Sunday, December 17, 2017

Post-Carnival contestsfocus T&T neighbours


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If, in this season, neighbours in nearby Barbados and Grenada have less occasion to be distracted by T&T Carnival excitement, it may be on account of both islands' concentration on election campaigns.

On Friday night, Grenadian Wilt "Tallpree" Cambridge took part in the International Soca Monarch competition. Tallpree has had a track record of performing and competing on the T&T stage.

With Barbados, such had been the power of its soca output, that T&T was annually portrayed as subject to a "Bajan invasion". Stars from that island attained the stature of household names here—a pattern that has declined, though no doubt temporarily, over the last decade.

Long after the crowning of kings and queens, and the elevation of champion mas bands and steelbands here, electoral competition will intensify in Grenada and Barbados. In each island, the electorate will decide whether to award a second term to the ruling administration, or to repose its trust in parties which had been returned to office for three previous terms.

Grenada will vote on February 19, ending a curiously long period since Prime Minister Tillman Thomas had advised the Governor General to dissolve the 15-member Parliament. The election date had figured prominently in Grenada's politics, as Mr Thomas sought to forestall a no-confidence debate in Parliament, that appeared to hold the potential of deadly peril for his leadership.

Grenada and Barbados have in common the damaging outcomes of recessionary conditions in traditional tourist-source countries. If Barbados figures larger in T&T's regional relations, it must be because of the economic and business ties marked by the operations of T&T banks and conglomerates.

T&T merits mention in reviews by the Central Bank in Bridgetown. There, Republic Bank has just bought out Barbados National Bank, and Neal & Massy has closed Almond Resorts, thereby depleting the stock of rooms for long-stay tourists.

In the more compelling local drama, the opposition Barbados Labour Party is making a confident drive to recapture on February 21 the power which it had held for 15 years until 2008. That was when the BLP lost heavily to the Democratic Labour Party.

DLP leader and Prime Minister David Thompson, who died in office in 2010, was succeeded by Freundel Stuart. As Prime Minister and ruling party leader, Mr Stuart has not appeared quite to fill the shoes of his late predecessor.

Nor has it helped his cause that the Barbados economy is struggling (projected to grow just 0.7 per cent this year; unemployment about 11 per cent), with falling numbers of visitors from the US, the UK, and indeed, also, from T&T.

Barbadians and Grenadians will have to be persuaded that parties voted out five years ago, have regained enough potential for leadership once again in newly troubled economic times.