Answers needed in proposed Hilton sale

Ronald Toppin, Shadow Minister of Tourism.

The Barbados Labour Party is calling on the Government to reveal the full details and process for the sale of the Barbados Hilton and any and all other state assets.

Shadow Minister of Tourism Ronald Toppin said the call for transparency in all aspects of these sales comes in the wake of the questions surrounding the recent sale of Blue Horizon Hotel.

That Rockley, Christ Church hotel was reportedly sold for $5 million though it was valued at $10 million, advertised for sale at $15 million, and an offer of $11 million was rejected

Toppin said the BLP would like to ensure that the Hilton, one of the most valuable jewels in the Barbados economic crown since it was originally opened in 1966, is not sold at a cut-rate price like Blue Horizon Hotel appears to have been.

The St. Michael North representative said the Government must not, “like a drowning man grasping at any straws”, sell off assets for well below their value.

The following is the full text of Mr. Toppin’s statement:

The Barbados Labour Party is calling on the Government to reveal the full details and process for the sale of the Barbados Hilton and any and all other State assets. Our call for transparency in all aspects of these sales come in the wake of the questions surrounding the recent sale of Blue Horizon Hotel. 

The Government has previously indicated that it intends to sell the Barbados Hilton for US$100 million. What is the process informing this sale? Who is doing the independent valuations? Where is it being advertised for sale?

We need full disclosure from Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler before any further action is taken. 

This new Hilton Hotel was reopened in 2005 after it was rebuilt; and by all standards is a new property with world class amenities. The BLP would like to ensure that this hotel, one of the most valuable jewels in the Barbados economic crown since it was originally opened in 1966, is not sold at a cut-rate price like Blue Horizon Hotel appears to have been. 

This Government must not, like a drowning man grasping at any straw, sell off our assets for well below their value. Once an asset is sold, that is it. Our Government cannot benefit from its value financially again. 

There should be no doubt in any Barbadians’ mind that the accepted international criteria and standards are being followed in securing the best deal for this country and its citizens at all times. 

Certainly, on the face of it, the Blue Horizon Hotel deal appears to fall short of these standards. 

How can Government accept BDS$5 million as is reported for that hotel when they reportedly rejected an offer of BDS$11 million? Was the Blue Horizon Hotel valued at BDS$10 million? Was it advertised for sale at BDS$15 million? 

We must therefore ask Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy why would Government sell it for half of what it was valued at and a third of what they wanted for it? That does not make sense!

Minister Sealy must make public the details of the arrangement by which that Rockley, Christ Church hotel will be operated.

One of the buyers was quoted as saying that the hotel is supposed to be developed along the lines of a private-public partnership with the intention to optimise foreign exchange earnings. The public of Barbados and its Parliament should be learning this development from the members of this Government. It is the Government who is the custodian for the time being of all public property. 

Let me repeat, while the Barbados Labour Party welcomes initiatives to boost the earning of foreign exchange, especially at his time, we would want to see the contract and all of the details involved in the development. We certainly do not want a repetition of the Sandals deal in which that company was granted a half-billion dollars in concessions, but to this date Barbadians are no wiser as to the other relevant details surrounding that agreement.

When things like this happen and the Government refuses to release the details involved, it makes one wonder what they have to hide. There are no details that could be so unpalatable to the public interest that they are to be kept secret. 

Further, it is also in the public interest for Minister Sealy to say what they were charged or have paid in legal fees and other fees to conclude the Blue Horizon deal. 

We repeat yet again, this is the property of the people – the taxpayers of Barbados – and not the personal property of ministers of the DLP administration. 

Barbadians are demanding and deserve an explanation. This is all the more so against the background of the stubborn refusal of this Government to even entertain in any small measure to meet any of the requests of the labour movement with respect to the National Social Responsibility Levy or a coping subsidy. 

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Mottley: Solid crime fighting strategies needed

Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley is calling on the Freundel Stuart administration to offer concrete solutions to this country’s crime problems.

In a press statement issued on Wednesday night (August 9, 2017), Mottley said the Barbados Labour Party was willing to support the Government in any reasonable national security measures to remove guns from the streets.

She said the shooting incidents, like the one which occurred on Grand Kadooment Day that resulted in one death and 20 others being shot, could destroy the country’s reputation as a safe place, and the livelihoods of its citizens.

Below is the full text of Ms. Mottley’s statement:

About 48 hours ago, our country, and indeed our neighbours in the region, were shaken by an uncharacteristic display of senseless and lethal violence that left Barbadians and visitors to our national festival fearful for their personal safety.

At the outset I wish to extend my sympathy to the family of Taried Rock and best wishes for a speedy healing and recovery to all those injured and otherwise affected on Kadooment Day. I cannot imagine the pain that your families are enduring especially since none of you expected this end to your Kadooment Day when you awoke Monday morning.

Indeed, an occurrence of such magnitude in any democratically governed country would normally elicit the announcement of concrete plans ensuring that Barbadians may go about their ordinary business without having to panic or be anxious.

It is even moreso when the regional and international community are watching us as they are aware that we will be hosting our regional cultural festival, CARIFESTA X111, at the end of next week for ten days and persons coming to our shores will want to know that these matters are being addressed.

While we appreciate the moral message delivered by the Prime Minister and indeed the Christian Council, we remain deeply concerned that it is only the Prime Minister and his Government who constitute the Executive of the Country and who are the majority in Parliament.

In simple terms, the only persons who can provide resources to the police or the courts or the social agencies or partner with communities and civil society, or who can facilitate the passage of legislation is the Prime Minister and his Government.

What makes Mr. Stuart’s failure to provide specific concrete measures more troubling is that he is also the Minister of Defence and National Security. He is therefore doubly charged with taking control of the situation and providing the leadership that Barbadians expect of their Prime Minister.

In addition, we have had the unusual spectacle of four different members of the Government, including three members of his Cabinet, expressing their views and their desires. Views and desires do NOT constitute a strategy. Nor does elegance of language substitute for clear, defined initiatives or resources being provided to the relevant institutions.

What they all lacked, the Prime Minister and his ministers, was the consistency and the priority to be given for the necessary actions required to give Barbadians comfort at this difficult time.

In other words, what is the legislation that you will bring rather than have an Attorney General mull over the situation and options? What are the resources to be provided to a beleaguered Police Force? What measures will be put in place to modernise our criminal justice system to ensure that people face the Courts in quick order for crimes that are committed?

I can assure the Prime Minister and all Barbadians that the Barbados Labour Party is willing to support the Government, with the appropriate consultation, in any reasonable national security measures to remove the guns from our streets and tackle their entry into our island.

In our Covenant of Hope which we launched in 2016 we commit on page 26 under the Heading of Fiscal Governance that the first claim on public expenditure must be those resources necessary to keep our citizens safe.

We therefore understand the importance of a non-partisan approach to matters of national concern, just as we recognise that multi-faceted solutions are required to tackle an issue that is rooted largely in the social conditions in some sections of our community. The time for action is now. We simply cannot afford any other horrific incident.

The Barbados Labour Party’s Parliamentarians are ready to play our part to support any firm, fair and effective action to end the senseless violence that has claimed seven lives from sixteen shooting incidents between May 1 and July 31 this year, even before the incident on Monday.

If Parliament is to be recalled from its summer recess, as it was in the emergency ensuing after the fire at Glendairy Prisons in 2005, we will be actively involved in the consideration of all measures placed before the Parliament.

My call for concrete action from the Prime Minister is therefore not about politics.

Stray bullets do not care if someone is a Dem or a Bee, if they’re rich or poor, old or young. Anyone can become an innocent victim of indiscriminate behavior. Barbadians must be able to go about their ordinary business daily without having to fear someone attacking or robbing them. That must be our simple but noble objective. It is to Barbadians that we owe this first duty.

In addition to our enviable reputation for being a safe place to live and to work, we also have the same reputation as a safe place to visit and to be entertained. These incidents can potentially destroy that reputation and in fact, impact our two major earners, tourism and international business. These pay our bills.

As for Crop Over specifically, several people often book for the following Crop Over after having a great time at the one they attended. We only need confirmation of this from the back page of one today’s publications.

If those in attendance this year do not have the calm assurance that the Barbadian authorities can manage this situation, they may not be inclined to return.

This will impact everyone – from hoteliers to the women and men involved in selling from fish cakes to craft. Many are depending on that money they make for back-to-school purchases.

Similarly, there are those involved in watersports, or who drive taxis, or depend on car rentals. All are at risk of further losses.

This is why the Prime Minister must give leadership to this entire process. All of us as Barbadians stand to lose if the perception goes abroad that Barbados is no longer a safe place to live or visit.

I want to urge those with influence in our communities to persuade our young men and women in particular to end this cycle of violence. Indeed our entertainers have already done so. There will be no happy endings for anyone involved if it continues to escalate unabated.

While we support an effective and responsive system of law and order, I want to remind Barbadians we are also committed to re-introducing as a matter of urgency the training and mentorship programmes that helped our young people negotiate their passage to adulthood.

Of course, it is also crucial that people have access to a livable income and opportunities for economic and social advancement if we are to return to the social stability to which so many generations of Barbadians have contributed and were accustomed.

This is our Barbados. It is all of us who must now act decisively to preserve our way of life.

 

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Don’t let criminal threats harm Crop Over fun

 

 

 

 

The Barbados Labour Party has condemned social media threats to public safety, and has called on the public not to be intimidated by criminal elements.

Stressing that it was still unclear if these threats are genuine or a hoax, Shadow Minister of Home Affairs Dale Marshall (above) said whether they were valid or not, Barbadians should not cower to such threats from criminal elements as this emboldens them.

He expressed the party’s full confidence in the police to get to the bottom of these threats and to safeguard the public in the last lap Crop Over activities.

The following is the full text of Mr. Marshall’s statement:

The Barbados Labour Party is aware of a disturbing video, as well as statements circulating on social media suggesting outbreaks of violence as we approach the climax of our annual Crop Over festivities this weekend.

Regardless of whether these are genuine or just pranks, they must be taken seriously as they are causing citizens an unnecessary level of discomfort.

We don’t want Barbadians to become alarmed, because we have no knowledge whether the video and statements are a hoax or not. Given the technology readily available, just about anything can be produced and easily disseminated via social media. However, there is that possibility that we have to guard ourselves against.

If it is a hoax, it demonstrates the level of depravity some people are willing to sink to. Because in an already tense environment where the daily reports of gun related violence have citizens feeling as if they are under siege, such a threat only contributes further to making Barbadians anxious and fearful.

If the threats are serious, then it underscores for us the dangerous state that our country has reached.

I urge all Barbadians not to cower to these threats from the criminal elements within our midst, if they prove to be genuine. To do so only emboldens them. Instead, report whatever you see to the police, anonymously if you like, and help them to rid our country of this growing menace.

Increased violent crime in our society does not benefit anybody. It is a scourge that has to be eliminated for the safety and peace of mind of all Barbadians regardless of their partisan perspective. We must work together to win back our streets and our communities from the growing criminal elements.

The Barbados Labour Party fully supports the efforts of the Royal Barbados Police Force to ensure a safe environment for Barbadians and visitors this weekend at the several events planned, and we know that they will be doing their very best in that regard. However, we too have a role to play, and we urge all those attending the last lap Crop Over events to be vigilant and on their guard as they participate in the festivities.

We encourage everyone to enjoy the final events of this year’s Crop Over to the fullest. But we urge you to be responsible in your behaviour – don’t imbibe and drive, resist any provocation to become violent, and be your brothers keeper.

 

 

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Marshall: Do More To Fight Violent Crime

The Barbados Labour Party has called on the Government to do more to combat the surge of violent crimes that has claimed 18 lives so far this year and left scores of others injured.

The call came from former Attorney General Dale Marshall today (July 18, 2017), hours after Colleen Beresdean Payne of Lodge Hill, St Michael was shot on Monday night (July 17, 2017) by two men.

The 58-year-old was attacked when she attempted to use an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) at University Drive, Black Rock, St Michael around 9 p.m.. She was rushed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and later succumbed to her injuries.

Payne’s death was the fourth murder in two weeks.

The following is the full text of Marshall’s statement:

Yesterday’s murder of another innocent brings the number of murders in Barbados to 18 thus far for 2017. For the whole of last year we had 21 murders.

In the last two weeks only, we have had four homicides.

This is not a numbers game, since each life lost through murder is one too many. However, the statistics do serve to paint a picture of what life in Barbados has come to, and that picture is very far from pretty.

Peace of mind, safety in our homes and the stability which we enjoyed as Barbadians now seems to be vanishing fast. The fear of crime has now reached crippling proportions, so much so that Barbadians are feeling under siege and, increasingly, feel unable to go about this country to work and play as they choose.

Peace and stability are also of significant economic value, since any gains made by any government will quickly be wiped out if we lose our reputation for being a safe place to live and to do business.

But in any national cause, the Government must lead. We therefore call on the Government, and especially the Prime Minister and the Attorney General to immediately set about prioritizing the fight against illegal firearms on our streets as many of the murders committed involved the use of these weapons.

