Notes From The Margin

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

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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

November 1, 2007

The National Debt and Regular Maintenance of Government Facilities.

One of the interesting things that we on the margin have always noted is that Government is very good on building new buildings but is terrible on maintaining the buildings once they are built. The QEH is a prime example of this and so is the Airport before it was rennovated.

(Photo Nicked From Barbados Free Press)

Many of the facility problems being experienced now are the result of years and years of neglect, (yes by several administrations but the current Government has overseen the last 15 of those years) to expect the hospital board to fix everything without a major capital project is like trying to bail a moses with a thimble. The real solution to the QEH facility problems is not to supply more resources to the engineering department, but to undertake a major expansion and rennovation similar to what was done at the airport. THEN they can supply more engineers and resources to maintenance.

The government should also have a look at its other buildings and the great park projects being done by BTII we’ve already had to virtually rebuild the boardwalk at the careenage and it wasn’t that old!

The budgeting process goes like this:

1. Government department has a careful assessment of it’s needs for the next financial year and submits it’s requirements to the Ministry of Finance : “I need THIS MUCH to run the Airport/hospital/treasury/transport board/////”

2. Ministry of finance says “You have this much make it work”

3. Department goes back and prioritises.

What gets cut?

Things that are not urgent but are timely things like any regular maintenance, in fact unless it’s about to fail catastrophically forget about it.

This of course piles up, you have a bus system that is in dire need of overhaul, you have a hospital that quite frankly needs to be completely rebuilt, you have government workers in the GEED building that has more leaks than roof, you have a water system that you can’t account for much of the water in (yes we know some of the figure is due to unmetered users but a big part of it is leaks).

Eventually the end consumer (us the taxpayer) begins to suffer and government comes under political pressure to do something radical and they go and borrow money for a major capital project, so increasing the national debt.

The major capital project is completed, and the department does a full assessment of what it needs to run for the next year. They go to the ministry of Finance and say “I need THIS MUCH to run the department for the next year……”

Marginal

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