BARBADOS is in for some interesting times following the humiliating zero-sum-game defeat of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) by the Barbados Labor Party (BLP).
BLP Leader Mia Mottley led the BLP into a brief campaign during which there was hardly any doubt that regime change was on the cards. The DLP administration, under Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, was, in the eyes of the electorate, a dismal failure. The massive mandate given PM Mottley and the DLP by over 70% of the voters is another clear indication that between the only two parties that have taken turns to rule Barbados over the past five decades since independence, it was ‘BLP Time’ again.
The justifiable euphoria of overwhelming victory will continue for some time in the BLP camp. In the DLP camp, on the other hand, the expected finger-pointing and apportioning of blame will continue until the vanquished party decides what next.
What will not change, however, is how the realism of power and responsibility forces new leaders to face the facts — and walk the election talk.
PM Mottley will certainly have started to confront the reality of having to govern and make do with whatever’s been inherited — and to start delivering on campaign promises while guarding the public purse. Her every move is already under early microscopic observation and scrutiny by critics and admirers alike.
And definitely not known to shy away from being different, she’s already started raising eyebrows at home and abroad, starting with her Cabinet.
Unlike the majority of her male counterparts, PM Mottley didn’t overburden her broad shoulders with a trailer-load of ministries. Instead, she only held on to Finance and Investment.
Observers on both sides of the Bajan Labourite political divide are already scratching their chins over the new Cabinet’s size: Where the previous DLP Cabinet had 18 ministers, the new BLP’s has 26 ministers in 21 ministries.
Mathematicians may very well be laboring over the arithmetic of 26 ministers and 21 ministries in a 166 square-mile island of 30 constituencies, with a population approximately 300,000. Political scientists could also already be visioning the optics of Barbados possibly creating a new Caribbean and/or world record in terms of population size versus political administration.
In the meantime, Bridgetown Treasury staff will already have had instructions from the Accountant General’s Office to effect the new and larger Cabinet and general ministerial pay packet as of this month-end.
The new Barbados leader has been warmly welcomed, not only by Barbadians, but especially by women across the entire Caribbean, who have welcomed her victory in all its glorious dimensions. But perhaps her heaviest load will be the natural and normal overweight of general expectations consistent with her party’s humungous mandate.
Not averse to doing surprising things, Ms Mottley may very well have dismayed those feminists who’d expected her to outdo her Grenada counterpart Dr Keith Mitchell and appoint a Cabinet with an even greater proportional representation of women.
Critics are also pointing thumbs back at the BLP parliamentarians, in opposition, rejecting a 10% salary increase offered by the last DLP administration — and now in office, appointing a more costly Cabinet.
But Mia Mottley is no unknown entity. From a respected family well-heeled in law and politics, this lady is known to relish a fight — and can also pack a good punch. She has made Caribbean history – and on many fronts.
Understandably, there will always be those who will, for various reasons, unreasonably expect that ‘as a woman’ the new Barbados leader will somehow find it easier to better understand and thus earlier solve the lingering problems of state.
But like Dominica’s Eugenia Charles, Guyana’s Janet Jagan, Trinidad & Tobago’s KamlaPersad-Bissessar and Jamaica’s Portia Simpson-Miller all found out (and much earlier than later), simultaneously leading a Cabinet, heading a ruling party and representing a constituency have absolutely nothing to do with gender.
It’s long been established (and proven again and again) that good governance has everything to do with leadership and nothing to do with sex – and so it will remain, no matter who get vex!