Our Parliament does not need another debate on law and order. What Barbados needs is action on the part of the Government. And we need it now, before another innocent life is taken.

The Barbados Labour Party has gone on record as being willing to support extraordinary expenditure in areas affecting the public health and the security of all Barbadians from criminal elements. I take this opportunity to reiterate this position.

As a postscript, I wish to remind the Government that as the Opposition, we represent constituents too. We therefore have the interest of all Barbadians at heart.

When we were in government, it was the policy of the office of the Commissioner of Police to share the crime statistics with the then opposition Democratic Labour Party. Of late, that practice was honoured more in the breach than anything, and since August 2016, it has stopped completely. There is no property in data and I call on the Royal Barbados Police Force to resume the sharing of the crime statistics with us immediately.

The Barbados Labour Party offers its sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of those individuals who have tragically lost their lives to violence this year.

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Neglect of Parish Land houses ‘criminal’

Opposition leader Mia Mottley (left) addressing the media at Parish Land, St. Philip. Looking on is (from second left) St. Philip West candidate, John King, candidate for Christ Church East Central Ryan Straughn, and Dr. Sonia Browne, the St. Philip North candidate.

Scandalous and an example of rampant waste of taxpayers money!

That best describes the National Housing Corporation’s Parish Land, St. Philip housing project in which 122 wood and wall houses built six years ago have remained unoccupied.

And on Saturday (July 15, 2017), Opposition leader Mia Mottley stated that someone should be held accountable for the situation.

Standing in the midst of the housing development built by the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration, Mottley charged that the project appears to have been all about handing out contracts.

“It was not about the supplying of houses. If it was about supplying houses, in here would be full of little children and cars. But this was designed to supply contracts before the last election and empty it stands today. But because the next election is coming up, the front houses getting painted up,” she said.

Speaking to the media after the weekly Rubbing Shoulders on-the-road campaign in St. Philip North , Mottley said if Minister of Housing Denis Kellman spent less time contributing to call-in programmes, and less time in Moontown, St. Lucy, “he would perhaps know why it is impossible for people to move” into the houses as they are.

“You cannot have houses shut up for five, six years and expect that you can find these houses functional. Look at the trimming of some of the houses and you will see the wood rotting.

“Go and look and see the mould on the board. Go and look and see other signs of decay. What we cannot see but we all know is what happens to pipes when you don’t run water; what happens to tiles when you have a house closed up? We all know the consequences,” Mottley said.

“If he was spending less time on the call-in programmes and in Moontown, he would know that somebody needs to be held accountable for this massive wastage of money, and those persons perhaps should be better spending time across the road at Dodds rather than walking around Barbados freely,” the Opposition Leader added.

In 2016, while giving an update on outstanding Government housing projects, Kellman acknowledged that the Starter Home Programme at Parish Land, which is one of Government’s largest low-income housing projects, was behind schedule by about four years due to rising costs and legal challenges encountered along the way. He had told a local newspaper that 80 of the 122 units were due to be allocated.

Meanwhile, BLP candidate for St. Philip North, Dr. Sonia Browne, said she was not only concerned about the fact that the houses are unoccupied, but also stressed that constituents were worried that “they are small and do not suit the low-income people who are known to have more than two children”.

“A constituent of mine just up the road commented that they are so small you can’t even change your mind in them, and I agree with it totally,” Browne said.

Dr. Sonia Browne (left) conferring with canvassers during the St. Philip North mass canvass.

Alluding to the issues that affect constituents, including bad roads, poor transportation, single mothers finding it difficult to financially support their children and poorly lit areas, Browne said a better Member of Parliament (MP) is needed to represent the interests of the people.

She said constituents are fed up with the present MP, Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley.

“The constituents are angry with the current representative. Some of them have lost their jobs. They are generally angry because a lot of promises were made and not kept.

“The frustration is not only among Democratic Labour Party supporters, but it is spilling over to the BLP supporters as well. But, I want them to understand that I am here to support them,” Browne said. (BLP NEWS/Sunday Advocate)

 

 

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Mottley: Talk with unions PM Stuart

Opposition Leader Mia Mottley as she addressed the media in Hoytes Village, St James on Saturday.

Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has called on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to bring an early end to this Tuesday’s (July 11) sitting of the House of Assembly in order to meet with upset trade unions, who are planning to march from Queen’s Park to the Parliament on the same day.

The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) announced last Thursday that they intend to show up in their numbers to deliver a symbolic correspondence to Stuart. They said this would be the first phase of action aimed at getting the Stuart administration to, at the very least, cut its controversial ten per cent National Social Responsibility Levy by half.

Speaking to the media on Saturday (July 8) following  her Barbados Labour Party (BLP)’s ongoing Rubbing Shoulders on-the-road campaign in the St James South constituency, Mottley accused the Prime Minister of not treating the workers’ concerns with the degree of urgency that is merited.

“I pray this weekend in particular that this Government would understand the moment in time that it finds itself at and make the space to talk. I believe that they should be talking to all parties in that deeper and broader and social partnership, even if it means suspending Parliament early once the people come to see us, and let’s talk because Bajans cannot contemplate how they are going to make it,” the BLP leader said.

Mottley contends that the unions are being more than reasonable in their request for further dialogue on the levy, which rose from the two per cent when it was first introduced in 2016 to a whopping ten per cent, as part of Government’s austerity package to raise $542 million.

While not stating whether or not the BLP would be throwing their full support behind the future actions by the unions to force Government’s hand, Mottley chided Stuart and Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler for their rigid approach in the face of growing anxiety over the measures.

“You now have four of the largest unions in this country taking action. They are not asking for industrial action, they are asking for dialogue. I find it strange that the same Prime Minister that described them as immature two years ago, is not moved to recognize their maturity in coming to them [Government] at this difficult time,” Mottley said.

She added: “The unions want to talk because what they [the Government] is imposing on the workers of this country cannot be sustained. How many people must speak for this Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance to understand that people cannot take anymore?” (BLP News/Barbados TODAY)

 

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Sinckler should be fired, says Payne

BLP Chairman George Payne MP.

If George Payne had his way, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler would be fired. He would also get rid of Sinckler’s May 30 Budget which every representative private sector body has said will lead to a spike in the cost of living and job losses.

In a statement issued yesterday (June 22), Payne, the long serving representative for St Andrew, said Sinckler does not know what he is doing and this is clear from the number of times he has been forced to clarify his  budgetary measures to key stakeholders after announcing them.

That action, said Payne, is a pattern of behaviour that demonstrates gross incompetence.

The following is the full statement from the BLP chairman: 

 

Once again, the Minister of Finance has demonstrated that he does not know what he is doing.

He is the only Minister of Finance in the history of Barbados who has habitually conceptualized policy measures, announced them, and thereafter has to go to great lengths to explain them to stakeholders and the public.

We saw this with the solid waste tax, the cell phone tax, the tipping fee, and the confusion over when all but two of the income tax allowances he took away from hard-working Barbadians were to be deducted.

What happened this week with the Minister holding consultations with stakeholders to clarify his May 30 Budget was a continuation of his characteristic behaviour of repeatedly getting it wrong, and putting the cart before the horse. It is a pattern of behaviour that demonstrates gross incompetence!

Whatever credibility the Minister had left after the numerous gaffes he has made in his seven budgets; the 17 downgrades this country has suffered under his watch; and after the spectacular failure of his home-grown fiscal programmes to rejuvenate the economy, has now been totally eliminated by this week’s talks with stakeholders on his Budget, after it was presented.

No competent leader decides on a path, declares it, then holds talks to listen to how those most impacted by the measures feel. This bastardization of the Budget package after it was presented renders it discredited and unreliable. It shows how wrong the minister got it.

Worse than that though, is the fact that the Prime Minister agrees with this approach given his statement essentially to that effect. That demonstrates the rot in this Democratic Labour Party Government starts at the very top.

This entire situation would be laughable if it did not involve the well-being of 260,000 Barbadians.

But the fact is, the imposition of the increase of the National Social Responsibility Levy to 10 per cent, the two per cent tax on foreign exchange transactions, and the hike in excise taxes on gasoline and diesel will cause the cost of living in Barbados to skyrocket. These taxes will devastate the average Barbadian and lead to more unemployment. Indeed, this has been stated by all of the stakeholders – which is unprecedented. Therefore, notwithstanding the Minister’s belated concession not to have the NSRL applied to the near 300 basic items already included in the VAT-free basket of goods, the reality is that come July 1, the Budget measures will inflict more pain on Barbadians.

Worse still is the total silence and abandonment of the CLICO Investors and Policyholders .  After the 2016 Budget Mr Sinckler apologized to CLICO and BAICO policyholders and promised that the transition and settlement would be completed by the 31st December 2016.  Another Budget has come and gone and nothing more has happened and not a single word from the Finance Minister.

The Barbados Labour Party contends that there is enough evidence to demonstrate the Minister of Finance’s incompetence and inability to manage the economy. This is why there is a lack of confidence in the Barbados economy by local investors, while the only people attracted here in recent years have insisted, and received, massive concessions.

The Barbados Labour Party is therefore calling on the Prime Minister to fire the failure that is the Minister of Finance, and recall the entire budget.

If this Government honestly wants a Budget that is in the best interest of Barbados, they need to immediately start a consultation process involving the key stakeholders, the official Opposition, the University of the West Indies and the Caribbean Development Bank.

We cannot continue with this chop and change, piecemeal approach to the management of the Barbados economy.

 

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No jobs, anxiety stalk Christ Church East Central

BLP leader Mia Mottley (seated) conferring with St Thomas MP Cynthia Forde (right) and Christ Church East Central candidate Ryan Straughn (second right). Looking on is St George North MP, Gline Clarke.

Barbadians are anxious over the country’s future given the nine years of austerity under the Freundel Stuart administration, with no end in sight. That uncertainty was compounded by the tax grabbing May 30 budget and, since then, the waffling of the Minister of Finance in his effort to clarify the harsh measures he imposed.

This unease was forcefully expressed by some residents in the middle income Kingland districts in Christ Church East Central when the Barbados Labour Party continued its Rubbing Shoulders on-the-road campaign on Saturday (June 17).

Those residents said they will find it difficult to cope with the increased taxation imposed by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler as they already  have less disposable income since he took away all of their allowances, introduced or raised various taxes, while at the same time their salary has not gone up.

The homeowners argued too, that they are already saddled with mortgages and a variety of other payments, and the expected spike in the cost of living will only make them worst off.

One couple confessed that they were living from pay cheque to pay cheque, and if either of them should be unfortunate enough to lose their job, they may find it impossible to hold onto their home.

A Kingsland homeowner accepting a brochure from St Michael South candidate, Kirk Humphrey.

These are some of the real problems Barbadians now face because of the mismanagement of the economy by the Democratic Labour Party government led by Freundel Stuart.

In the Wotton districts, another major worry is the lack of available jobs. Despite the Government’s repeated boasts of only nine per cent unemployment, in Wotton and several other districts canvassed across the country by the BLP, the inability to get jobs is a major cry.

It is so significant that for candidate Ryan Straughn, employment for young people is job number 1, number 2, number 3, and number 4 when he is successful in the next general election.

Straughn, an economist, said high unemployment and a clear lack of opportunities were creating a sense of hopelessness among young people in the Christ Church East Central constituency he plans to represent by unseating the incumbent, Minister of Education Ronald Jones.

 

A senior citizen chatting with canvassers.

Speaking in the Wotton play park after the mass canvass, Straughn said the DLP’s policies were to blame for the hopelessness among Barbadian youth and the anxiety of homeowners.

“We can’t take any more taxes. But yet, every year the Government comes and seeks to go into your pockets before you even get a chance to go there. That is fundamentally flawed. It stops businesses from expanding,” said Straughn, as he outlined the effects of relentless taxation on the economy and economic activity.

“I’ve never seen so many young people who have stopped going to university because they simply can’t afford to. People have left school and have not had even six months’ work over the last five years. That is something we cannot allow to continue in this country,” the BLP hopeful added.

Straughn assured the unemployed and homeowners that the BLP had a plan to get the economy growing again to put Barbadians back to work.

“We are preparing and doing the work meticulously so that from day one we can hit the ground running and make sure a platform is set for all these young people. That is what is required to move this country forward,” he said.

St Michael South Central candidate, Marsha Caddle, gets a receptive ear from this homeowner.

Straughn took the opportunity to blast Sinckler’s budget in which he jacked up the National Social Responsibility Levy from two per cent to 10 per cent, saying it would have disastrous effects on households already struggling to cope, in particular low income families such as those in most parts of the constituency.

“They need to come to the people. Listen to the people. If you do that you would understand what you are doing is not just detrimental to their livelihoods, but to their future,” said Straughn.

He insisted that even if the BLP was forced to introduce tough options given the poor state of the economy due to the DLP’s incompetence, the most vulnerable would be shielded.

Christ Church West Central candidate, Adrian Forde, is greeted with a hug in Lodge Road.
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Issue wider than sex registry

Former Attorney General, Dale Marshall.

Prompt responses by a wide cross section of society have led me to conclude that my position on the issue of a register of sex offenders which appeared in the Daily Nation on June 12 might have been misinterpreted, misconstrued or misrepresented. I wish therefore to state my position on the matter for the interest and benefit of all concerned.

