Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has dismissed as political expediency, the announcement by Finance Minister Chris Sinckler that the government is committed to the “full implementation” of a plan which it said had the blessing of the social partners and geared towards turning around the island’s ailing economy.
“We spent hours today discussing a plan that should not even be called the Barbados Sustainable Recovery Plan but should be re-titled ‘Beyond the Mandate’, because there is nothing in here that they can do properly, hardly anything without a mandate from the people of Barbados after the next election. That is a fact,” Mottley said as she responded to Sinckler’s presentation of the 2018 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue to Parliament on Monday.
Sinckler had said the “Barbados Plan” had been developed by the social partners, telling legislators it is a plan “that all of us sincerely believe as social partners is the plan that will guide Barbados through the final stages of fiscal consolidation, debt reduction and management, social development reform and most of all renewed and more vigorous economic growth for the future”.
He said he wanted to make it known “without fear of contradiction there is no other more comprehensive and targeted and social reform plan which has, or will receive as broad a participation in and endorsement of the social partners as this plan”.
But Mottley, who is expected to lead the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) into the next general elections later this year, said legislators were made to “stand in here for five hours listening to a minister talk and talk and the patient is bleeding out.
“A full dissertation when what is required is to stop the patient from bleeding. This Opposition will not engage in this charade in this Estimates and we will speak only to the vital issue that affect this country’s stability and health,” she told lawmakers.
“This country will not go forward until a mandate is sought and the people of Barbados decide what it is they are prepared to do to stabilize this country and who should be the people leading that exercise. Until such time we are spinning top in mud and this Opposition will not legitimize that exercise which is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Barbados,” said Mottley.
She said that the population wanted to know what the present level of the international reserves were as well as the level of Value Added Tax (VAT), income and Corporation Tax refund owed to companies and individuals.
She said the population also wanted to know of the level of arrears owed by government to suppliers of goods and services and how it intends to get a reduction of BDS$87 million (One Barbados dollar=US$0.50 cents) in transfers and subsidies.
In her presentation, Mottley listed a number of questions for the finance minister to answer, including one to determine whether or not the Central Bank of Barbados had written to him with regard to the adequacy of the foreign reserves and the threat to the monetary stability.
“We take no delight in asking these questions and we ask them one by one because they are vital,” Mottley said, recalling the Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Caribbean Development Bank had all warned in recent weeks that urgent action was needed to address the economic situation facing the country.
“It is one thing to have a driver’s licence, it is another thing to be able to drive. This Government has abandoned us. Worse still, the tools that are necessary to fix this country will not be available to us in this Parliament three weeks from today. I ask in the name of the people of Barbados, I ask in the name of this country’s stability, if ever there is an opportunity for this Government to stop and pause and put the national interest first, it is now, and it is not the Opposition that is asking, it is the country,” she told legislators.