Notes From The Margin

March 28, 2008

David, We will have to disagree on the 100 days point!

We are great fans of Barbados Underground, we find their articles though provoking and well reasoned. We don’t always agree with them, but that’s what makes the blogosphere interesting. David served up an interesting article this week:Barbados Needs National Energy Policy, NOW we agree with the headline and the main point of the article, that in a global economic environment we need a realistic energy policy with a strong emphasis on renewable resources, however we will have to agree to disagree with his subsidiary point.

The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) pledged to Barbadians that within the first 100 days of assuming the reigns of government, it would roll-out several major initiatives. Our commonsense, which has been honed over the years through observation, tells us that the pledge was part of a gimmick which political parties are expected to engage at election time. It should be obvious that a political party in opposition is not equipped to deliver on promises made, simply because it is not in the obvious position of government to efficiently plan and allocate resources. The BU household continue to be amazed at the frenzy which is demonstrated by our educated public concerning trivial matters, whenever we have elections. Following the script to the letter, the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has reminded the government of its 100 day promise, we listened to Senator Liz Thompson doing so with her usual eloquence in the Senate yesterday.
We commented on the post, to the effect that the “100 Days” was a political gimmick that worked and that it was now fair game for the opposition to use to attack the government. We don’t think it’s the only reason why the DLP won (or even the main reason), but it was a central plank in their platform.
However our real reason goes deeper than that……
The “100 days” was a political gimmick that was packaged for consumption by the electorate. However read more deeply it was the DLP’s statement of “THIS IS WHERE OUR PRIORITIES ARE” and even if you did not believe they were capable of delivering it in the 100 days, (as we think most people with common sense felt) the idea of a time frame communicated that there was a real plan behind the statement.
An opposition party is not in the position of a ruling government in terms of access to information and allocation of resources, however they have a luxury that the Government does not:
Time.
An opposition has time to consult with stakeholders, time to sound out opinions, time to float ideas in informed circles, to create and construct a plan. They also have the unmitigated luxury of doing this in an environment where there is absolutely no pressure to implement. These two things, a sitting government does not have (As Dr. Estwick has found out with Greenland). In this case the DLP had 14 years to craft its agenda for governance.
We think that the Thompson administration should be accountable for its 100 day agenda. If it can’t be done in 100 days, when can we expect it? A year? two years? If the first orders of business are delayed what about the elements of your manifesto that were not in the first 100 days? We should not let it fall quietly by the wayside.
We agree that a discerning eye should be cast over the ABC Highway expansion project and it’s conduct, however we think that the level of scrutiny should be applied to this administration, the principle at stake is simply too important.
Until we hold our politicians accountable for their words and actions we will get the government we deserve.
Marginal
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March 19, 2008

A Suggestion on BOLT’s

Minister of Tranport, Works and International Transport John Boyce made a comment in the house yesterday about the Government’s potential use of Build Operate Lease Transfer (BOLT) arrangements in the future.

ANY FUTURE BOLT – Build Operate Lease and Transfer – arrangements that Government signs will be designed to bring economic benefits
to the country.

Minister of Transport, Works and International Transport John Boyce told the House of Assembly yesterday during debate on the 2008-2009 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure that BOLT arrangements were supposed to generate savings and not additional costs.

The previous administration made use of several of this type of arrangement. However the nature of the implementations often left questions on the transparency of the deals. This was noted in an IMF  report on Barbados.

The report makes a number of reccomendations with regard to this Public-Private Sector arrangement.

We on the margin would be much more reassured by the implementation of a legal framework to govern the use of BOLT’s and similar arrangements than simply Mr. Boyce’s statement of “Trust us”.
Marginal

March 18, 2008

Welcome to the 5 year long election campaign!

When the dust settled on January 16th the two parties ended up being quite far apart on number of seats but actually quite close on total number of votes cast. With only an 8% difference in terms of total votes, it means that the current government is vulnerable to a 4% swing. This means that despite a comfortable majority in Parliament, the Thompson administration must politically plan from now with an eye to elections in 2013. It also means that the Mottley opposition is already keeping an eye on that year.