The focus from my comments centered around a response to Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police William Yearwood’s call for introducing a sex offenders’ registry here as a means of dealing with an increase in rape cases.

First, like most Barbadians, I believe that even one sexual offence is too many. I believe that anyone who commits such a heinous act should be severely dealt with by our Law Courts. In fact, I believe that the real issue in Barbados relates to the adequate investigation and prosecution of sexual offences, and the enforcement of penalties that match the seriousness of such offences, and the damage they cause in the lives of victims and their families.

Furthermore, we all know that our problems also relate to the length of time it takes for these cases to be heard in our court system. These delays compound the victimization, as survivors must wait long periods for justice to be delivered, and for their healing to truly begin.

I also made the broader point that we cannot look at sex offenders only, but need to have discussions on how we may alert women about men who are known abusers. This call related only to a sexual offenders’ registry, and not for a wider registry of persons charged with domestic violence or other similar, very serious crimes. We know that these offences cause just as lasting damage in the way of serious injury, disfigurement and death of predominantly women.

My simple contention was that a registry may not be enough, given the nature of crimes of sexual and domestic violence plaguing Barbados. We need to do far more given the reality of what we are confronting here. I hope this clarifies what was earlier reported.

Barbadian women are plagued by a high incidence of domestic violence.

Before we look to import wholesale the measures other countries adopt to fight crime we need to adapt them to the Barbadian context. In the context of the United States, the Sexual Offenders Registry applies to sexual predators or where minors are the victim. It is especially valuable in the US given the fact that offenders can easily move to other districts or states and continue their predatory crimes as an unknown. This is less likely to be the case with Barbados.

As we address these issues and other aspects of keeping a safe and secure Barbados, we will continue to put the interests of victims and their families first, while minimizing the opportunity for injustices to be perpetrated.

I believe that rather than the initial focus on a registry, we should seek to devote resources to:

  1. Understanding the true scale of sexual and domestic violence offenses;
  2. Adequate and timely investigation and prosecution of sexual offences;
  3. Expeditious hearings in the law courts and suitable penalties and their enforcement;
  4. Survivor support and offender rehabilitation where possible; and
  5. A comprehensive approach across communities and institutions of Government to eliminating sexual and domestic violence.

 

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Sinckler owes public workers an apology

Stop threatening public workers, Sinckler. Furthermore, you should apologize to them.

Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, made this call today (June 13) in response to Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s declaration that thousands of public servants could be dismissed from the service if Government is forced to abandon the tax measures announced in their recent Budget.

The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has threatened industrial action if Government does not scrap the tax proposals, particularly the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) which will see a 10 per cent tax imposed on all imported products, or institute a “coping subsidy” for public servants until salary negotiations have been concluded.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Sinckler reportedly said: “If this really is the union’s position, it is as ill-advised as it is unfortunate at this time. I do not believe that the union leadership is oblivious to the fact that the alternatives to the measures which we introduced, including an increase in the NSRL, will be far more hurtful to public officers than what is proposed.

“Indeed, least they forget, perhaps it bears reminding that there are a growing number of persons out there who believe that Government should immediately and substantially reduce the size of the public sector, especially its wages bill. Now while that may be coded language for some, it simply means that Government should send home thousands of public servants from the service.”

Sinckler said the Freundel Stuart administration, which in 2013 severed 3,000 public servants, had rejected this route and had chosen an alternative path, which “we are now hearing that the workers’ representatives don’t want and in fact are threatening industrial action over.

“Well at least we know where their head is even if we do not agree with them. But make no mistake about it; those are the hard choices which we face at this time. So if the NUPW leadership is prepared to make the choice of seeing large amounts of their membership lose their employment and with it the capacity to earn a living, then I would definitely consider that position to be both ill-advised and undesirable,” said Sinckler.

However, Mottley described Sinckler’s threat as childish and ill-conceived. And she stated that no amount of threats and name calling can make his bad fiscal policies become good.

The following is Ms. Mottley’s full statement.

The Barbados Labour Party is alarmed by the bizarre threat of Finance Minister Chris Sinckler to send public workers home, if he does not get his way with the new $500 million-plus tax imposition in the last Budget.

Public Workers are not excess baggage on an overweight plane to be shed at will. The Minister must stop using Government employees as scapegoats to cover up his incompetence.

Two years ago he sent home 3, 000 workers and nothing lasting resulted. Our economy is still facing even more severe challenges now. Is it Minister Sinckler’s plan now to send home another 3,000 workers? Has he promised multilateral institutions that this will happen after the next elections?

The Barbados Labour Party contends that putting workers on the breadline as this Government’s first and main option will not significantly alter or enhance the economic fortunes of this country under this DLP government.

Every Barbadian can think of countless ways in which wastage can be eliminated and spending reduced before you start to put workers on the breadline.

Greater transparency in the award of contracts is a perfect place to start. So too is actioning matters raised in successive reports by the Auditor General.

In an environment where the private sector is itself reeling under the pressure of these measures, how would dismissed public workers find employment? How would they feed, clothe and shelter their families? Doesn’t the Minister of Finance care about this?

Minister Sinckler’s threat is childish and ill-conceived. No amount of threats and name calling can make bad fiscal policies become good.

The National Union of Public Workers was very reasonable in its request for a Coping Subsidy to help cushion the impact of the budgetary measures, until such time as a salary increase is affected. Against this reality, the minister’s brash response was unseemly and uncalled for.

We call today for an end to these constant threats by Government ministers. We need a more conciliatory approach to addressing and resolving issues of concern to citizens and representative organizations in the country.

The Social Partnership was created for this very purpose. Rather than just holding the usual, for-the-record, token meetings, the Government needs to sit with the Social Partners and hammer out a reasonable formula for tackling the burgeoning problems impacting our country and its economy.

If the entire country is crying out and saying it cannot bear the $500 million in new taxes, a wise and prudent Minister of Finance, together with a caring and competent Prime Minister, would stop and reflect…not throw tantrums and label all who speak out as “enemies of the state”.

Minister Sinckler owes public workers in this country an apology!

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North West ripe for Rowe to pick

St. Michael West Central candidate Ian Gooding-Edghill discussing Neil Rowe’s candidacy with a resident after presenting her with a brochure.

The St. Michael North West constituency is ripe for the taking and can be won by the Barbados Labour Party.

Furthermore, says Mark Williams, the former BLP parliamentary representative for the constituency, the Bees have a proud, enviable record of service there.

“It’s a record of truth and not lies. . . . Do not believe that this seat is not winnable,” said Williams on Saturday (June10) in the media briefing held in Deacons Farm at the conclusion of the BLP’s latest Rubbing Shoulders on-the-road campaign. The seat is held by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler who won in 2008 and 2013.

“Do not walk around and believe it when people tell you that St Michael North West is not winnable. This seat is winnable on the record of the Barbados Labour Party. . . . The Barbados Labour Party has done more work in this constituency than the Democratic Labour Party – get it right,” Williams added.

The former MP insisted that St. Michael North West constituents’ loyalty cannot be bought.

“What hurts me is that people would walk around this constituency and think that money will win this seat,” said Williams as he assured Neil Rowe, the BLP’s candidate for the constituency for the forthcoming general elections, that he would be there to help him.

St. Thomas MP Cynthia Forde was showered with hugs and smiles as she canvassed the constituency.

Rowe, a new face to the political arena, reported that issues such as unemployment, housing and blocked drains remain unresolved. And he accused Sinckler of giving constituents false hopes while neglecting their needs.

“When it comes to housing, we have eight to 11 people living in a house . . . we have people that the Minister of Finance picks and chooses to send to National Housing Corporation to give a house,” Rowe charged.

The BLP aspirant said the constituency is plagued with high unemployment and a lack of opportunities, and he intended to be the positive difference that constituents have been hoping for.

Saying that Sinckler had failed to deliver on promises of employment for constituents, Rowe said he didn’t understand how a representative could sometimes send five people to fill one position within one Government department. Worse than that, sometimes the people who the constituents are sent to were not even alerted they were coming.

“Those things are unfair and unjust,” said Rowe.

He charged that Sinckler seemed to think the constituents wanted handouts rather than opportunities to uplift themselves.

“I want to assure the people that change is coming. I want to assure the people that I, Neil Rowe, will create opportunities for people to embrace. . . I’m here to make a positive difference,” he declared.

Carl, a St. Michael North West constituent, gave Chris Sinckler a failing grade for his stewardship.

Echoing Rowe’s sentiments on the lack of proper representation, a St. Michael North West constituent introduced only as Carl summed up Sinckler’s stewardship as a disaster.

“Mr. Sinckler is not a representative. He don’t even know what the words to represent mean,” declared Carl, who claimed that

Sinckler only came around at election time.

“If I had to grade Mr. Sinckler’s performance as a minister or representative of St. Michael North West, firstly I couldn’t give him an A . . . . I couldn’t give him a B. . . . I couldn’t give him a C – he deserves a D!

“D is for words like downgrade, deficit, demise, devalue, dead end and, most of all, the word ‘debt’. . . . That’s what’s killing us today,” said Carl.

In his final assessment Carl added: “The word for he (Sinckler) is just ‘delete’ – delete him from the political landscape of this country and this constituency.”

Saying that persons should be judged on performance, Carl stated that Sinckler does not deserve to remain in Parliament or Cabinet, and reminded the MP that he should represent the entire constituency, regardless of who supports him.

 

 

 

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Mottley denies getting $4 million from Four Seasons

 

Barbados Labour Party leader, Mia Mottley.

A vicious lie!

That was Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley’s reaction to claims that she earned legal fees of $4 million for work done on the stalled Four Seasons hotel project.

Mottley dismissed the claims as total nonsense, saying: “This notion that Elliott D Mottley & Company earned $4 million in fees from a private company is a nonsense and a falsehood. I have indicated that eight lawyers working over a period of time did not even reach a half or a 1/3 of that amount. They are still owed funds and it was not for one transaction, but for a series of transactions.”

The claim against Mottley has surfaced following her response to the 2017-2018 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals in Parliament last week in which she claimed that attorney-at-law Hal Gollop, QC, a legal partner of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, had received fees $1.5 million for work done on the newly constructed Barbados Water Authority headquarters building in Pinelands, St Michael.

While promising to uncover and root out corruption in both high and low places, Mottley had also charged that Gollop was instrumental in Stuart’s re-election in St Michael South constituency.

The Barbados Labour Party leader also took a further swipe at the governing Democratic Labour Party, reminding that “I was not a Prime Minister charging $3.3 million for legal work done for CLICO while being the Prime Minister of a country”.

It was a reference to allegations made against former Prime Minister David Thompson following his death in 2010.

Mottley also gave the country the assurance that the notion that lawyers can charge four and five times more than their counterparts in the same transaction, was wrong.

She argued that there was a minimum scale of fees which informed lawyers most of the time, stressing that they usually charged according to the scale of fees.

Mottley added that if the client felt that he had been charged excessive fees he could [contest the matter.

On the final night of the Budget debate Stuart sprang to Gollop’s defence. The Prime Minister claimed  that Mottley was seeking to sully the character of his friend of 50 years.

Both Stuart and Gollop challenged Mottley to come out into an open forum and repeat the allegations she made against them in the House of Assembly.
(BLP/Barbados TODAY)

 

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Uncaring to take new car, says MP

 

Insensitive and uncaring.

That’s St James Central representative Kerrie Symmonds’ take on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart taking possession of a new $700,000 S-Class Mercedes Benz.

Symmonds accused Stuart of living the “high life”, while the majority of Barbadians were forced to “pay through their teeth”.

“My concern, and the concern of the country overall, is the apparently insatiable appetite on the part of elected individuals for the luxuries of high life,” Symmonds said on Thursday (June 8). He added that the purchase of the new Mercedes must be taken within the context of the recent ten per cent restoration of Government MPs pay as well as the accumulated back pay.

The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) representative also pointed out that Stuart was not the only Government beneficiary of luxury vehicles at a time when the ruling Democratic Labour Party administration has been appealing to ordinary Barbadians to make personal sacrifices as the country grapples with severe economic challenges.

During the just-ended Budget debate, Stuart had likened the current economic burdens faced by the country to “a jockey which has gotten too heavy for the horse”, after Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler off-loaded a $542 million package of new austerity measures with a view to immediately redressing a $537.6 million deficit position over the next nine months.

Symmonds suggested the Prime Minister was the one who needed to climb down from the proverbial high horse, while stating that he was convinced that there was a level of “financial illiteracy” at the heart of Barbados’ problems.

“The Prime Minister has admitted that he changed not one, but two, luxury cars over the past year, namely MP2 and M50. The key point I want to make is that to my certain knowledge you can find suitable vehicles that are both robust and not necessarily high maintenance,” argued Symmonds.

While pointing out that he currently drives “a ten-year-old Toyota and it works very well”, the St James Central spokesman also expressed concern about what he termed “the absence of selectivity” displayed by the Prime Minister in the purchase of the new vehicles.

