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:
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.

January 22, 2008

Our Thoughts On The Cabinet

PM Thompson showed the first inkling of his plans for the new term by naming a cabinet which is bolstered by some of the brightest brains in the island. We on the margin are particularly pleased to see Darcy Boyce being named to the cabinet as his skill set fills the most obvious hole in the qualifications of the elected cabinet.

Another interesting move was divorcing the International Transport ministry from the Tourism ministry and placing back with Transport and Works. The previous BLP administration had considered international transport to be the handmaiden of tourism with a focus on attracting new airlift. It will be interesting to see what new direction this brings.

International Trade, Foreign Affairs, and International Business have been joined under one Minister and one Junior minister. While we can understand the linkage, given the importance of International Business to the economy, we would have been more comfortable with it being given the exclusive focus of one minister. However we will have to see what results this brings.

Perhaps the most surprising omission was that of a Deputy Prime Minister while we have seen comments on Barbados Underground that the post exists only in tradition (let’s be clear it was the opinion of a commenter not David or one of the BU family) we on the margin view the post as having considerable importance. The Deputy Prime Minister runs the country in the absence of the PM. This is true when the PM travels or (God Forbid) becomes incapacitated or dies in office. It would be easy to dismiss the latter scenario as unlikely except for the fact that it has happened twice already.

However apart from the above comments we think that Mr. Thompson’s first cabinet appears to be a credible, well thought out team. The most obvious weakness has been adequately supported and it is clear that he has put his best brains in charge of the key ministries.

We wait to see what changes in policy will come from this new configuration.


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.


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)


October 6, 2007

A note on the Minibus crash in the Garden and the Press

I suppose we have become inured to this type of thing. A couple of months ago the blogs would have been all over this story. Yes there is only one fatality instead of the multiple deaths we have seen in other incidents. However a public service vehicle loaded with children and other travelers, from the reports in the media overturned after making what was a risky overtaking maneuver and colliding with a backhoe. At the time of writing investigations are still ongoing as to if the lady who was killed was a passenger or a pedestrian. The other Barbados blogs have been notably silent on the matter.

We on the Margin have blogged about police stopping reporters from taking pictures at the scenes of such incidences and arguing that it was a curtailment of the legitimate freedom of the press. However today the Nation today published a picture of injured CHILDREN awaiting treatment. I think the paper should strongly consider how it uses the freedoms it has.

We have no problem with pictures of the smashed vehicles or Emergency Services at work, however when the press choose to publish images of helpless victims at possibly the worst moments of their lives,  we recoil.

We are happy to go to bat for the press to receive the freedom that it needs to function in a democracy, however the press must also exercise those freedoms responsibly.


July 31, 2007

Joe’s River Tragedy – Nation Files A Complaint With Police

In the wake of the Joes River Tragedy there was a somewhat disturbing article in the press today

Photographer’s pictures deleted

A NATION PHOTOGRAPHER covering Sunday’s accident that claimed six lives at Joe’s River, St Joseph, has complained that police yanked his camera from his neck and deleted his pictures.

Rawle Culbard said he had shot photographs of bodies from an area which was not cordoned off. He added that between the time he arrived on the scene at about 12:50 p.m. and the time he left at about 3 p.m., he did not cross any “caution lines”.

However, a senior officer called him and told him he could not take pictures of the scene.

“I told him I understood that he was doing his job but explained that I, too, was doing mine. At that point, he got angry and grabbed the camera from around my neck which jerked my neck forward. At first I put up resistance,” Culbard said, adding that other officers intervened.

Culbard said that the officer, who identified himself as Senior Superintendent Leonard Broomes, handed the camera to an officer in plain clothes and instructed him to delete all photos taken of the scene.

Culbard said: “When I asked his name, Broomes said to me that ‘you all always asking for names as if something will come out of it’. He then instructed another officer to take my name and address, which I gave.”

Culbard added that Broomes also snatched a cellular phone from NATION driver Jeffrey Rock to see if it contained a camera, but there was none.