As a result of this we are likely to see Mr. Thompson trying to attack what has long been perceived as the BLP’s strongest point; it’s management of the economy. The BLP for it’s part will pick at every flaw in the government’s actions.

This leads to the  ludicrousness of things such as Government suddenly becoming skeptical about unemployment statistics despite never having said a word about it before or during the campaign. It certainly was not a part of their platform. They are not releasing those figures because it will reinformce the BLP’s perception of good governance.

For the BLP’s part, this whole “We don’t know why the government won’t work with our consultants” is laughable. They damn well know why and they would do the same if they were in office as well.

What it amounts to is that we are in for a five year long election campaign, with the cut and thrust of January continuing at a lower intensity until 2013

Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a wild ride!

Marginal

March 12, 2008

Consultants – Another One Of Those Silly Games That Politicians Play

“Politicians Mekkin Mock Sport At We…..”
Mighty Gabby

We on the margin have watched with a degree of amusement at first Prime Minister David Thompson’s “House cleaning” followed by Former Prime Minister Arthur’s war path speech. Having listened to them both I can only come to the conclusion that our prime ministers both present and past are playing “mock sport” with us.

Let’s accept a few realities here…

1. Consultants are an accepted part of governance in the Caribbean, always have been and more than likely always will be. When running something as complex as a government, it is understandable that policymakers (whatever party they may belong to) may want to have independant advice to help them shape policy or to advise them politically, to write speeches etc.

2. Let’s also accept the fact that each policy maker is going to want to select their own consultants or advisors. Hence you cannot equate persons who fill this role with public servants. Like the directors of statutory boards etc. They SHOULD resign when the administration changes. It is not victimisation for the incoming administration to say that they want to take someone else’s advice.

So here we have PM Thompson, equating hiring consultants with squandermania, just to have to turn around and defend his appointment of “political advisor” Hartley Henry as being somehow different.

We also have former PM Arthur talking about going “on the warpath” over these people being dismissed. (They should have tendered their resignations already)

While we have serious concerns about Mr. Arthur saying that he “helped out” one of his speech writers who had lost his previous employment, we also recognise that Mr. Henry is unlikely ever to file consultant report that will be filed in the government filing system. The advice given by consultants at this level is more than likely to be held in the PM’s personal files and also likely to leave the office with the individual when he demits office.

So when you cut through all of the sound and fury that has surrounded this issue, there really isn’t that much substance here. Just politicians playing “holier than thou” and mekking mock sport as they play to the gallery.

Marginal

March 9, 2008

David Thompson Praises Owen Arthur- BFP Criticises David Thompson….Coincidence?

 

It was bound to happen sooner or later, BFP turned savage on David Thompson. (Just after Mr. Thompson praised his predecessor)  It would seem that BFP is discovering that politicians are politicians. (Particularly in Barbados)

The whole tale in three parts….

Nation News – Well Done!

BFP: Barbados Cabinet Ministers Free To Accept “Gifts” From Persons Wanting Government Approvals Or Contracts

(Note The BFP  article is published same day as the Nation Article)

Our take on the matter…(Published in June LAST YEAR) “Prime Minister Owen Arthur, and the Opposition Democratic Labour Party led by David Thompson, who was once the Minister of Finance, are virtual ideological twins”

What makes Barbados fortunate is that both Mr. Thompson and Mr. Arthur are quite good as politicians go, and while they may both talk left their actions are decidedly centrist. But anyone expecting fundamental change from either party is likely to be disappointed.

Marginal

March 2, 2008

Troubling Developments In Grenada

On of the more troubling stories to cross the Margin’s radar recently is this story out of Grenada where from what is being said it would seem that police were caught spying on an opposition party planning meeting.

