Monday, April 22, 2024

BLP’s first year (Part 2)


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THIS ARTICLE continues my assessment of the First Year performance of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration under Prime Minister Mia Mottley. While the focus in Part I was on policies, Part 2 focuses on governance.

The distinction is important.

Whist Government’s policy shortcomings can be blamed on its constrained nature because of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the “state of the wicket” which it inherited, any governance shortcomings, in contrast, are entirely self-inflicted. Polices are what you do, governance is what you are. This is particularly true given the Government’s 30-0 mandate and a “catspraddled” Opposition, which has lessened the need for the poor governance associated with adversarial politics.

In this regard, two positives can be highlighted.

Public engagement

The first is the Government’s conscious attempt at regular communication and public engagement, the absence of which was one of the major failures of the previous administration. However, the BLP should avoid the tendency of “over-propagandising”.

If not handled carefully, with further economic deterioration, the Government’s public relations may result in increasing cynicism, and distrust.

A second positive, is the Government’s deliberate avoidance of the stench of corruption.

The Prime Minister’s insistence that no government business should be conducted via personal email or in the absence of public servants was an important statement of intent towards clean government.

However, some worrying concerns and contradictions in the BLP’s approach to governance have begun to manifest themselves, and, if not checked, may lead to deeper problems. These contradictions arise as a result

of unnecessary attempts at political aggrandisement coupled with the historical class biases of the BLP, now further problematised as a consequence of the ongoing gruelling neo-liberal austerity.

Large Cabinet

They include: the decision to appoint, including via the Senate, an extremely large Cabinet with some ministers having razor thin slices of administrative responsibility; the decision to appoint a public relations consultant, despite the presence of people in the Cabinet with similar skill sets, indicating the prioritising of political theatre over sober administration; the payment of US$27 million to a financial consultant firm, in a context of mass public sector layoffs.

This latter development is symptomatic of a new anti-public sector ethos which has come with the neo-liberal packaging in which everything is now wrapped.

These are the troubling signs.

Only time will tell whether they grow to define the Mia Mottley Administration.

Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs.





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