BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Saturday April 28, 2018 – Now that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has set May 24th as the day for Barbadians to elect a new government, the Electoral and Boundaries Commission is reporting that it’s ready for the polls.
Without any fanfare, Stuart announced the date the country had been waiting for, via a brief release from the Barbados Government Information Service. In just two sentences, it gave the date for voting, as well as Nomination Day which is set for May 7, and indicated that Governor General Dame Sandra Mason had been informed of such.
Yesterday, Chief Electoral Officer Angela Taylor told the Barbados Today online newspaper that voter registration is continuing, and the training of personnel who will help conduct the elections has been completed.
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley had expressed concern after the announcement of the election date, that there was a clash with regional examinations scheduled for the same day.
Noting that schools were usually used as polling stations, she said that having voting on the same say students were doing Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) tests would be a logistical nightmare.
However, in a statement issued yesterday, the Ministry of Education said the external examinations would not be affected. It said the exams would go ahead as scheduled and would be administered in strict compliance with the regulations and procedures of the respective examining bodies.
“There will be special arrangements to be implemented at each centre to facilitate the entrance, controlled movement and exit of candidates and other examination officials during the day’s examination period,” it said.
“The Ministry wishes to assure the public and candidates that all steps have been taken to ensure safe and secure conditions for the administration of all examinations so that no candidate will be disadvantaged as a result of any events on that date.”
Meantime, the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) are intensifying campaigning.
At a press conference yesterday, the BLP’s general secretary and campaign manager Dr Jerome Walcott reiterated the party’s plan to immediately scrap the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which was increased last July 1 from two to ten per cent of the custom duty of both locally produced and imported goods; and to restore free education for Barbadians attending the University of the West Indies (UWI), within the first six months of being elected to office.
Dr Walcott promised that details on the source of funding for those initiatives would be included in the party’s manifesto which is due to be officially launched by the middle of next month.
However, Finance Minister Chris Snickler has dismissed the promises, saying fulfilling them and other undertakings given by the BLP would cost more than BDS$1 billion (US$500 million).
“So if the Barbados Labour Party has BDS$1 billion lying around somewhere that they can do this with, I believe that it is irresponsible of them to have not shared that money with the public of Barbados, because we could have done with it a long time ago. But if you are talking about eliminating NSRL, paying a wages increase to public servants, restoring tuition fees and paying off all of Barbados’ arrears, then we’re talking maybe one or two billion Barbados dollars,” he said.
“People want to hear the truth. People want to hear realistic proposals, things that are doable, not pie in the sky things that make everybody feel good. This is not about feel-good things; we’ve passed that stage and that type of politics [doesn’t] work.”
The DLP and BLP are among seven political parties and at least one independent candidate expected to contest the general elections.
The other parties are: the United Progressive Party, Solutions Barbados, Barbados Integrity Movement, the People’s Democratic Movement, and the Bajan Free Party (a coalition involving the Kingdom Government Party and the People’s Democratic Congress); while former prostitute, Natalie Harewood, is also throwing her hat into the ring as an independent candidate.