The results of Amandala’s online poll which asked participants to indicate whether or not they are satisfied with the performance of the Barrow administration since it took office three years ago, on February 8, 2008, indicate that roughly 70% are not!
Another media poll has similarly indicated that poll respondents do not believe this administration is living up to its manifesto promises.
We asked Prime Minister Dean Barrow, leader of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP): How do you respond to these kinds of sentiments? We asked him what the reaction has been like from people out in the streets. What are they saying to him?
Barrow said that there are definitely people who register dissatisfaction about some things, but others their satisfaction about other things.
“The only poll that really matters is the poll that takes place on Election Day,” Barrow said.
As for the polling, Barrow said that a lot depends on the questions and how they are asked, as well as the sampling methods.
“There is always going to be an antiestablishment sentiment in the air,” he commented. “No government is ever going to be able to satisfy all the demands, expectations, of the electorate. So I think you have to take all that into account...”
He does concede that there are areas where improvement is necessary. However, he said that the UDP lost no ground in the first municipal elections since 2008, and gained ground in last year’s village council elections. He is also using as a gauge the turnout in the party conventions to select standard bearers for the 2013 general elections.
In Corozal Southeast, said Barrow, voting took place at a small preschool and people stood in line for hours. A total of 1,800 persons voted.
“These things tell me that while things are far from perfect, there is still a sufficient enough degree of support for the government that if elections would be called tomorrow that the UDP would be re-elected,” he said.
We asked: “On [the party’s] own merit or because people don’t want the PUP?”
“It doesn’t matter to me! A win is a win...” he responded. “Winning is not going to be interpreted by me as being some enthusiastic endorsement of the government’s record. I am conceding to you that there are very many areas in which we fall short. I would be [a] fool not to.”
What is Mr. Barrow’s plan to address those areas where he concedes they have been falling short?
“Everything comes back down to resources, to monies, to financing, to having the ability, in fact, to make things better for people. And so I would want ultimately to abolish Income Tax altogether...,” he said. “I would want to continue to remove more and more items from the tax burden. Take off import duty and make the items zero-rated for GST, as we did last year....”
As to the pledge in the party manifesto to establish a national feeding program, he told us that they are supposed to help realize at least a part of that goal.
In Barrow’s words, “In Opposition, you campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.... When you are in Opposition, you make all sorts of promises and when you get there [in government] you worry about how you will achieve them...”
The challenge for the next two years of this term of office, Barrow indicated, would be “to find resources to ensure improvements in quality of life for the masses.”
Barrow said he knows they will continue to fall short of all the aspirations of the party, outlined in their manifesto. So why would people still vote for the UDP again if elections were to be called now?
“When they make the comparison, I am satisfied that people know that we are trying,” Barrow said. “I am especially proud of the pro-poor initiatives we have launched, and I think they are bearing some fruit, not just politically but actually assisting people.”
He recalled what the atmosphere was like for the UDPs back in 1998, before they were trounced at the polls by the Opposition People’s United Party.
“It is a sense of pride that I can go anywhere and I am yet to encounter any kind of hostility or people averting their eyes, and I know what that feels like because I am telling you in ’98, when we lost and we lost so horribly... I mean, [when] I was going about, you could feel that wall of hostility. I mean you go [around] and people either do not want to [acknowledge] you. Or if they hail you, it is with a downcast look, and people are hollering things after you in the streets.
“I never forget when the guy who was driving for me at the time overturned the vehicle and his wife died in the accident and I went out to the accident and I was somewhere by the cemetery and stood by the edge and I could actually hear people saying: ‘It’s that $#%* Barrow who should have been in there....’ I actually heard that. I have not found anything like that up to this point in time.”
Strangers—not supporters who tell you what you want to hear—say, ‘I am praying for you,’ ‘Keep on trucking...’” said Barrow. “Granted that is totally unscientific, but when they are against you, you know.”
We asked: “So you don’t believe the Amandala poll?”
He responded: “No, no. I can’t say I don’t believe the poll. I don’t think it is an accurate reflection of the overall sentiment. I’m sure in terms of targeted specifics, it may well be accurate but I tell you, it’s just not what I pick up or don’t pick up, it’s also what’s happening with the [UDP] conventions and so on. It can’t be that these things are completely inaccurate or meaningless. It can’t.”
He said that not experiencing what he did in 1998 has given him a “sense of comfort.”
“Even if am fooling myself or people are fooling me, I will tell you the truth, it is nice not to be encountering what I for sure encountered in ’98... You’re in the supermarket and nobody wants to hail you. It was then I realized that, @#$%, we will get a lashing!” the Prime Minister said. “I will tell you, when 2003 elections came around, people had started being nice and they still didn’t vote [us in], so you can’t read too much into those things.”
Although he is not forecasting another loss at the polls, he did say that, “If the people of the country say different, that’s fine with me. I have no problem at all going back into private life. I would leave with absolutely no regrets. I would accept such a judgment of the people with completely no rancor.” Amandala