The heavy handed nature of the intervention is disturbing coming on the heels of the arrest of journalists at the hospital (ironically during another mass casualty operation) I believe at the time the reason given was that the Journalists presented an impediment to doctors in the operation. If the photographer was outside of the cordon, I don’t see how that can apply in this case.

There would seem to be the need for a clear policy on how the police/journalist interactions should take place in these events. It is unrealistic to believe that the press will not be present at a mass casualty situation. It is unrealistic to believe that they will not try to cover the event. While the victims have a right to dignity and privacy, there is the issue of freedom of the press and the right of the public to know. With the lack of a consistent policy on this matter, we will continue to see stories like this in the media.

In the meantime we will await the outcome of the Nation’s complaint.


Emergency Services Show Grace Under Pressure at Joe’s River

Filed under: Barbados,cricket world cup,Health Care — notesfromthemargin @ 1:47 am

In reflecting on the tragedy of this weekend, what is remarkable is that NO ONE has a single bad thing to say about the emergency response to the Joes River accident. I commented on this to a doctor that I know and received a bit of an earful. Most persons do not know that Barbados has a very detailed, very well thought out system for dealing with mass casualty events. In the recent past it has been used most frequently for accidents involving ZR’s. Sunday was by far the most serious incident that it has been used for.

Praise for mass casualty operation

In a fascinating conversation, the doctor noted that the mass casualty procedures have been polished and honed during the run up to Cricket World Cup, with practice runs for everything up to and including a plane crash. The plans integrate all aspects of the response teams from the Defence Force to the hospital. So when the $**t hits the fan everyone moves in concert and there’s no tripping over each other despite there being personnel from more than half a dozen agencies on the incident site.

I’m particularly impressed that a review process is being automatically done with a debriefing of the participants, and that counselling has been put into place for not just the victims but the first responders as well.

For showing amazing grace under inhuman pressure, very well done guys!


July 21, 2007

Excellent article on HIV AIDS Programme in Barbados – RH Reality Check Blog

Filed under: AIDS,Barbados,blogging,Health Care,HIV — notesfromthemargin @ 1:52 am

Came across an interesting article by Jamaican Danielle Toppin on the “It’s Your Wicket” campaign by the National HIV Aids commission. While I can’t stand the ads personally I will admit that I’m not likely to be the target group. Danielle makes some interesting points in a well written thought provoking article. Read the article here: “It’s Your Wicket, Protect It!”


June 30, 2007

Good News About the Fight on AIDS….

Filed under: AIDS,Barbados,Health Care,HIV — notesfromthemargin @ 1:51 am

Today some good news arrived on Radio about the continuing fight against HIV/AIDS. In case you didn’t know Barbados has been hailed as a success in it’s response to HIV/AIDS. In fact we have been hailed as a model case.

“I was a bit wowed by the degree to which Barbados has truly institutionalized a multi-sector approach to addressing HIV/AIDS. You are not only a role model for the Caribbean, truly and honestly Barbados is a global role model. [I’ve] worked on HIV/AIDS in several countries in the former Soviet Union, south Asia and East Africa … Barbados has surpassed all. In fact, Barbados has surpassed US and western European efforts in this area!”
Rebecca J. Rohrer, Director, USAID HIV/AIDS, Caribbean Regional Program (2003)

The Barbados response has resulted in huge drops in HIV mortality. (In English that means that people with HIV survive longer). Our major problem is that while people with HIV/AIDS have been living longer, we have thus far been unable to reduce the rate of new infection.  That is: people continue to get AIDS at the same rate as before and live longer once they have it.  You don’t have to be a genius to see how this can come off the rails in the future.



Today for the first time ever Dr. Carol Jacobs announced that in one age group we logged a decrease in the rate of infection. The news isn’t much, it’s only one age group and its only for one survey. But it is a sign that maybe, just maybe. We can get a grip on this disease that threatens our future.



The National AIDS Commsion has taken a lot of heat over their ads, by people who have been offended by the content or the implied content of the ads. In my opinion it might be a good idea if the critics would back off and let the professionals do their work. The cost of failure  on this is just too high.




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