GLOBAL PO­LIT­I­CAL TO SWEEP INTO BAR­BA­DOS’ 2018 ELEC­TION

The Star (St. Lucia) - Business Week - - NEWS - BY ED KENNEDY, STAR BUSI­NESS­WEEK COR­RE­SPON­DENT

We see many na­tions the world over in a time of huge po­lit­i­cal tur­bu­lence. Last year saw the shock de­ci­sion of the UK’s Brexit vote‚ and in the US the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump to the White House. This year has seen the trend con­tinue, with the strength of far right can­di­dates in French and Ger­man elec­tions not only strain­ing Euro­pean unity but test­ing many po­lit­i­cal norms and con­ven­tions that have been pil­lars of lib­eral democ­ra­cies in the post-war era.

Put sim­ply, while to­day we’re more glob­ally con­nected than ever from an eco­nomic per­spec­tive, many na­tions have seen their pol­i­tics turn in­wards and be­come more em­bit­tered with each elec­tion cy­cle. The Caribbean is not im­mune to this global trend and so, with the up­com­ing elec­tions con­sti­tu­tion­ally re­quired in Bar­ba­dos be­fore mid-2018, an over­view of this trend in the na­tion is es­sen­tial for busi­ness.

THE IS­SUES

While Bar­ba­dos is small in the global econ­omy, with elec­tions held only ev­ery five years, its ca­pac­ity to change course is more lim­ited than a na­tion that would see elec­tions for its par­lia­ment in a shorter du­ra­tion of ev­ery two or three years.

Short-term con­cerns for Bar­ba­di­ans are is­sues too fa­mil­iar to most other na­tions‚ with jobs and growth be­ing core themes. While Bar­ba­dos’ un­em­ploy­ment rate at 9.8% is down from the high of 12.3% in 2014 - and way be­low the strato­spheric heights 24.4% in 1993 - it still pales to the record low of 7.4% seen in 2007. It is here that a pic­ture of Bar­ba­dos’ wider chal­lenges is il­lus­trated, as achiev­ing growth and re­ju­ve­na­tion over mere main­te­nance of ex­ist­ing busi­ness is an on­go­ing prob­lem.

Like other na­tions in the re­gion, grow­ing free trade, re­duc­ing tar­iffs and seek­ing to build greater con­fi­dence sur­round­ing its na­tional econ­omy - be­set by high pub­lic debt and re­cent down­grades in its credit sta­tus - loom as key tasks for Bar­ba­dos in its next five years. So, too, the con­tin­u­ing ef­forts in Bar­ba­dos and beyond to ad­dress the chal­lenge of Cli­mate Change.

Fur­ther, while Bar­ba­dos sees strong per­for­mance in its ma­jor sec­tors of tourism and bank­ing, these sec­tors are not in­vul­ner­a­ble.

As the world con­tin­ues its growth into a more glob­alised econ­omy, more of the world’s wealth and eco­nomic power shifts to­wards the Asian re­gion, and even the rise of cryp­tocur­rency sig­ni­fy­ing lo­ca­tion may be­come less and less im­por­tant to fi­nance in the fu­ture; any ex­pec­ta­tion by politi­cians in the Bar­ba­dos cap­i­tal Bridgetown that it’ll be ‘busi­ness as usual’ within these sec­tors in years ahead will be tested.

PAR­LIA­MENT AND PER­SONAL POL­I­TICS

Bar­ba­dos achieved in­de­pen­dence in 1966 with the for­mer Bri­tish colony be­com­ing a con­sti­tu­tional monar­chy on Novem­ber 30th of that year. Since then it has carved a unique iden­tity as a na­tion and, as seen via its par­tic­i­pa­tion in the es­tab­lish­ment of the Caribbean Court of Jus­tice (CCJ), has been a key voice of regional lead­er­ship and re­form.

This progress has been aided by na­tional sta­bil­ity‚ with 30 seats in par­lia­ment, and the two ma­jor par­ties, the Demo­cratic Labour Party (DLP) and the Bar­ba­dos Labour Party (BLP)‚ swap­ping tenures in gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion since in­de­pen­dence.

With the cur­rent gov­ern­ment hold­ing a ma­jor­ity of one seat, this is an elec­tion that could see Prime Min­is­ter Fre­un­del Stu­art’s DLP re-elected or Op­po­si­tion leader Mia Mot­t­ley’s BLP take power. As read­ers may de­duce from the sim­i­lar party names (not to men­tion their sim­i­lar DLP and BLP short­hand), the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two par­ties in the past were of­ten held to be mi­nor, and the busi­ness of gov­ern­ment or­derly‚ but many in­di­ca­tors show this elec­tion will be of a dif­fer­ent ilk.