 Grenada’s opposition party has accused the Keith Mitchell administration of spying on a private meeting of its executive and wants Scotland Yard to investigate the allegation.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) claimed that a police officer was caught secretly recording a closed-door meeting and pointed fingers at the Prime Minister’s New National Party (NNP) as the ones behind the move.

But the NNP has denied the spying allegation.

Of all of the islands of the english speaking Caribbean, Grenada has had one of the most erratic relationships with democracy. Having gone through years of mis rule under Gairy, the Revolution and invasion (or intervention) by the United States military.  In spite of all of the foregoing, Grenada has developed today  into a flourishing and stable democracy.

For the coming election on the Spice Isle the stakes are higher than ever, for the first time in a while it looks as if there may be a real chance of the Government changing.  On the night of the Barbados election we made the statement that the true test of democracy is when the result of the election is accepted by supporters of all parties the winners and the losers.  If anything is allowed to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process in Grenada the consequences may be significant.

On an island with Grenada’s bloody history, democracy is too fragile to take anything for granted.

Marginal

 

 

February 25, 2008

Do We Need A Caribbean FBI?

Faced with rising crime rates, Caribbean governments have struggled to keep pace. However at a time of challenging economic conditions and soaring levels of indebtedness, many Caribbean police forces are overwhelmed, underpaid, and under-equipped. This is particularly the case in the smaller economies of the OECS (you will note that I did not say “smaller islands”) The Caribbean with it’s inadquately equipped security forces, and many islands with inlets and coves make the chain attractive as a route for drug traffickers to move narcotics to the metropolitan markets.

The wealthier economies in the region have attempted to strengthen their security apparatus however, they are often faced with criminals who have more sophisticated equipment than they do.  The problem is compounded by the lack of financial assistance for security ( a mindset that is slowly changing).

It is against this background that Trinidad Prime Minister Patrick Manning recently proposed the development of a Pan Caribbean law enforcement agency.

Patrick Manning said a well-trained, equipped regional force with the power to legally operate in any CARICOM country would be part of the answer to combating the crime situation – one which he insists is being driven by the illegal drug trade.

“Many of us in the Caribbean today are challenged by the unacceptable levels of criminal activity in our country, most of which are now spurred by the global traffic in illegal drugs. The trade in illegal arms and gang warfare lead to an unacceptable level of homicide in our main urban centres,” he said, while delivering the keynote address at the recent University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus Commemoration Dinner in Jamaica….

…..Mr Manning said his country had sought to stem the flow of illegal drugs and arms into the country through initiatives which he believes will eventually rid the country of the drug trade, such as round the clock surveillance of the twin island republic’s largely unprotected coastline. But he also noted that the pattern in the past demonstrated that when the operations of drug lords are interrupted in one country they move to another.

“(That) pattern emphasises the need for multilateral efforts among ourselves and with the wider world. Failure to effectively deal with the issue of crime could stymie the economic and social development of the Caribbean,” he said.

Mr Manning further urged CARICOM heads to spearhead the process of greater cooperation in the sharing of intelligence among police forces to head off migratory drug smugglers.

In theory this sounds like a great idea, and we on the margin support it generally. However would such a “federal” force be allowed to operate? To often in the Caribbean there are rumours (and we  aren’t prepared to say they are only rumours) of “certain people” in certain countries being untouchable, would a CFBI be allowed to go after them?If they were it would open an interesting can of worms.

Would the criminals arrested by this federal force be prosecuted in local or regional courts? For example we have many cases of witnesses in Trinidad being murdered before they can testify, we also have rumours of corrupt judiciaries in some countries, would people arrested by the “Federales” have a likely chance of getting convicted in a local court?

When you look at the implications of a Caribbean Law Enforcement agency, it’s not as simple as it might appear at first blush. For it to be really effective it would have to be part of a Pan Caribbean judicial system.

Marginal

February 7, 2008

Freedom is a funny thing….