“Are we now so enslaved to brand names that we cannot shop around to find alternatives that may be more economical? And beyond that, is it fair to ask struggling taxpayers to pay through their teeth because of a lust among some in high society for brand name lifestyles that they themselves are not paying directly for?” he asked.

In dismissing the latest controversy over his vehicle, Stuart contended that there was no mystery surrounding the replacement of vehicles for High Court judges and chief justices.

However, Symmonds dismissed Stuart’s argument as total hogwash since judges have a fleet of cars and issues of maintenance, affordability and value for money were key considerations. (BLP/Barbados TODAY)

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Lead Freundel, lead!

 

Leader of the Opposition, Mia Amor Mottley.

The following is a media release from the Leader of the Opposition, Mia Mottley, on the industrial action taken by LIAT’s pilots on Wednesday, June 7, 2017, that disrupted air travel across the region.

“For the last few weeks, LIAT’s pilots were threatening industrial action. Today they have acted on those threats, and once again scores of Barbadians and other Caribbean citizens travelling within the region have been inconvenienced.

“While we appreciate that the management of LIAT would normally handle such industrial matters, the persistent grumblings surrounding all levels of administration and service at LIAT cannot be ignored and allowed to continue.

“As the largest shareholder in LIAT, Barbadian taxpayers foot the bill for the majority of that airline’s expenses. It is therefore incumbent on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to show leadership in this matter and end this tireless friction that has encumbered the Caribbean’s only significant regional air transporter.

“This whole LIAT matter is crying out for strong, decisive leadership. When will the Prime Minister take the lead on behalf of Barbadian taxpayers who essentially keep that airline flying, instead of behaving like a spectator? Why does Barbados continue to abdicate its position to minority shareholders?

“Enough is enough. Firm decisions need to be taken on LIAT. As the representative for the largest shareholder in this airline, the Prime Minister needs to summon a meeting and deal with these ongoing issues that are contributing to consistent complaints of poor service, and have led to repeated disruption of travel across the region. This rot must stop.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart (left) looks on as Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the chairman of the Majority Shareholder Governments of LIAT, takes the lead.

“What is the point of owning more than 51 per cent of LIAT, having a Barbadian chairman, three of the seven directors, and the acting chief executive officer in place, but yet cannot come up with a solution that is in the best interest of Barbadian taxpayers.

“I am not saying that we should disadvantage the other shareholders. But Barbadian taxpayers should not be asked to carry the majority financial responsibility in LIAT while cost reduction considerations are ignored. The Prime Minister needs to show leadership and begin to work in the interest of Barbadian taxpayers to get the best return on our investment commensurate with our majority ownership.

“As the regional airline, LIAT’s social responsibility is to provide air transportation to link Caribbean people. At the same time, LIAT is a private business. Barbadian taxpayers cannot therefore continue pumping money into it with no improvement in sight. That is why the airline must be restructured as a matter of urgency to make it an efficient operation.

“Leadership in this matter is therefore vital. Prime Minister Stuart needs to tell Barbadian taxpayers how much more they need to invest in LIAT to get it to work efficiently, and whether that investment is advisable at this time. He needs to tell Barbadian taxpayers whether the airline would save money if it was headquartered in Barbados instead of Antigua.

“Barbadian taxpayers deserve nothing less than leadership from the Prime Minister given the millions we pour into LIAT each year.”

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Tax to be rolled back

Barbados Labour Party leader , Mia Mottley

Whether a Barbados Labour Party government goes “the IMF route” or not, its prescription will not be as painful or as unconscionable as the single dose high-risk experiment adopted by the Freundel Stuart government last week.

Indeed, BLP Leader Mia Mottley pledged on Saturday (June 3) that the controversial increase from two per cent to 10 per cent in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) will be rolled back!

“We can’t say at this time whether it will be to five per cent, three point five per cent, the original two per cent or gotten rid of all together. But, what’s for sure is that we shall ease, if not remove, the burden of that draconian and heartless imposition on Barbadian consumers that was done this week,” said Mottley.

In presenting the 2017 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals last Tuesday (May 30), Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler said that in an effort to address the worrying fiscal deficit, government would increase the NSRL from two per cent to ten per cent. That measure alone is expected to earn government $218 million in revenue for the current financial year.

Mottley stated: “No useful purpose can and will be served by taxing people into oblivion. They will not get the money. This is June 2017 and we may not go to the polls before July 2018, so it’s difficult to articulate a precise alternative path given that things could get worst between now and then. But what I can say to you for sure, is that that tax shall be rolled back in the interest of taking the Barbados economy out of Intensive Care and setting us on course to recovery.”

Already Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry president Eddie Abed warned Barbadians to brace for a general increase in the cost of living due largely to the hike in NSRL. His advice echoed much of the concerns aired by the private sector, economists and accounting businesses who did an analysis of the budget. Also, Cabinet ministers Donville Inniss and Dr David Estwick each said the measure would be painful for Barbadians.

As for Sinckler’s charge in the wrap-up of the debate that the BLP will take Barbados into an International Monetary Fund administered programme if it wins the next general elections, Mottley said
the folly of that scare tactic was rubbished in the presentation of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur when he showed clearly in his contribution to the budget debate that the IMF route would have been much less pain, with far more predictable gain.

“I have no reason to differ with the informed analysis of Mr. Arthur. If the IMF route would have netted a guaranteed $300-odd million, why would this minister have gone with a more painful option, when he himself is not sure how it will impact? That’s the most frightening aspect of this discussion, because both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance are now saying, ‘let’s see what happens’.

“How can a government be so heartless? How can it be so unmindful of the short term impact of its ill-conceived policies? They increased the tax to 10 per cent, then say they will listen to what people have to say. From when does this Government listen to anybody?

“Every informed comment prior to presentation of the Budget, advised against taxing your way out of this crisis. They made the largest tax grab in the history of Barbados, almost half a billion dollars, and then say they will wait for feedback. That is administrative madness intertwined with their characteristic arrogance. Clearly this government has lost its way, has no new ideas and is now in lucky dip mode,” the BLP leader contended.

Mottley insisted that from the responses of the Prime Minister and other front bench members, 10 was just the unlucky number that was pulled from the bag.

“It was clearly a lucky dip approach. They put all the possible percentage increases in a bag, pulled one and 10 came out. That’s what passes for governance and fiscal policy in Barbados in 2017,” she declared.

“The Barbados Labour Party is monitoring this situation on a daily basis. I can tell you what we would do tomorrow, if we were in government, but it is difficult, if not impossible to even anticipate where this country might be in 12 months when, fortunately for all concerned, this government can continue no more.

“We are considering all of our options in the interest of the country. A year is a long time. There is merit in what the former Prime Minister has said. There is merit in what the Minister of Agriculture is saying. But remember also that the Barbados Labour Party has no shortage of economic thinkers. A team with persons the calibre of Dr. Clyde Mascoll, Ryan Straughn, Marsha Caddle and a few others, backed by more than 200 years of collective parliamentary experience, can be relied upon to come up with a more palatable and less painful formula. This country can rest assured of that,” Mottley maintained.

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South Central constituents deserve better

St Michael North MP Ronald Toppin sharing a light moment with a constituent.

Richard Sealy was weighed in the balance and found wanting by several of his St. Michael South Central constituents.

Many of those who spoke with Barbados Labour Party (BLP) canvassers when the ongoing Rubbing Shoulders on-the-road campaign continued in that constituency, likened Sealy to an absentee landlord who only comes around when his interests matter.

Several constituents said their cries for jobs, better housing and improved drainage have fallen on death ears, and many of them pledged to have the last laugh on Sealy whenever the general elections are called.

St George South MP Dwight Sutherland (left) in discussion with a Marl Hole Gap constituent.

Whether one was in Hall’s Road, Arthur’s Land, Carrington Village, Tweedside Road, Brittons Hill, Clapham, Delamere Land or Flagstaff, scores of residents received BLP canvassers with open arms, and several slammed Sealy’s unresponsiveness.

The type of struggle many St. Michael South Central families are going through was exemplified in the circumstances of a Marl Hole Gap matriarch. She is the only one working in that household of eight, and is not making ends meet given the astronomically high cost of living.

Unemployment apart, for several other families in the populous avenues and gaps off Halls Road, they would like assistance to get waterborne facilities.

It is an aspect of day-to-day life in St. Michael South Central that saddens the BLP’s caretaker for the constituency, Marsha Caddle.

Slamming the large number of pit toilets in St Michael South Central as an example of the deplorable conditions under which constituents are living, Caddle accused Sealy of not caring about the plight of his constituents.

“The number of pit toilets in St. Michael South Central is way too high. In 2017, we should not have Barbadians, young people with children, having to get up at 2 a.m. to go out in their yards in the dark to use the toilet.

“We have a representative who has famously said this week [in Parliament during the budget debate], ‘I do not care’. That refrain has been ringing in the ears of St. Michael South Central for nine years – they can feel it,” stated Caddle.

The economist also pointed to “the appalling state” of housing and drainage in the constituency, which she described as “a breeding ground for mosquitoes” due to the build-up of water.

Caddle said Sealy has also failed the scores of unemployed youth in the constituency.

“We have tradesmen, steel benders, masons and carpenters who cannot find work,” lamented Caddle.

These two abandoned, dilapidated houses in Marl Hole Gap are a haven for rats and mosquitoes, claimed residents. They reported that despite repeated requests to Richard Sealy’s constituency office to get the properties cleaned up, nothing has been done.

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BMA: Budget could be disastrous for manufacturing

Barbados Manufacturers’ Association President, Jason Sambrano

The Barbados Manufacturers Association (BMA) anticipates that the increased taxes imposed in the Budget will lead to further contraction of the economy, job losses and business closures.

In his latest effort to drag the economy from the brink, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced during the 2017 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals on May 30 that the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) introduced last September will rise from two per cent to ten per cent.

He also announced a two per cent commission on foreign exchange transactions, along with excise duty increases of 24 cents on diesel and 25 cents on gasoline, all aimed at reducing demand for foreign exchange and lower the fiscal deficit, which stood at six per cent as at the end of 2016, higher than the anticipated 5.8 per cent.

BMA President Jason Sambrano said the tax increases were significant, explaining that the $218 million which the NSRL is expected to bring in this financial year meant there would be less money circulating to spur economic activity.

“It means people will spend less, there will be less economic activity for businesses. It will obviously increase our cost of production because then people will start to charge us the NSRL in the different lines of what we may procure and it will drive up the cost of production. So it will have a contracting effect with regards to demand for products – both locally produced products and imported products,” Sambrano explained.

“So once those two things converge on each other basically it will put some businesses out of business, [and] especially [put] local manufacturers in a position of having to make some choices with regards to the structure of the business going forward,”

The BMA leader said the proposed two per cent fee on foreign transactions would likely have a devastating impact on manufacturers who import materials using foreign currency.

Virtually all imported material used in manufacturing will rise by two per cent, he said, dealing a further blow to the bottom line.

“So obviously that in itself, while the NSRL affect local sales to the retail trade, the foreign currency commission will then affect our export competitiveness because once we have to pay that, the cost of inputs will go up by two per cents and we will have to either make the decision, do we absorb that to try and remain competitive, which obviously drive up the cost of production, or do we pass it on to the trade and export market, which makes or products even less competitive?” he explained.

Sambrano said he was disappointed that Sinckler did not indicate how long the measures would remain in place, stressing that an indefinite imposition would have long-term implications for the competitiveness of the sector.

As a result, Sambrano said manufacturers were calling for frank and meaningful consultation with Government in an effort to devise a means to better “facilitate the efforts of the manufacturing sector to stimulate exports and improve our foreign exchange earnings”.

The manufacturing executive acknowledged that there was the need for a short-term plan to dampen the demand for foreign exchange, yet he was equally concerned that nothing was put in place to help stimulate growth and improve foreign exchange earnings.

Sambrano welcomed the news of a proposed Value Added Tax factoring programme, however, saying any measure that accelerated  refunds to companies was a good thing, given that some have been waiting for a considerable amount of time to get those returns. (Barbados TODAY)

 

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Budget a tax grab, says retired banker

Government’s plan to impose a two per cent fee on all foreign exchange transaction is being described as nothing but a “tax grab” by one of this island’s most noted operators in the financial services sector.

What is more, director and local franchise agent for Western Union, Horace Cobham, said the tax measures announced in Tuesday’s (May 30) Budget would force some companies out of business, and throw some private sector employees out of work.

“My sense of the two per cent is that it is a tax grab. It has been presented as a sort of dampening impact in terms of the economy, but the question is, isn’t it simply just another tax under another name?” Cobham said.

Stating that foreign exchange was not exported without approval from the Central Bank, Cobham said if the measure were designed to dampen the thirst for foreign exchange it was simply just an extension of the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which was designed for the same purpose.

“If this is going to have a dampening effect it means that this is just simply part of the whole tax cause associated with the implementation. So from my perspective, the only purpose of this two per cent is to increase taxes. Rather than having the NSRL being 15 per cent, they have decided to make that ten per cent and apply two per cent under another heading, but the reality is that it is to increase taxes. That is my sense of the two per cent.”

The former head of the Barbados Bankers Association said missing from the discussion was the impact of the taxes on jobs.