Ac­cu­sa­tions of poor eco­nomic ad­min­is­tra­tion by the Stu­art gov­ern­ment with the coun­try’s credit rat­ing down­graded in Septem­ber from CCC+ to CCC - in tan­dem with cri­tique of its trans­parency in the man­age­ment of the Na­tional In­sur­ance Scheme, sit within a po­lit­i­cal cli­mate that has ac­cu­sa­tions of per­sonal cor­rup­tion on the part of min­is­ters, lead­ing Cab­i­net mem­ber Chris Sinck­ler say­ing this will be the “nas­ti­est cam­paign” ever. The op­po­si­tion, in re­turn, has ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of seek­ing to at­tack Mot­t­ley’s per­sonal in­tegrity and tar­nish her char­ac­ter.

GLOBAL TRENDS, LO­CAL IM­PACT

At its core these bat­tle lines show that Bar­ba­dos is set to ex­pe­ri­ence what other na­tions have al­ready been through. Beyond the reg­u­lar rough and tum­ble of a po­lit­i­cal cam­paign, there is a global prob­lem with the con­fi­dence in gov­ern­ment it­self, be­ing borne out in na­tional elec­tions. In this re­spect ap­a­thy for Bridgetown mir­rors the trends seen in the elec­tion of Trump, and other po­lit­i­cal phenomenon else­where.

This trend is not only de­liv­er­ing non­tra­di­tional fig­ures from out­side pol­i­tics, like Trump on the right, but lead­ers like French pres­i­dent Macron in the cen­tre and, more widely, a spate of young lead­ers like Cana­dian PM Justin Trudeau and New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern who seek to por­tray them­selves as a new and non-tra­di­tional brand of politi­cian.

THE ELEC­TION DATE

The Bar­ba­dos ex­pe­ri­ence speaks to a re­al­ity that pol­i­tics in re­cent times has gone up a notch across many coun­tries. It has never been a field for the faint of heart but one need only look at the harsh rhetoric and di­vi­sive de­bate in the Ba­hamas ear­lier this year to know Bar­ba­dos’ cam­paign will cer­tainly be tur­bu­lent.

By virtue of its small par­lia­ment and sys­tem of gov­ern­ment, Bar­ba­dos has no prospect of a Trump-like phenomenon oc­cur­ring and a leader win­ning of­fice‚ chang­ing the na­tion overnight. There is a risk, though, that the wounds of this cam­paign, like the ones ex­posed in the US elec­tion of last year, will be opened and en­hanced by a vi­cious cam­paign.

The ex­act date is not yet fixed but po­lit­i­cal his­tory gives us some clues sur­round­ing a po­ten­tial date. In Bar­ba­dos and sim­i­lar coun­tries where the prime min­is­ter has the ca­pac­ity to call for an elec­tion (via re­quest to the gover­nor­gen­eral), choos­ing around Christ­mas or New Year’s Day is re­garded as po­lit­i­cally un­wise. The Easter pe­riod is also un­likely for the same rea­son.

In turn, while it’s no­table that Prime Min­is­ter Stu­art broke with tra­di­tion and called the last elec­tion five years af­ter this par­lia­ment first sat (some­thing which, by con­ven­tion, is not usu­ally done), it is also not good for a gov­ern­ment to be seen to ‘cling to power’, and wait un­til the last pos­si­ble date for an elec­tion to oc­cur, es­pe­cially in such a fierce po­lit­i­cal cli­mate.

The elec­tions in 1991, 1999 and 2008 all oc­curred in Jan­uary, with the 2013 elec­tion in Fe­bru­ary. So, sooner rather than later, and an early 2018 elec­tion, is likely for Bridgetown.

Ac­cord­ingly, whether it is a PM to re-elect or a new op­po­si­tion to win gov­ern­ment, they’ll need to be mind­ful in the cam­paign that who­ever wins of­fice will have to run the coun­try af­ter­wards. A ‘di­vide and con­quer’ ap­proach may make for ef­fec­tive cam­paign­ing but can ir­ri­tate the vot­ing pub­lic, and runs the risk of de­stroy­ing any ca­pac­ity for a bi­par­ti­san ap­proach post-elec­tion. All Bar­ba­dos can­di­dates will need to keep this in mind when the elec­tion date is an­nounced.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.