Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Owing No Man A Thing

It's really lovely to live amongst the high and mighty, even though I would definitely call myself among life's meek and lowly. As I walked my daughter away from school on Monday, she grabbed me and whispered, "That's the prime minister, Daddy". My head turned and yes, there was the prime minister--at least one time removed from office, since last year's election defeat. I was mildly surprised to see Mr. Owen Arthur, dressed in a neat dark blue shirtjak, and not a soul was throwing themself on the ground or waving a fist and saying, "Go, Owin. You tell dem. Yea. Poor rakey, fi true." I had not heard that the ex-PM's daughter was now at the same school, but let me say a belated welcome. None of the fuss and hoopla that one would get in a place like Washington, DC, where men in dark suits and things sticking out of their ears would be jumping out of large dark vehicles and would be looking around frantically or worse pushing people out of the way, saying, "Coming through. PM coming through..." No, we get the simple life. Mr. Arthur can mind his own business, so to speak. But it set me to reflect on the vagaries of politics.

The ex-PM, of course, has his crosses to bear and the political opponents are ready to remind him of his many failings (see today's Advocate article by Hartley Henry about the ex-PM's apparent lack of modesty). Just a snippet, noting:

Not only did Arthur promote only himself in his speech, but he also sought to bring into question the professional judgment of some of Barbados’ most celebrated economic brains. As far as Arthur is concerned, it would appear, there are Economists and there are Economists. He is An Economist and no one else is, according to the inference that could be drawn from his pronouncements. But what is the record of this self proclaimed Dean of the Economic Corps?

Mr. Arthur has brought a bit of opprobrium onto himself with his claim that Parliament has become 'poor rakey'(woefully sub-standard), alluding to the level of debate and intellectualising. Again, many have not taken this as a good reflection on the man who seems to owe no one (see Trevor Yearwood's article in Nation, January 12), even pointing out that his 50 percent absence rate from the recent Parliamentary sessions suggests less than full value for money for his constituency.

All of this should not let me detract from wishing Barbados' current PM, David Thompson, happy birthday, for his first year of government on January 15.Mr. Thompson went on the national airwaves last night for a press conference, in the cozy setting of Ilaro Court, with some of the usual suspects posing questions (a few of which I had helped frame). I did not see all of the broadcast, but my acquaintance, Mr. David Ellis, was lobbing the usual fireballs and seemed set to 'tek no nonsense': he is wonderfully abrasive, which is not the same as being confrontational.

But PM Thompson also had his biffs to deliver, (see Advocate report). He had found 'an awful mess' left behind by (is that right behind?) the previous PM and his government. He described several of these, including the ABC Highway, allegations of corruption at Hardwood Housing Inc., and the operations of the Rural Development Commission and the Urban Development Commission. He hinted that if culprits were could culpable they would be culled (that's how Bajans say 'killed'?).

Much to my disappointment, PM Thompson could not put traction under a major campaign promise on integrity legislation. He said that his government was still committed to freedom of information and integrity legislation, but the process has taken longer than anticipated. He said that the independent committee commissioned to draft the legislation has made significant progress. But we are still waiting to see any concrete movement on this, and I think that this hurts the government's credibility.

On the economy, I heard of construction projects and plans that will help boost economic activity but did not hear about strategy. That too worries me. It's interesting that, by implication the government-friendly Advocate has a similar viewpoint (see report), because it has nothing to say in its editorial about the administration's economic policies, even using a tortured phrase, that has to be read at least five times:

...it would be hard to fault the DLP government for the continued socio-economic progress which we have enjoyed over the past year (sic).

So, in our simple little world the former PM is readily accessible to his people by just seeing to be an ordinary 'Joe', and the new PM is trying to be readily accessible by letting himself be questioned--in a broadly friendly manner--in front of television cameras and microphones. I would like to see if he is brave enough to have a Bajan 'town hall' meeting in a rum shop, or series of them.

As PM Thompson said last night, this is a small society. It's good that this still allows for the distance between the big ups ad the rest of us to be quite small.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yep, saw him myself in the car park at school the other day.