First it was Grenada’s prime minister Dr Keith Mitchell, and then came his Antigua and Barbuda counterpart Gaston Browne last Saturday night with the announcement that the country was waiting for – the date for fresh general elections.
Interestingly, in Antigua’s case, a national poll is not constitutionally due for another year-and-a-half, which begs the question, why is Mr Browne seemingly in such a rush, when our own Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, whose Government is literally on the brink of expiration, simply refuses to fly the gate?
Yes, we have heard our Prime Minister’s explanation that if the people give you five years, you should take five years, but surely, on that basis a leader should be able to come right out and give an actual date, without having us all living vicariously on the edge of our seats, not knowing if we should go left or right, in a most unseemly modern day reenactment of Rome burns as Nero plays his fiddle.
It raises above all things the question of our leader’s confidence. For surely, as the late Jamaican hero Marcus Garvey once said, “With confidence, you have won before you have started”.
With that said, we must acknowledge that Mr Stuart’s reluctance to call the elections is not without good cause, for no one wants to call an election they stand to ultimately lose.
Truth be told, the present deck of political cards is well stacked against the administration, given the absolutely sorry state of the domestic economy, which is currently on its knees, with Mr Stuart stubbornly refusing to do what both Messrs Mitchell and Browne were forced to do in terms of accepting some bitter International Monetary Fund medicine.
We have already detailed the Grenada formula in a previous editorial.
However, suffice it to say that remedy has made all the difference in terms of giving Dr Mitchell the confidence he needed to face the electorate again after conceding back in the June 2014 that the country’s economic situation was dire and that taking the bitter pill, which came in the form of a $22 million IMF extended credit facility, was the economic help the island needed to restore fiscal sustainability and improve its growth prospects.
Similarly, in making his announcement last Saturday night, Mr Browne was able to do it in the confidence that Antigua and Barbuda had successfully turned the corner seven years after it was forced to enter a borrowing arrangement with the IMF.
It should be noted here that Mr Browne was dead set against the IMF prescription that was successfully negotiated by the previous Baldwin Spencer government, when he was still in opposition, but without it he may not have been able to stand before party supporters as he did on Saturday night to make what is not by any means an idle boast that, based on Eastern Caribbean Central Bank projections, Antigua and Barbuda is on course for 5.6 per cent economic growth this year.
The Antiguan leader also noted that in 2019, EC$1.5 billion in investment was anticipated, saying, “what this country needs at this time is stability and continuity.
“To make any change is to reverse all the gains we have made,” he warned the electorate, without giving an ounce of credit to the former United Progressive Party (UPP) administration for taking the hard economic decision to go to the IMF in the first place.
And not to preempt the will of the electorate, we believe that it has helped Mr Browne to further cement his position and that of his Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP), after claiming a 14-3 victory over the UPP last time around.
The same with Dr Mitchell, who is also coming from a position of a clean sweep in the last poll held in 2013. With the economy on the rebound and his term anything but disastrous, he seems to be a shoo-in come March 13.
In Mr Stuart’s case, this is really the Opposition Barbados Labour Party’s election to lose, but with the Mia Motttley-led party also dilly dallying on the issue of the IMF, and making one unrealistic promise after another to repeal this or the other tax, without a semblance of a realistic plan for overcoming the island’s economic woes, who knows? Maybe Mr Stuart, who is currently in Haiti for a meeting with his regional counterparts, could very well be back at the CARICOM table with both Mr Mitchell and Mr Browne by July.
Time will certainly tell!