He said there was no doubt that with such a level of taxation there was sure to be impact on economic activity, which would definitely result in some job losses.

“My fear is that the most vulnerable will be the ones that will potentially be hit first in terms of job losses because if you think of the process it is not a linear one . . . and one of the things that will certainly happen is that by virtue of the overall cost of doing business and the reduced demand, businesses will have to think in terms of how do they survive, and businesses will do something that regretfully Government is not yet prepared to do, and that is cut costs,” Cobham said.

“So when businesses start to look at how costs can be cut, wages and salaries will be one of those areas, and you are talking about a reduction of numbers of people employed. So there needs to be an overt conversation on the impact of this Budget on employment in Barbados and I could see where in the private sector some businesses will perhaps fail, some businesses will have to reduce costs, overheads [and] people simply to stay in business and that is going to be a real factor going forward,” he stressed.

The financial services expert also warned that the two per cent tax would likely result in higher charges for Western Union customers due to increased operational costs, which are likely to be passed on.

“The prices are set globally but my expectation is that the cost of foreign exchange in our business will be passed on as expected, and therefore it will make the cost of doing the normal transaction more expensive, as will happen in the commercial bank. So the impact for us will be the same as the commercial bank because we regulate under the same regulatory environment as the commercial bank,” Cobham explained.

Meantime, Cobham welcomed the proposed audit of the foreign exchange dealers to better understand how that side of the industry works, although he was unsure what process the audit would take. (Barbados TODAY)

 

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BCCI: Taxes could drive businesses underground

President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Eddie Abed

 One of the island’s leading businessmen is warning that the planned introduction of fees on foreign exchange transactions and a whopping increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) could have damning consequences for businesses and the country.

President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Eddy Abed said the taxes announced on Tuesday, May 30, by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler could  force some businesses to operate “underground” as they seek “alternative” means of operating, and drive some manufacturers out of Barbados.

“My fear is that the last few years have been so perilous and I am hoping that this does not drive more businesses underground. We have heard of several situations where businesses have gone underground,” Abed said this morning at the Hilton Barbados Resort where the BCCI and PricewaterhosueCoopers held a post-Budget breakfast seminar.

“If we keep doing these bridges and mountains more companies will look at alternative ways of doing business,” he warned.

In presenting the 2017 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals Sinckler announced that in an effort to address the troubling fiscal deficit and the precariously low foreign reserves, government would increase the NSRL from two per cent to ten per cent, and would impose a two per cent commission on foreign exchange transactions.

These measures are expected to earn government $218 million and $52 million respectively in revenue for the current financial year, he said.

Meanwhile, Executive Chairman of Caribbean LED Lighting Inc Jim Reid expressed concern that the measures would lead to further uncertainty in the economy.

Reid accused the Freundel Stuart administration of seeking to “dampen the economy”, pointing out that some manufacturers had cast doubt on their ability to continue operating here as a result of the two per cent fee on foreign exchange transactions.

The local manufacturer said there were more questions than answers at this stage, and demanded clarity on the measure, saying his company exports over 70 per cent of the products it produces.

“We are a net foreign exchange earner and I would like to know how this two per cent is going to work,” he said.

In his Budget presentation, Sinckler said the main aim of the measures was to dampen the demand for foreign exchange as Government seeks to shore up the international reserves, which stood at approximately $749 million or 10.7 weeks of import cover at the end of March. (Barbados TODAY)

 

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Budget a ‘vicious tax grab

BLP leader Mia Mottley leading her team into the House of Assembly prior to replying to the 2017 Budget.

In a scathing rebuff of the 2017 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley charged that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had handed Barbados the “most vicious tax take” ever to hit this country since the introduction of taxation in 1941.

Mottley wasted no time in thrashing the fiscal measures, which she said would result in an additional $481 million in taxes, plunging Barbadians into greater hardship.

“$291 million for a National Social Responsibility Levy – in one year, almost $300 million; $140 million in the two per cent commission on foreign exchange; $50 million in excise tax; and $481 million in additional taxes. Where is it coming from?”, asked Mottley rhetorically as she blasted the government for asking Barbadians to make sacrifice after sacrifice with no real reward.

“You ask the middle class of this country to make another sacrifice; you ask civil servants in this country to make another sacrifice; you ask poor people in this country to make another sacrifice; you beg them to hold strain; you tell them about team Barbados . . . you tell them you have this wonderful homegrown strategy; and nine years later what do they get yesterday (Tuesday, May 30) evening?

“All they have to show for their sacrifice is an effective de facto devaluation of their social and economic existence and a de facto devaluation of the Barbados dollar by these measures that have been put by the Minister of Finance,” said Mottley in delivering her official rely to the Budget on Wednesday, May 31.

But Mottley went further than just crunching numbers in reply to Sinckler’s budget. She unraveled what she called wanton acts of corruption by the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP).

President of Friendship Youth and Sports Club, Alex Jackman (blue shirt), presenting a gift to Opposition Leader Mia Mottley. Looking on are club members.

She waded into the government for its handling of several controversial projects, insisting that the Freundel Stuart administration had much to account for.

Armed with documents, she tackled the Government’s handling of the $700 million controversial Cahill waste-to-energy project which was abruptly abandoned after a strong public backlash

Mottley claimed that while Sinckler, Environment  Minister Dr Denis Lowe, Minister of Housing Denis Kellman, and Minister of Energy Senator Darcy Boyce had been in the spotlight as having signed the agreement with the Guernsey-based Cahill Energy for the plasma gasification plant in Vaucluse, St Thomas, Prime Minister Stuart was the first person to approve the agreement dating back to September 13, 2013.

“To this date, the ministers and Cabinet of Barbados will not share with the country the contracts that were signed in their names,” Mottley said.

“And if you think that Cahill is gone, ask them about the company that wants to buy Cahill and bring another form of waste-to-energy to Barbados, for which the Government of Barbados is still obligated under this power purchase agreement signed by those four ministers to buy the power at kilowatt hour that they have agreed to,” the Opposition Leader told Parliament.

The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader also raised eyebrows about the conduct of some Government ministers.

“There are about four or five ministers in here [Parliament] who really have to ask themselves some questions. When people ask, ‘how can you drive a jeep belonging to a company that provides services to your ministry and gets work from your ministry and believe that is okay?’”

Mottley assured the House, a BLP government under her stewardship would adopt a no-nonsense approach to corruption, which would involve the passage of anti-corruption legislation.

She also promised to prohibit the printing of money by the Central Bank of Barbados to pay wages and finance Government’s programme, and to strengthen the powers of the Auditor General.

Mottley also vowed to repeal the controversial Barbados Revenue Authority Amendment Act to provide for a different way of addressing tax compliance, and form a Get Barbados Moving Again committee which she would chair. (Barbados TODAY/Caribbean360)

 

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Sinckler delivers ‘No Hope’ budget

Even worse times are ahead for Barbadians under the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government.

This was the general consensus after Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler, announced harsh new taxation measures in delivering his annual Budget (Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals) on Tuesday, May 30 in the House of Assembly.

Barbadians were catspraddled as Sinckler singled his intention to dig even deeper into their pockets as the DLP government seeks to balance its budget.

The following are some of the key points announced by Sinckler.

  • The National Social Responsibility Levy will move from two per cent to ten per cent from July 1. This will result in “increased revenue of $291 million for a full financial year and $218 million for the remaining nine months of the current fiscal year”. This levy was introduced last September and was imposed on goods imported into Barbados as well locally manufactured items. The NSRL was initially introduced to finance the burgeoning cost of public health care and to assist with maintaining a clean environment.
  • Online shopping is also going to cost a bit more. From July 1, a two per cent foreign exchange commission will be charged on all sales of foreign currency. This will apply to wire transfers, credit card transactions and the sale of foreign currencies over the counter. This measure is expected to raise an estimated $52.5 million over the remainder of the current financial year and $140 million over a full financial year.
  • The excise tax on gasoline will be increased from 74 cents to 99 cents, while that on diesel will move from 20 cents to 44 cents. As a result gas will now retail for $3.05 per litre and diesel $2.25. At present gasoline retails at $3.00 and diesel at $2.15. This will take effect from July 1, but Sinckler said it would not be felt by drivers at the pump.
  • Taxpayers will be able to benefit from a waiver of penalties and interest on land tax and Value Added Tax during an amnesty from June 1 to November 30, 2017. There’s also a plan to reduce the backlog of VAT refunds owed to businesses and personal income taxes.
  • Government was in discussion with the Central Bank and the National Insurance Scheme regarding a debt re-profiling programme. This means the National Insurance Scheme and the Central Bank could agree to accept lower interest rates on some of the government securities they hold. Savings of 70 million dollars are expected from such a move.
  • Cabinet has approved an across the board ten per cent cut in the approved estimates of expenditure for 2017-2018 financial year. This is not expected to displace workers or disrupt the provision of vital social services.
  • Hilton Hotel to be sold for US$100 million.
  • Duty-free shopping zones promised almost a year ago will be launched by August this year.
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Auditor General takes strong issue with BRA

It has been established as this island’s umbrella revenue policing agency, with primary responsibility for enforcement of the tax collection system.

However, based on the latest Auditor General Report for 2016, Government may well need to guard its revenue guard.

Following a detailed audit of the operations of the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), Auditor General Leigh Trotman has reported several infelicities, including a shortage of vital financial accounting information, understated tax revenues and unverifiable refunds balances.

And even though no shares have been issued by the central revenue collection agency, it is laughable that a figure for share capital was reported in BRA’s statement of changes of equity for the 2015/2016 financial year.

“This is misleading and should be corrected to reflect a more accurate assessment of the activities of the Fund,” the Auditor General has warned.

In his just-released 152-page report for last year, Trotman also reported that even though BRA reported assets of $3.7 million and liabilities of $392,000, there were no schedules or other forms of documentation presented to support these balances.

At the same time, grant income from the Ministry of Finance in the amount of $28 million was understated by $4.3 million, while the Authority’s expenditure was said to be overstated by $309,000.

The Auditor General has also raised alarm over the actions of the Margaret Sivers-led management team, which has been accused of acting without approval of the board on several matters,

“Based on the Authority’s Act, the Board of the Barbados Revenue Authority should approve the annual estimates of expenditure and other expenditure not included in the estimates,” the Auditor General pointed out, adding that “the Board should approve all policies established by the Barbados Revenue Authority (for example the issuance of cellular phones and payment plans)”.

The audit report for the financial year ended March 31, 2016 highlighted several instances in which insurance premiums for assets held by the Authority were not renewed in a timely manner, resulting in periods in which there was no insurance coverage for vehicles.

“This situation poses risk if the assets were to be damaged and stolen. For example, insurance renewals were $10,099.48 for computers, and $1,677.12 for two vehicles.”

These payments were due on April 2, 2015 and January15, 2016 respectively, but payments were made on December 31, 2015 and January 29, 2016 respectively.

“Insurance policies should be renewed on their respective anniversary dates to ensure the vehicles are covered for accident and injury at all times. The purpose of insurance is to reduce the risk to the entity,” the Auditor General warned.

Issues of payroll were also raised after it was discovered that audited seniors were being paid fixed salaries even though there was no documentation to support the authorization of this practice.

“It is recommended that the necessary action should be taken to have an approved Board policy indicating salary bands that are fixed and the movements between the bands.

“Employment letters should be amended to reflect the positions that are entitled to annual increments,” the Auditor General said.

He also recommended that “audit issues, once presented, should be addressed in a timely manner, to ensure that such issues do not recur in subsequent years”.

As for its revenue collection activities, the BRA audit came up short on information to support a brought-forward balance of $19.6 million related to refunds from the bank accounts of some legacy agencies as at April 1, 2014; net receivables amounting to $995 million; a difference in highway revenue receivables of $9.5 million and other receivables of $234 million.

There were also no financial schedules in support of $1.2 billion in total liabilities, including tax refunds payable.

As for the figure of $37 million which was given for income tax refunds and $105 million for corporate tax refunds, these could not be verified, neither could the Authority’s Statement of Administered Revenue, which was recorded at $2.1 million.

The Auditor General’s review of BRA’s accounting records also revealed an unexplained difference of $749,000 between unreconciled cash and unpresented cheques as at March, 31, 2016. There was a further difference of $1.2 million between what was presented in the schedules and the statement of administered revenues.

More alarmingly, property taxes came up short by $57 million after a comparison was made by the Auditor General of the expected revenue and actual taxes collected. (Barbados TODAY)

 

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Living a nightmare under Dems

Just how dreadful life has become in Barbados under the Democratic Labour Party government of Freundel Stuart was revealed last Saturday (May 27) in the several populous districts in Christ Church West Central.

In a BLP mass canvass of that constituency in Sergeant’s Village, Vauxhall, Warners, Briar Hall, Kendal Hill, Maxwell, Silver Hill and Gall Hill, constituents repeatedly complained about similar issues. These were, high taxes, rising food prices, poor garbage collection, an inadequate Transport Board service particularly for pensioners, insufficient street lighting, bad roads, the fear of gun violence and the indifference of Government to their plight.

