, parish by parish, to listen to you and elicit your ideas on how best to put our vision to work for you. And in return, we will ask for your patriotic and enthusiastic participation as together we seek to turn that vision into reality.”                

Everything a politician does is political. But timing is as important as content.

The launch of the covenant is timely; not only are the economic and social environments longing for context, but so too, is the industrial relations’ climate.

There is an intangible in politics called momentum that is triggered sometimes by the least likely events. It may be one that highlights a political opponent’s shortcomings or one that reinforces some good in the proponent.

The Barbados political landscape is gearing for the next major battle that could be as tactical as it is confrontational. 

Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent. Email:


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