EDITORIAL - Seduction of the electorate
The proverbial bell has not as yet been rung to signal the official start of campaigning for next year’s general election, at least not by the one with the constitutional authority to do so.
However, this absence has not served to restrain those several parties contending for the chance to become the next governing administration from seeking to lure the electorate to vote for their various manifestoes.
Given that Barbados is currently enduring economic turmoil, it is predictable that most of these blandishments promise the voter a much-improved personal economic circumstance, although the details of the roadmap to this Canaan of plenty are equally obscure.
Thus, one party offers to write off all civic debts of whatever kind owed to the state on the day of its election to office, merely demanding in return the consideration that everyone should be tax compliant from thereon in. That obligation will be attenuated somewhat nonetheless since the same party promises to reduce all taxes payable by businesses and citizens to a flat rate of ten per cent. This is buttressed by a further promise to eliminate two of the current major sources of state taxation, the Value Added Tax (VAT) and the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL).
Despite the clear loss of revenue to the Consolidated Fund that would ensue from the imposition of these measures, no clear indication has been provided as to if and how the existing state-provided taxpayer-funded civic entitlements would be maintained.
Another party proposes not the total abolition of VAT but its reduction to 15 per cent, the removal of the NSRL, and the “doubling back” on exemptions given to the tourism sector. Once more, there is no indication of whether current entitlements will be maintained or whether these will be reduced given the consequent depletion in state revenues.
The political leader of the first grouping referred to also makes a vow to extirpate corruption from politics, according to one report. Given the fact that the method of eradication proposed is through dissuasive monetary penalties and a specialist court, this amounts to a concession that corruption is still likely to exist, just that it will be less lucrative for the politician to engage in.
We have recently learnt too of another entity that is advocating the easing of foreign exchange restrictions to permit Barbadians to establish US dollar accounts at local banks. This seems to be with a view to allowing citizens to purchase shares in the Barbados National Terminal Company Ltd, (BNTCL), principally, we suppose, to offset the negative effect on the state’s foreign reserves of the recent decision of the Fair Trading Commission not to permit the proposed merger of that entity with a local private concern on the grounds that it would offend the laws pertaining to fair competition.
In this context of organised attempts politically to seduce the electorate, we can only counsel voters to weigh their options carefully and to ask relevant questions of each candidate. There are a number of old saws that assume relevance in this regard. “All that glisters is not gold…” and “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” (with a suitable substitution of a term for the nationals) come immediately to mind.
While we respect and support the right of a political group to air its proposals to woo a majority of the electorate over to its side, we also demand that those proposals be practicable and their likely consequences fully explained. After all, should they succeed in their objective, it is the very citizens who comprise that same electorate that are most likely to suffer the ill effects of any rash decision.