One pensioner summed up the feelings of several constituents when, in commenting on how harsh day-to-day life had become, said it was the worst period she has ever experienced in Barbados.

Along with these complaints, the constituents in the densely populated housing districts of Silver Hill and Gall Hill had another beef. They want to know what has become of the DLP’s pledge to convey ownership of housing units to persons who resided in them for 20 years or more, and their rents are up-to-date. That promise was made in the 2013 general election and was supposed to benefit nearly 3,900 households.

Zeroing in on this issue, BLP candidate Adrian Forde stated that the people of Christ Church West Central lacked confidence in the Freundel Stuart Administration because of its failure to deliver on that promise of being able to own their Government-built units.

“They are obviously upset that to own their own houses has become a nightmare under the Democratic Labour Party,” said Forde at the media briefing held at the conclusion of the Rubbing Shoulders on-the-road campaign there.

These Christ Church West Central constituents, like the residents living in the Pinelands housing units back in February, stated that the DLP had failed to deliver on their promise, and would be punished for this.

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Stop BRA madness now!

Leader of the Opposition, Mia Amor Mottley.

Commercial banks have had to suspend over 300 real estate-related transactions estimated at $211 million due to a “lack of clarity” on the processes involved in the issuance of a tax clearance certificate by the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA).

And President of the Barbados Bankers’ Association (BBA) Donna Wellington has warned that until there was clarification, the financial institutions would not be in a position to close any real estate-related transactions or disburse monies associated with those deals.

As of March 16, 2017, the amended Barbados Revenue Authority Act, opposed by the Barbados Bar Association, demanded that individuals and corporations be fully paid up to all branches of the state before obtaining a tax clearance certificate.

The grouping of lawyers had warned that the measure would have “constitutional implications” and would “cause more mischief than it cures”.

According to the amended legislation, those wishing to obtain a tax clearance certificate to facilitate a conveyance of land, must pay all tax, interest and penalties accrued under the Land Tax Act, Cap. 78A. People are also required to repay all input taxes in accordance with Section 48(4) of the Value Added Tax Act, Cap. 87 where such tax was previously allowed under Section 46(2) of that Act.

Applicants who may not have the means to settle their arrears in full have the option of paying ten per cent of the taxes, interest and penalties which have accrued under the other taxing Acts, and enter into an agreement with the BRA to make scheduled payments to liquidate the sums owed under those pieces of legislation.

The BBA said there was a “lack of clarity on the processes that are required in order to comply with the Act”.

“As such commercial banks have been experiencing significant delays in disbursement of mortgages and other credit facilities that require security over real estate. These delays are currently impacting an aggregate of approximately 330 transactions with an estimated value of $221 million. The failure to close and disburse these transactions impacts not only the banks’ customers but also restricts the transfers of associated property transfer taxes and stamp duties to the Government of Barbados,” Wellington said.

The “interruption” in business associated with the real estate transactions will directly impact realtors, developers, lawyers, contractors, valuators and all other stakeholders involved in real estate related transactions

The issuance of the tax clearance certificate can take up to six weeks, which commercial banks believe was a significant delay that could further impact negatively on the process of doing business in Barbados for both local and international investors.

Wellington said the BRA had agreed to meet with the bankers on May 30, to “discuss and clarify” the concerns and the requirements for properly closing transactions under the Act.

“The association further advises that until such clarification is obtained, commercial banks will not be in a position to close real estate related transactions and disburse monies associated with same,” she said, adding that the association was eager to find a solution that served the interests of all parties, including the public and clients wishing to execute conveyances, as well as generate income for the BRA.

In a swift reaction to yesterday’s BBA statement, the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) which had previously described the amendment as “kicking Barbadians while they are down”, appealed to the Freundel Stuart administration to “reverse the madness” and repeal the amendments.

Mottley said the bankers’ grouping’s statement had confirmed what her party had warned all along would have happened, that the amendment “would cause total and complete chaos in the lives of citizens and businesses conducting ordinarily routine transactions” here.

The following is the full text of Ms. Mottley’s statement.

The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) takes no comfort in the announcement by the Barbados Bankers Association about the lack of clarity regarding the recently introduced requirement for Tax Clearance Certificates with respect to all property transactions and all loans involving any form of property interests.

When this amendment was introduced by the Government two months ago, the BLP took the position that this action would be the death knell of business in Barbados.  The amendment to the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) Act would cause total and complete chaos in the lives of citizens and businesses, conducting ordinarily routine transactions. The Barbados Revenue Authority simply does not have the institutional capacity to undertake the role of issuing this volume of Tax Clearance Certificates in acceptable timelines required for commercial transactions in Barbados.

President of the Barbados Bankers Association, Donna Wellington

The Barbados Bankers Association has confirmed that there are hundreds of transactions now being affected at a value of over BDS $211 million. This is just the frontline of the problem as other businesses and transactions are already being affected in their ordinary course of business, even though they are not the ones depending on loans but are dependent on parties being able to close other commercial transactions. These actions therefore stand to affect all households and businesses in Barbados.

This speaks nothing of the revenue the Government is depriving itself of not just in Property Transfer Tax and Stamp Duty but ultimately all revenue emanating from the conduct of legitimate commerce in Barbados.

Additionally, there are the obvious implications for the employment of persons working in the sectors that will be affected by this interruption in business – financial institutions, realtors, lawyers, contractors to name a few.

The BLP warned that there would have been an inevitable revision of the risk management procedures governing the review of loans and also the monitoring of existing loans from year to year. It is clear that the Banks and other financial institutions have now confirmed that these revisions are critical for them before they can continue to do any further business with loans.

We have been aware for over a month now of the legitimate concerns of the banking sector and the related professions. The failure of either the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance to treat to these concerns with the absolute urgency that they demand has clearly resulted in this suspension by the Banks of the closing of all real estate related transactions and the disbursement of funds related to the same.

Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and Barbados Revenue Authority head, Margaret Sivers

It is unacceptable that this matter is to await resolution with a meeting one week away – on no less a day than Budget Day and with BRA who have no power nor capacity to change policy.

It was for this reason that the BLP urged the Government to pause when it introduced these amendments to Parliament, and consult, even if before a Select Committee of Parliament so that we could appreciate the capacity of the BRA and equally the volume of mortgages and credit transactions involving property in any way being dealt with by the financial sector.

We call on the Government for the urgent repeal of this legislation and for us to determine how best we can reduce the arrears both owed to and by Government, given the protracted economic recession of the last eight years.

The one thing that is required to bring back confidence to this economy and to allow people to invest and go about their business is certainty. This amendment has achieved the exact opposite – total gridlock just to do ordinary business. This is certainly NOT how we can turn our economy or the well-being of Barbadians, around for the better.

We appeal to the Prime Minister in the national interest, as the Bankers have already done in the last few weeks. This is not a time for politics or we told you so. It is simply a time for this Government to reverse the madness and repeal the amendments with dispatch. This can be done on Tuesday before the start of the Budget as a simple Bill. Doing so will receive the Opposition’s support.

 

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‘Low interest rates stifling wealth generation’

Bothered by the low interest rates being offered by commercial banks, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley is challenging insurance companies to come up with new instruments in which the financial institutions can invest.

“The commercial banks have sent enough messages to us that they are prepared to shift their presence because the region is not giving them the returns that it gave them for the last century. Now, how do entities that live with us for 100 years start to make decisions to find other regions attractive all of a sudden? It is because we are not performing at the levels we ought to be performing.

“You can’t fuel growth without having access to oxygen. The oxygen is the savings, the oxygen is the capital, it is also people, and we have the people,” Mottley said on Monday (May 22) as she addressed the 31st annual Sales Congress for the Caribbean Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors at the Barbados Hilton Resort under the theme, The Environment – Unlimited Opportunities.

The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader, who will take the BLP into a general election for the first time when the polls are held, said she was seeking to lead the country at a time when it was felt that residents should be able to fuel the production of wealth from generation to generation.

Yet, she said, wealth generation was being stifled because of the extremely low interest rates.

“What happens in a region when all of a sudden people can’t even get decent returns on their savings? You now have people putting $100 in a bank account and getting $0.10 every year,” Mottley noted, pointing out that the high bank fees meant that people were now “paying the bank to hold their money”.

Pointing out that the banking system was very liquid, she told insurance officials their industry was placed in a prominent position to be able to make the required transition.

“We have a responsibility as governments, but you have a responsibility as product developers. For us to develop new instruments that are capable of matching the needs of lenders and borrowers in this economy because governments don’t grow, it is business and individuals that grow and without that fuel our underperformance economically will become chronic and endemic rather than changing,” Mottley said.

However, the Opposition Leader said this would require trust and unity among the stakeholders, even as she accused some financial and insurance officials of “slowing the pace of sales”. “There are some of you I know who may even be slowing the pace of sales at this time in a country like Barbados where there is tremendous uncertainty as to the savings instruments that you may even be required by law to invest in. When we start to have that we start to have problems of trust,” she warned.

Mottley said it was critical for people to “pool their savings to be able to be an engine and a fuel for growth in a region that is chronically under performing”. (Barbados TODAY)

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Freundel must go, say St. Michael South constituents

Eversley Road, Brittons Hill, resident Roger Forde listens attentively to political leader Mia Mottley (left) as she advises him how to overcome some of his challenges with the Farm Labour programme. Looking on are candidates (right) Kirk Humphrey, St. Michael South; Peter Phillips, St. Lucy; Arthur Holder, St. Michael Central; Trevor Prescod, St. Michael East (partially hidden); and Marsha Caddle, St. Michael South Central.

Several St. Michael South constituents lambasted the poor representation they receive from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, and said they don’t want to see him again.

The constituents made their feelings known to some of those involved in the Barbados Labour Party mass canvass of St. Michael South on Saturday (May 20). That canvass was a continuation of the party’s Rubbing Shoulders initiative.

From the Bayland to Brittons Hill, the refrain was the same – Freundel needs to go.

This disillusionment was captured by BLP caretaker for the riding, Kirk Humphrey. Speaking at a media briefing after the mass canvass at Jessamine Avenue in the Bayland, he lamented the way constituents had been treated over the years given they were represented by two Prime Ministers. And he pledged to always put people above politics.

“This constituency needs representation . . . Representation means we will hit the ground, we will get to know the people, we will build relationships, and our primary concern is building the trust between ourselves and the people so we can act on the people’s behalf,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey noted that parliamentarians win their seats because of the confidence of the electorate; and if their voices are ignored by the people they elect to represent them, then they have the ability to oust them.

“Silence is not a public policy and we have to be engaging and we have to . . . communicate with the people.

“We are only here because people have allowed us to be here, but we will also not be here if people [so] decide,” he stressed.

Humphrey accused Stuart of ignoring the plight of constituents and highlighted a number of issues plaguing the constituency. One of them was the dearth of street lights in the heavily populated riding which has led to the lives of women and children constantly being under threat.

“St. Michael South is a very dark constituency. . . . There are young girls and young mothers who walk through the constituency and are afraid at night. We have to bring lighting to the constituency so that people can feel safe,” said the first-time candidate.

A Seaman’s Village, Brittons Hill resident outlining his concern about vehicles ignoring the one-way status in his district to Senator Wilfred Abrahams.

Humphrey noted that the roads and drains in the constituency are also in a deplorable state, a situation residents Juanita Forde and Paul Adams graphically outlined in detailing their separate challenges through the years.

The management consultant also complained about a lack of sporting facilities or even a resource centre in St. Michael South, noting the area once produced sporting icons, but had fallen by the wayside as a leading community in Barbados.

Humphrey said the Stuart-led administration had also failed the constituents in housing. He said they felt cheated in that those who had  anticipated moving into low-income apartment complexes at the Grotto and Valerie Housing Projects could no longer do so because they are too expensive.

“Most people who grew up in the Bayland, Brittons Hill and Paddock cannot now get into the Grotto because the rates that they are charging are not for poor people,” Humphrey charged.

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‘Bus system allowed to fall apart’

Barbadian commuters are suffering from a poor public transport service, says former chairman of the Transport Board, Ian Gooding-Edghill.

And he is demanding that Government presents a “credible and functional” plan to increase the number of buses on the roads and bring relief to the travelling public.

Gooding-Edghill complained in a recent statement that the state-run bus system had become a “national disgrace and embarrassment” and the Freundel Stuart administration did not appear to have a plan to remedy the situation.

The BLP St Michael West Central candidate charged the current administration was mismanaging the transport agency, spending over $108 million on maintenance with little to show for it.

“Clearly the Board has abandoned the fleet replacement policy put in place by the BLP. The investment would have reversed the steep decline in passengers from 23.5 million in the 2010/11 financial year to 17.4 million for 2015/16, a loss of some 6.1 million passengers and also badly needed revenue,” he argued.

“I am calling on the Transport Minister to, even at this late stage, demonstrate urgency and initiative showing that he is finally aware of, and sensitive to, the plight of bus travellers, and most of all that he has a credible and functional plan to shortly bring them lasting relief, through a reliable bus service based on an adequate supply of working buses. The long-suffering travelling public deserves nothing less.”

