January 20, 1999
Barbados prime minister rides economic strength in seeking second term

                  BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) -- The prime minister of Barbados asked
                  voters on the Caribbean island to judge him by his record on the
                  economy as they go to the polls on Wednesday.

                  Prime Minister Owen Arthur went door-to-door in his home district of St.
                  Peter on the north coast Tuesday, solidifying support in what was expected
                  to be an easy re-election for his Barbados Labor Party.

                  Challenger David Thompson shook hands in his stronghold in central St.
                  John on Tuesday before rallying supporters at Independence Square in
                  downtown Bridgetown.

                  The vote comes ahead of what could be a defining moment in the history of
                  this easternmost Caribbean island, as it considers cutting its remaining ties to
                  the widely admired British monarchy.

                  The winner will likely set the tone of the largely symbolic divorce. Arthur,
                  who is seeking a second term, and Thompson generally agree the monarchy
                  should be traded in for a republic, with Queen Elizabeth II replaced by a
                  Barbadian head of state.

                  Both campaigns have focused on the economy.

                  "One good term deserves another," was Arthur's campaign slogan as he
                  took credit for reducing unemployment from 22 percent to 11 percent. He
                  promised to reduce it to nothing if re-elected.

                  Arthur promises 'new and unprecedented prosperity'

                  The 48-year-old economist promised "new and unprecedented
                  prosperity...through the attainment of full employment and the eradication of
                  poverty in the first decade of the new century."

                  Arthur may benefit by many voters' association of Thompson with unpopular
                  austerity measures adopted at the insistence of the International Monetary
                  Fund in the early 1990s, when he was Minister of State.

                  The reforms, which included an 8 percent pay cut for government workers,
                  stabilized the Barbados currency but were widely resented.

                  Thompson, a 37-year-old lawyer, has argued that the economic growth
                  under Arthur has left half of society behind and that the drop in
                  unemployment is a mirage created by heavy government hiring and public
                  construction projects.

                  Thompson points to economic disparity

                  "The benefits of economic growth are not being fairly shared, and we are
                  forced to ask: economic boom -- for whom?" Thompson said during a rally.

                  Thompson has also focused on an increase in violent crime. While overall
                  crime rates have declined, Thompson noted that homicides increased from
                  11 in 1997 to 20 in 1998 and six have been recorded so far in the first two
                  weeks of 1999.

                  Arthur's party currently holds 19 seats in Parliament while Thompson's
                  Democratic Labor Party holds eight. The National Democratic Party holds
                  one but is not contesting this election and has allied itself with the Democratic
                  Labor Party.

                  The two men's campaigns are very different, with Arthur's swinging to an
                  upbeat calypso theme song called "Goin' with Owen" and Thompson's
                  featuring smaller rallies and a focus on speeches rather than singing and

                  Both candidates have promised to reverse IMF-backed pay cuts on
                  government workers. Thompson has also said he will eliminate sales taxes
                  on items ranging from food and clothing to children's books and sports

                     Copyright 1999   The Associated Press.