Monday, 23 July 2012

Island in The Sun

Here are a few facts about the government of Barbados, although there is a lot there, and there are email addresses, government and opposition websites, newspapers, etc etc. All of this is easily available and gleaned at no cost apart from a little time. I put it here in case a very selective and edited appraisal comes back with Sir Philip from his little jaunt where he chooses to share only those aspects of their government that he thinks support his agenda.

And it is quite a different system from Jersey - one wonders why Sir Philip Bailhache is spending nearly £8,000 taxpayers money to go over there, and what he will learn from this expensive "jolly". Perhaps he'd like a bi-cameral government, where the second chamber is not elected by popular mandate?

This is, moreover, an Island which was claimed by James I in 1625, and colonised in 1627. The length of time it has had to develop a Parliamentary democracy is short. Up until 1944, there were income qualifications on men voting, and women did not have the right to vote! That should be born in mind when reading the blurb: "It is interesting to note that Barbados has one of the oldest Westminster-style parliaments in the western hemisphere. It has been in existence for 369 years."

But this is what Sir Philip's real agenda may be - The Barbados Independence Act was passed by the United Kingdom Parliament in 1966! I can imagine a gleam in his eye when he discusses that! It has nothing to do with the electoral commission, but do you imagine the subject won't come up?

And as for the Barbados Senate - this is an unelected body which is chosen outside of the popular vote. Anything like that in Jersey would seem like a reversion to the system where the Jurats and Rectors were part of the States, although today, of course, it would be businessmen, lawyers, ex-civil servants etc etc. Do we really want anything like that?

The Barbadian Flag is representative of independence from England. Neptune's Trident appeared in the Seal when the island was still a colony, the broken Trident on the flag is thus representative of the break with the past, and the step towards independence. The blue panels are for the sea and the sky, while the centre gold panel is for the sand of the beaches. On November 30th, 1966 Barbados was granted independence from England.

Jersey has an area of 116 sq km, while Barbados has one of 430 sq km

The population is around 287,733 (July 2011 est.), and is divided into black 93%, white 3.2%, mixed 2.6%, East Indian 1%, other 0.2%. The urban population is around 44% - in Jersey it is 31%

It has a bicameral Parliament which consists of

The Senate - 21 seats, where members are appointed by the governor general - 12 on the advice of the Prime Minister, 2 on the advice of the opposition leader, and 7 at his discretion

The House of Assembly, which has 30 seats and where members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms. A former minister of the DLP, Warwick Franklin summed up the general elections process in Barbados as saying it is really just, "30 by-elections on the same day."

Barbados is divided into 30 electoral districts or constituencies. Voters in each constituency elect one member of parliament (MP) to send to the House of Assembly on the first past-the-post system. The Senate in Barbados is not an elected body.

The politics in recent years are two-party, dominated by the centre-left Barbados Labour Party and the social-democratic Democratic Labour Party.  The last election result was DLP 52.5%, BLP 47.3%; seats by party - DLP 20, BLP 10. Elections are held every five years or sooner if decided upon - rather like the UK.

One website has this on parties:

Democratic Labour Party (DLP) - The Hon. Freundel Stuart (this party has been in power since Jan 2008, and is considered to be a social democratic party)

Barbados Labour Party (BLP) - Rt. Hon. Owen Arthur (this party is ideologically similar to the Democratic Labour Party)

Peoples Empowerment Party (PEP) - David Comissiong (this is the 'leftist' party)

The Cabinet of Barbados is led by The Prime Minister who controls a majority in the House of Assembly, advises the crown, and appoints the senators and ministers. The Prime Minister is usually the leader of the majority party and is appointed by the Governor-General of Barbados.

The voting system is "first past the post"
The House of Assembly introduced time limits on speeches in 1973.
In 1983, the Senate introduced time limits on Speeches.
In 1990, the Electoral and Boundaries Commission in its review of constituency boundaries increased the number of seats in the House of Assembly from 27 to 28.

The Senate has 21 members, all appointed by the Governor-General , 12 on the advice of the Prime Minister, two on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, and seven in the Governor-General's discretion. Senators may also be appointed as Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries. The Senate meets chiefly when there is business from the House of Assembly. The Senate is referred to as the Upper House.

There are 21 members in the Senate: 12 appointed by the Prime Minister, 7 by the Governor General and 2 by the Leader of the Opposition.

Those appointed by the Governor General are known as independent senators and represent various interests in the community. These members may come from the business community, the labour movement or the church.

Members of the Senate can hold Ministerial office although they have not been elected to Parliament.

The Senate has to approve all matters that come before Parliament with the exception of money resolutions. One main constraint on the Senate is that it cannot author monetary or budget-related bills.  All legislation can be introduced and amended in either house with the exception of money bills; money bills always originate in the House of Assembly, and the Senate is limited in the amendments it can make to them.

The politics is not all cosy. One local comment has the following:

Where have you been? I have not been involved in party politics for a number of years, and I would find it hard to be involved with the level of politics that has infected Barbados. I have no problem with adversarial politics but ours has become just nasty. It has reached the point where quality persons are shying away from politics leaving people who previously would have been on the lunatic fringe to be elected and eventually become part of the Cabinet.

By the way, have you listened to the debates in the House lately? As a country, we have been embarrassed to hear our MPs struggle to construct simple English sentences or even make sense in the process.

And the local Labour party notes:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 will go down in history as the bleakest day in Barbados' history so far. For that was when our country lost its 384 years of renown for fiscal, financial and economic prudence, thriftiness and even wizardry with the gut-wrenching disclosure that the nation's sovereign debt rating had been reduced to the much scorned junk bond status.


Anonymous said...

Barbados at a luxury price? Meh.

However, God forbid any police official fly premium class to Australia to conduct an important interview with child abuse victims.

James said...

...the Barbados Senate ... is an unelected body which is chosen outside of the popular vote. Anything like that in Jersey would seem like a reversion to the system where the Jurats and Rectors were part of the States, although today, of course, it would be businessmen, lawyers, ex-civil servants etc etc. Do we really want anything like that?

After Barclay v Sark, would we be allowed to implement it?

Tom Gruchy said...

On the "Catch a fire" Bermudian blog there is a "Manifesto for a Democratic Socialist Bermuda".
Perhaps the Bailhache team should pop in there - in fact, all our so called progressives should at least have a look at the blog.
It is linked to the tomgruchy.blogspot