Gooding-Edghill said the shortage of buses, compounded by financial problems, had been going on for much too long and Barbadians were the ones suffering as a result.

He contended that not since the early 1990s had the Transport Board been in such a “deplorable” position.

“The harsh reality that the travelling public who heavily depend on Transport Board buses to go about their daily business still have to endure a disgracefully low supply of buses, making it punishingly difficult and even impossible for them to get to school, work and social activities on time or at all. And on their way back home the story is the same: agony and frustration from long waits at bus stops and in bus terminals.

“This deplorable situation has not only been going on for far too long, but shows no sign of getting better any time soon. The Board’s daily supply of buses on the road is at its lowest and worst in nearly 23 years, since the Board has not been able to buy any new buses since 2006. Also, repair and maintenance of its old fleet of buses has been nothing short of a national disgrace and embarrassment, despite having recruited allegedly specialist, high-price foreign personnel to turn things around,” he added. (BLP News/Barbados TODAY)

 

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Tough times ahead, warns Governor

There is little positive to report on the Barbados economy.

The Freundel Stuart Government continues to fall short of its fiscal targets. And, with this in mind, Acting Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Cleviston Haynes on Tuesday (May 9, 2017) warned that more belt-tightening measures were needed to stabilize the stuttering economy.

Delivering his first quarterly report since taking over as head of the bank back in February after the firing of Dr. DeLisle Worrell, Haynes also warned of the need for diversified areas of growth, and for a further dampening of domestic demand for foreign exchange, as the country seeks to improve its overall economic performance.

Haynes said while gains were made in addressing some of the macroeconomic imbalances faced in recent years, there was still need for “concerted attention to fiscal adjustment and the acceleration of project implementation”.

For the January to March period under review, the economy recorded growth of two per cent, led by tourism. This is slightly down from the 2.3 per cent growth recorded for the same period in 2016, when the foreign reserves plunged to $681.1 million.

However, Haynes reported that the reserves have since risen slightly to $705.4 million at the end of March this year, which is still below the 12 weeks benchmark.

The following is the full text of the Governor’s press statement:

“The Barbados economy registered moderate growth during the first three months of 2017. The expansion was primarily driven by activity in the tourism sector, but a more robust recovery was hampered by ongoing delays to the start of anticipated investment projects. The delays also impacted the growth of international reserves during the quarter but higher tourism earnings contributed to a modest increase in reserves and a slight improvement in the import reserve cover at the end of the review period.

The Government maintained its focus on its programme of fiscal consolidation, resulting in a further narrowing of the deficit for FY2016/17. Improved tax collections, resulting from the suite of measures introduced in recent years together with the containment of non-interest expenditure enabled the deficit-to-GDP ratio to fall to its lowest level since FY2011/12. Despite these gains, the deficit was estimated to be marginally short of the target of 5.8%1 , largely due to the delayed execution of planned divestment of state assets.

The financial system remained well capitalized and stable during the first quarter. Weak private sector credit demand continued to contribute to a banking system marked by high levels of excess liquidity and historically low interest rates as both deposit and lending rates declined below those of a year ago.

Real Sector

Gross Domestic Product

Growth is estimated at 2% for the first quarter, above the average first-quarter performance of the past five years. Real tourism value-added rose by 3.0%, following a strong performance during the corresponding quarter the previous year.

Long-stay arrivals were up 4.4%, on the strength of increased demand and the on-going expansion of airlift from the USA and Canadian markets. UK arrivals were down 1.6%, in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum. On average, visitors’ length of stay is estimated to have decreased relative to the same period last year. However, cruise passenger arrivals rose by approximately 9% during the quarter.

The other traded sectors made a modest contribution to growth during the first three months of 2017, with the manufacturing and 2 agricultural sectors estimated to have trended upwards. Output of sugar is no longer a significant contributor to GDP, but an early start of the harvest led to increased production during the period.

Construction activity is estimated to have expanded by almost 2% during the first three months of 2017. This outturn was influenced by the construction of various commercial projects, including Sandals Royal, the luxury arm of Sandals Resorts International, which is scheduled to open towards year-end.

Other non-traded sector activity, principally in wholesale and retail and other business and general services, registered modest growth, the result of the performance of the tourism and construction sectors.

Prices and Employment

The unemployment rate has been trending downwards since 2014 and the average unemployment rate for the four quarters ending September 2016 was reported at 9.9% compared to 11.3% at the end of 2015.

The economy also continued to benefit from relatively low inflation, but there are signs of a modest upturn in the general price level. At the end of December 2016, the 12-month moving average rate of inflation stood at 1.3%, in contrast to the 1.1% decline recorded at the end of December 2015, primarily due to increases in the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages.

External Sector

As at March 31, 2017, the international reserves stood at $705.4 million, following an increase of $24.3 million in the first quarter. This improvement compares with an average first quarter increase of $19 million over the past five years.

However, the import reserve cover of 10.7 weeks at the end of March 2017, remained below the 12-week benchmark, in part a reflection of the larger than usual net public sector capital outflows in FY2016/17.

For the first quarter of 2017, the external current account registered a surplus of $45.4 million, $13.0 million below that recorded for the corresponding period of 2016.

Tourism earnings grew moderately on the basis of improved activity, but these gains were largely eroded by higher retained imports, which were up 6.6%, in contrast to declines for the comparable periods since 2013.

There was modest growth of consumer and capital goods, but intermediate goods increased by 12.3%, predominantly driven by rising fuel import prices.

Domestic exports grew by 2.9%, a slowdown from the 7.2% increase experienced in the same period of the previous year. Provisional data show that exports of electrical components and chemicals recorded the largest increases but exports of rum, the single largest commodity in the export sector, was stable.

Over the review period, the financial account’s deficit of $35.7 million was slightly lower than that observed for the corresponding period of 2016. Net long-term private sector outflows of $52.6 million were recorded, in contrast to inflows of $66.1 million registered for the first quarter of 2016, when there were substantial inflows from the sale of shares in Banks Holdings Ltd. On the public sector side, net long-term outflows totalled $3.0 million, marginally less than the comparable period of the previous year.

Monetary and Financial Sector

Excess liquidity in the banking system, as measured by excess cash reserves as a percentage of domestic deposits, reached 17%, up from 10.6% a year ago. This increase partly reflects the decision by some banks to substitute some of their holdings of Government securities for cash at the Central Bank.

Total domestic deposits grew by only 2%, but credit extended to the non-financial private sector remained subdued, rising by approximately 1%. Given the build-up in liquidity, deposit interest rates have fallen sharply since the abolition of minimum deposit rate in April 2015.

Preliminary data indicate that the weighted average deposit rate fell to 0.25% in the first quarter of 2017, while the weighted average loan rate edged down to 6.7%.

In addition, there was a decline in the average three-month rate on Treasury bills which moved to 3.1% at the end of March 2017.

Public Sector

Revenue and Expenditure

Fiscal consolidation remained the central challenge of economic policy during the review period. The fiscal deficit for the period is estimated at $67 million, compared to the deficit of $59.3 million recorded in the corresponding period of 2016. Despite the small increase in the fiscal deficit during the first three months of the calendar year, the overall balance contracted to an estimated 6% of GDP for FY2016/17.

The improved fiscal outturn reflects the combined impact of higher tax collections and the containment of non-interest expenditure. The revenue-to-GDP ratio rose to 30%, largely attributable to the collection of higher indirect taxes which rose by 9.9%.

The budgetary measures, including the National Social Responsibility Levy, have buoyed VAT receipts which contributed 64% of the improved indirect tax collection. Direct tax revenue expanded by 7.5%, on the basis of improved personal income taxes and corporate taxes.

Non-interest expenditure fell by 2% during FY2016/17, partly due to a reduction in capital spending. This resulted in an estimated primary surplus of 1.9%, compared to an average deficit of 1.6% since the 2009 recession. However, given the size of the Government’s overall indebtedness, interest costs increased by 8.4% resulting in an interest to revenue ratio of 26.3%.

In line with the trend observed over the past five years, funding of the deficit for FY2016/17 was mainly provided by domestic sources as foreign amortization payments were almost four times the size of public capital inflows.

The National Insurance Scheme and private non-bank institutions increased their holdings of Government debt but these gains were more than offset by commercial banks’ reduction in their holdings of Government paper.

For most of the year, the Central Bank actively accommodated Government’s residual financing needs but, during the quarter, the Bank sought to minimize new credit creation. However, its exposure to Government increased principally because it had to acquire Government paper in providing short term liquidity support to one of its banks.

Government’s overall indebtedness remained high. As at March 2017, the gross public sector debt2 ratio declined to 98.5% of GDP, partly reflecting the increased share of debt purchased by the Central Bank and the NIS in 2016.

Outlook

The Barbados economy has made gains in addressing some of the macroeconomic imbalances faced in recent years. However, challenges remain and stabilization now requires concerted attention to fiscal adjustment and the acceleration of project implementation.

Under the current policy framework, Government’s forecast for the fiscal deficit for FY2017/18 is 4.4% of GDP. However, given the financing constraints Government now faces, together with the decline in international reserves over the past three years, there is need for further fiscal consolidation.

The immediate challenge is to bring the current fiscal balance in line with available financing resources so that delays in payments for the provision of services to Government can be eliminated. In this regard, the finalization of planned asset sales is crucial.

However, structural measures are needed over the medium-term to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the fiscal effort, including measures that embrace improved tax administration and expenditure containment both within central Government and state owned enterprises.

Economic growth is projected to range between 1.5% to 2.0% in 2017, mainly on the strength of tourism and new construction activity.

The tourism sector remains competitive but further enhancements in product quality are needed to sustain growth over the medium-term.

The scope for fiscal stimulus through a public sector investment programme remains limited and planned private sector investment projects are therefore critical to reversing the slide in capital formation that has contributed to subdued economic activity in recent years.

However, there are significant downside risks to the growth forecast, partly related to on-going delays to the start of major tourism-related projects earmarked for 2017.

The international reserves are expected to stabilize during 2017, on the basis of the proceeds from the sale of Government assets, higher public sector project related inflows and the continued strengthening of the tourism sector.

However, the weakness in the British pound represents a downside risk that needs to be carefully monitored as it could adversely affect tourism spending or real estate related inflows.

The prospects for the economy will be enhanced by continued diversification. The International Business and Financial Services Sector remains an important cog in fostering an improved outlook for international reserves.

In addition, the continued growth of the alternative energy sector has the potential to cushion the impact of higher energy prices on the balance of payments, as Barbados continues to make progress in increasing the capacity of the renewable energy sector.”

 

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Better days coming for St Philip South

St George South MP Dwight Sutherland sharing a light moment with a constituent in Ocean City.

St. Philip South has been neglected by the Democratic Labour Party government. Furthermore, many constituents said their elected representative, Adriel Brathwaite, has been “missing in action” for some time.

This distinct message was heard from constituents across the expansive riding when the Barbados Labour Party held a mass canvass there on Saturday (May 6, 2017) as part of their ongoing Rubbing Shoulders campaign.

Though the vast majority of residents in Gemswick, Kirtons, Ocean City, Foul Bay, St Martins and further afield were camera shy, they did not hide their disappointment at the lack of progress in every aspect of representation in St Philip South since Brathwaite’s stewardship began in 2008.

Several people who supported Brathwaite expressed regret at their decision and promised to do “the right thing” whenever the next general election is held.

Indar Weir, the dynamic BLP candidate for St Philip South, zeroed in on the impact of Brathwaite’s non-performance on constituents.

“It concerns me greatly that in this constituency we have had a high, high degree of neglect,” said Weir at the media briefing after the canvass.

Because of the lack of opportunities occasioned by this neglect, said Weir, many St Philip South constituents now lived below the poverty line.

“We have a whole set of farmers in the constituency who can do with some help, but they are not being facilitated in a manner so they can support themselves, and at the same time use it as an opportunity to provide employment by moving into commercial agriculture,” he added.

Weir stated that government has been facilitating other business endeavours across the island, including facilitating wealth at the higher level, “but down here in this constituency where people have the potential to grow, there is a tremendous amount of opportunity if only the representative for the area would have paid attention”.

Weir bemoaned the fact that though Brathwaite holds one of the most senior positions in Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s Cabinet as Attorney General, he had done little to uplift unemployed youth or skilled individuals in St Philip South.

“When people are ready to help themselves it makes representation a lot easier since all you have to do is go in there and help facilitate them,” said Weir, who assured of better days ahead for constituents under a BLP administration

St James South candidate Sandra Husbands speaking to a Kirtons resident.

The travel agency owner added that the BLP was cognizant of how important agriculture was in growing out the struggling Barbados economy and it remained one of the best ways to empower young people through entrepreneurial spirit.

Weir called on the government to start creating opportunities for poor, talented Barbadians, and not just for the wealthy.

BLP leader Mia Mottley relaxing in a suspended cushioned chair made from pallets, while Beagle explains how the youth of Kirtons No 3 cleaned up the once debris filled lot to start the makings of a community park.

Also speaking at the briefing was St Thomas MP Cynthia Forde. She expressed shock at the high level of unemployment among the youth in the constituency. But she assured that the BLP had taken Barbados out of the doldrums before and was ready to do so again.