“I may disagree with what you say, but I will fight for your right to say it”

Voltaire 

Over the last few days we’ve had quite a few posts about freedom of expression, and in reflecting on this period we’ve had to remark that freedom is a funny thing. Having a blog gives the writer the power to say anything, really with very little chance of having to face any consequences for having said it. Now in some ways this is great, corruption that would only be hinted at in public fora (or never mentioned at all) can be exposed for all to see. Lots of quiet little back room deals may find themselves subject to public exposure. Democracy is generally strengthened by this.

The corollary of having freedom of expression is that you may hear things that you don’t agree with. Things that you may find repugnant. And the funny thing is that there are many people for whom “Freedom of Expression” means that they can say what they want and anyone else can say what they want too as long as they agree with them.  That’s not freedom, that’s swapping one yoke for another.

We have taken a great deal of pressure over the past week or two to unlink from three new blogs that have been established by (we presume) supporters of the BLP. Despite, what many of our passing commenters may say, we have never set out to be a “political blog” and we don’t have any particular brief for these three new blogs. We see the ongoing campaign to silence them as a step in the wrong direction. We see a larger issue here that we feel is worth fighting for. We have been delisted from the two major Barbados blogs in the blogosphere, we have received several emails (some of it public, most of it private) with various levels of abuse.

We think we are doing the right thing.

The vindictiveness of the response makes us sure that we are doing the right thing.

We have also received expressions of support  and we thank those that have sent them.

Notes From The Margin is not going anywhere.

Marginal

January 10, 2008

Politicians, It’s One Week Before Elections, Do You Know Where Your Vote Is?

With one week left to go before elections, Barbados is in the grips of one of the most intense election campaigns in recent memory. The two parties’ campaigns appear to be evenly matched, and evenly funded, and to a certain extent evenly supported. We on the Margin have been watching the silly season unfold in all its glory, and we have to admit we are unable to predict a winner at this stage.

Yes, if you listen to Waiting In Vain and Royal Rumble and the other party hacks that inhabit the blogosphere, they all predict a resounding victory for their particular party. But having spent the last week talking to many people, we think that both parties are “Whistling past the graveyard”. For as much bluster as either side makes we’re not sure that either of them has captured the hearts of the electorate.  Barbadians are looking at both parties with a skeptical eye and the hard truth is that this election could go either way.

What we have noted that this campaign has been more about accusations and counter accusations rather than issues. We would like to see some serious discussion about both parties’ visions for the next five years. While we wish that we could say that we thought we would get such reasoned debate in the next next week, we really don’t think so. We think that this next week will get wilder and dirtier with each passing day.

We on the margin would urge Barbadians,  think long and hard about both parties before you go into the polling booth. Whoever you choose is entirely up to you, but be sure to participate, be sure to cast your x. Be sure to treat that decision with the seriousness it deserves.  Hopefully we will all be better off for your doing so.

Marginal

December 21, 2007

Owen Arthur Rolls The Dice….

Owen Arthur announced the general elections today as January 15th 2008 with nomination day being December 31st. Signalling the start of what must surely be one of the shortest campaigns in local political history. Both opposition parties have been quick to condemn the announcement coming before Christmas while saying that they are ready to go to the electorate.

NFTM tries not to get into the political scene however I’m sure that we will get into commenting now and again over the coming two weeks. We had quite honestly figured that the bell would have been rung later down in the year, however the election date is the sole prerogative of the PM and given the harsh criticism of the date by the opposition, it would appear that he has execised his choice to give tactical advantage to his party.

I’m sure over the next couple of weeks we’ll hear about:

The teifing and corruption is terrible!

What corruption?

We are united behind our leader!

They are a house in disarray!

So and so is a dis and dat

and all the other things that pass for intellectual discourse in a political campaign.

However, the fact remains that both parties come from the same ideological position (we’ve talked about this before in our post “Prime Minister Owen Arthur, and the Opposition Democratic Labour Party led by David Thompson, who was once the Minister of Finance, are virtual ideological twins”)

So whoever wins don’t expect much to change (both good and bad)

Marginal

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