Apart from Forde, Weir was supported on the mass canvass by political leader Mia Mottley, BLP chairman George Payne, MPs Jeffrey Bostic and Dwight Sutherland, candidates Sandra Husbands, Charles Griffith, Senator Wilfred Abrahams, former St Philip South representative Anthony Wood, and dozens of canvassers.

 

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Salute our ‘community treasures’

The elderly are the true treasures in our communities and should be cherished, says parliamentarian Dale Marshall.

For that reason he has embarked upon a programme to recognize senior citizens within communities in St. Joseph, the constituency he represents.

Louise Alleyne of Branchbury No 3, was the first person visited by Marshall and his team. The still lively 103-year-old is adored by her family and greatly respected in the small community in which she lives.

Marshall chose National Heroes Day to start the programme because of the  symbolism involved.

The former Attorney General said in the same way the country reflects on that day about the deeds of our ten national heroes to uplift average Barbadians, he wanted St. Joseph residents to reflect on the contribution and sacrifices made by their foreparents like Alleyne, and to emulate them.

“In fact it was the residents of Branchbury who gave this idea life when they asked me about recognizing Alleyne. She is a treasure to that community,” said Marshall.

The MP also said that Alleyne, whose last birthday was in January, was chosen because her family treats her extremely well, and he wanted them highlighted as an example of what more Barbadian families should be doing.

“The care of our elderly is an aspect of Barbadian life that too many families are shirking away from, and that is not right. Louise’s relatives take great care of her, and for this they should be applauded,” said Marshall.

On the visit Marshall presented Alleyne with a hamper of care items and nutritional supplements. He said she was so overawed at the gesture that she began to cry and then started to sing.

“It was quite touching. The fact that she started to cry meant it was very important to her. Seeing her happy like that made me feel really good. To be honest, I too began to get emotional as I have elderly parents,” said Marshall.

The MP said in a matter of weeks he will be celebrating the life of another centenarian.

“St. Joseph has a wonderful history of people living past a century. There are about four or five of them right now. There are community treasures. I propose to visit them all and then other seniors,” said Marshall.

The National Committee on Ageing in a statement last May revealed there were 114 centenarians alive in Barbados at that time, while 48 others were expected to reach that milestone by yearend.

 

 

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AN UNCOMPROMISING BLP TOWER

TYPICALLY, straightforward, unvarnished, honest, LIONEL SEYMOUR CRAIG, was the one who best captured his life.

He said, “If I were to assess myself, I would say I am a person that has God’s richest blessings because I came from the Garden Land as a barefoot boy, went to school barefooted, and ended up in life sitting with the cream of the international, regional and national society. I am an achiever in my own way”

Not only was the man affectionately known by all as “Lammie Craig” an achiever in his own way – he was an achiever in a big way, an unmistakable presence and unavoidable force that will be forever a part of the political history of Barbados.

For over five decades, Lionel was the uncompromisingly militant advocate of the programmes and policies of the Barbados Labour Party, (BLP). And for his outstanding service and contribution to a grateful nation, he was awarded the second highest honour, the Companion of Honour in 2009.

Just 25 days after celebrating his 85th birthday, he succumbed to heart failure and passed away at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on 9 March, 2014.

This meant a hole in the fabric of the BLP that is unlikely to be filled anytime soon – an important connection with a past generation gone and a colourful, tour de force that helped defined politics in Barbados as he changed lives that was not seen before and has not been seen since he retired from politics in 1986.

Commenting on his passing, Opposition Leader Miss Mia Amor Mottley said, “Lionel was the consummate politician who knew how to connect with people and how to represent them, who brought his tremendous people skills as a successful insurance agent to the task of representing people and improving the lives of ordinary Barbadians, especially the aged”.

It says all about his spirit and loyalty that Lionel joined the BLP just after the horrendous defeat in 1961, at a time when the party was in chaos and just short of imploding. He represented St. James from 1966 to 1981 and St James North from 1981 to 1986.

His representation in that parish was so outstanding, he was virtually unbeatable for two decades. He switched to St. Michael South in 1986, in a bid to boost the party’s fortunes, but lost in a valiant fight to the man who later became Prime Minister.

Lionel was part of that outstanding, brilliant Cabinet of 1976, reputed to be the best this country ever had. He was Minister responsible for Housing and was both hard working and visionary.

Housing developments at Rosemont, Haynesville, Ferneihurst, Wotton, Bagatelle, Oxnards and West Terrace bear adequate testimony to his ability to get things done. He also introduced the concept of starter homes and was at the forefront of total housing for the nation.

During the second term of the Tom Adams Administration, Lio­nel also held the portfolio of Parlia­mentary Affairs and Leader of the House, gaining the solid reputation for impartiality and professionalism, treating all members with equity within the confines of his constitu­tional remit. As testimony to this, he had genuine friends on both sides of the divide.

But to the end, he remained, unquestionably, a devoted, passion­ate, diehard BLP supporter, his fam­ily the only one superseding his love for the Party.

Many will recall his calls to keep in touch, offer suggestions, rally the troops and his legacy will be in the image of Lionel Seymour “Lammie” Craig, in failing health, still in the mix, there in a vehicle, during the last General Election.

The BLP again offers condolences to his family, which he loved dearly.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

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TIME TO CHART BOLD NEW COURSE

The following is the Independence Day message from Mia Amor Mottley, Leader of the Opposition

MY FELLOW BARBADIANS, happy Independence Day to each of you on this our golden anniversary.
We are conscious that the ability to determine our sovereignty rested on the platform that we were given in 1951, when all Barbadians over 21 years old were given the right to vote; and thereafter when we received the right to manage our own internal affairs with the introduction of ministerial government.

These fundamental achievements in our democratic life provided a solid platform to become an independent nation.

We have made considerable strides both as a nation and as a people since that rainy night back in 1966 when the Broken Trident was hoisted over a new, expectant nation.

In the last 50 years we have moved from an agricultural society to a service economy with a highly educated workforce that for the most part is better off than our parents were.

We have provided sound and trusted leadership in our region, contributing at the highest levels in several spheres of endeavour.

And we have taken our place in the global family of nations, distinguishing ourselves as a leader of small island developing states to the extent that we were once complemented for “punching above our weight”.

Indeed, in the years leading to this anniversary, the Barbados brand became known, in essence, for the core values that have defined us as a reliable partner in the international community; a moderate, responsible small state guided by the norms of democratic governance; respect for the rule of law; human rights and fundamental freedoms and a functioning court system; a country characterised by political stability; sound administrative and financial management; strong institutions; an efficient bureaucracy; an absence of corruption; well-developed physical infrastructure; progressive social and economic policies which emphasise the development of our people; and a thriving social partnership with stable relations between Government, business and labour.

In short, the Barbados brand came to stand for a safe, friendly, fair, high-quality environment in which to live, do business or visit.

Regrettably, over the last few years, much of the lustre which once characterised the Barbados brand has faded and Barbadians have faced serious challenges. These challenges have led many Barbadians from all walks of life to express fear for the future.

You are concerned that too many things seem to be going wrong and not enough effective effort is seemingly being exerted to fix them.

I say to you, fear not!
The integrity of the Barbados brand can be restored. The astute, responsible leadership that was its hallmark throughout our development journey can return.

Tomorrow begins the first day in our journey towards the next 50 years, and we suggest all Barbadians pause and ask ourselves some tough questions:
• Are we happy about the way our island now works?
• Do we have confidence in our future?
• Can we see the benefits of the sacrifices asked of us?
• Do we think more can be done to improve our country?
• Are we willing to take control and chart our destiny?

My friends, how we manage our affairs going forward from here will largely influence our progress as a country in the next few years and will set the foundation for the next 50 years.
The mission of restoring confidence in our country cannot be achieved through the efforts of any one class, sector or political party. It requires the efforts of us all. The answers to our challenges are not easy, fellow Barbadians, but they are not impossible if we are willing to work hard enough and in the right ways.

Let us recognise that in the same way our forefathers dug deep and worked to overcome their challenges, we too must come together and, with discipline, compassion and focus, chart a bold new course for our Barbados for the next 50 years!

On behalf of myself and my colleagues in the Barbados Labour Party, we want to wish you a happy Independence Day with a pledge that we are focused and ready to get Barbados working again for all Barbadians.

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NIS ‘TROUBLE’ AHEAD, SAYS IMF

THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND (IMF) has warned the Freundel Stuart administration that the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) could face a shortfall in funds if Government and state owned enterprises (SOEs) continues to pay the scheme late.

The Washington-based institution also stressed that future shortfalls in NIS funds could result in a reduction in benefits the scheme presently offers.

The IMF’s concern was outlined in their 2016 Article IV Consultation report on Barbados, which was concluded in May.

Though noting the NIS was “well managed”, the IMF urged Government to “make contributions in a timely manner (rather than providing the equivalent in debentures) to ensure that NIS has sufficient liquidity”.

Explaining why this was imperative, the IMF stated: “The weak employment growth in recent years has led to a deterioration of the NIS financial position and expenditures began to exceed contributions in 2013, rather than in 2024 as estimated in the 14th Actuarial Review, 8 and, since 2014, the NIS has faced late contribution payments from the government and SOEs.”

In the section of the report titled “Maintain NIS integrity”, the IMF said the bulk of the NIS’ investment portfolio, 74 percent, is held in government securities, 20 percent more than the suggested prudential limit and the NIS’ own target of 60 percent.

“Given high contribution rates and the adjusted retirement age, there is limited scope to address future shortfalls other than by reducing benefits,” said the IMF, who also noted that the NIS faces pressure from population ageing and slow growth.

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MIA’S PLAN FOR BETTER HEALTH

BARBADOS’ HEALTH SECTOR will get an injection of practical solutions to reduce inequality and improve health care delivery.

This medicine will be administered to ensure every Barbadian has universal access to quality health care and are no longer left to fend for themselves if they do not have enough money to pay, as is rapidly becoming the norm today.

These goals are part of a 15-point prescription for improving health care delivery, encouraging entrepreneurship in medical technology services and boosting opportunities for medical tourism business outlined by Opposition leader Mia Mottley.

In an expansive speech at the opening ceremony of the 80th University of the West Indies/Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners Continuing Medical Education conference at the UWI on November 18, Mia outlined the Barbados Labour Party’s position to revitalise the ailing health sector.

Mia said the BLP will:
Rename the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Health and Wellness with a stronger focus on regulation, enforcement and facilitation. It will be the conduit for purchasing of medical services in the private sector where capacity there can be more economically accessed and provided than in the public sector. The ministry will also focus less on managing complex institutions like the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).

Establish partnerships and linkages with the local medical fraternity and stakeholders, and where this already exists, enhance it for greater dialogue and cooperation to make better informed decisions to get Barbados working again for all Barbadians.

Ensure that the QEH will no longer be a political football. An apolitical board comprising of people with the competence and technical expertise to effectively manage such a complex institution would be appointed.

Evaluate and cost each service at the QEH to determine the appropriate financing that institution needs to deliver the core services required. And where new specialised services are needed, they must be acquired through partnerships with first local, then international partners.

Establish a truly 24-hour QEH where every ancillary department will be effectively manned to function every hour of the day and night.

Open selected polyclinics on a 24-hour basis and staff them appropriately to provide the services of a mini Accident & Emergency with areas for minor surgery, basic X-rays, an asthma bay and so on to relieve the pressure on the A&E at the QEH.

Attract ventures in telemedicine and health records management, including medical transcription business to provide well-paying opportunities for skilled young Barbadians.

Identify insurance companies to reduce the costs of delivery of medical services without compromising the quality of health care.

Facilitate the establishment of specialised clinics providing medical tourism services, similar to the Barbados fertility Centre.

Undertake a comprehensive reform of legislation within the medical field to facilitate the development of medical tourism related clinics.

The ethical and technological determinants needed will be discussed by stakeholders to arrive at what is in the best interest of Barbadians, the country and the sector.

Expand scientific research through partnerships to better capture what may be developed from diverse local and regional plant life, and develop medication and treatments more efficacious in dealing with our populations’ specific genetic make-up.

Put institutional arrangements in place to strengthen and support the development of the nursing profession as a strategic complement to high quality medical practice, and to train highly skilled nurses to work globally.

Utilise Invest Barbados and BTMI to promote brand Barbados Wellness (or whatever arrived at) to solicit business across the Caribbean and western hemisphere for medical services in which we have particular expertise and are competitive in. The platform for this was started in 2007 by Invest Barbados with the help of CIDA.

Expand opportunities for internships and research for UWI Cave Hill medical graduates through strategic partnerships with other medical schools to ensure this investment in talented youth is not lost and their dreams are no longer frustrated by lack of opportunity.

Ensure Barbadian doctors trained in Cuba are allowed to practice here on their return home.

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READY TO LEAD FROM THE FRONT

THE BARBADOS LABOUR PARTY (BLP) has a clear plan with focused and decisive leadership to dig Barbados “out of the seemingly bottomless pit” it now finds itself.

Leader Mia Mottley assured the private sector of this as she shared some of the party’s economic recovery proposals with them in her address to the last monthly luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) at the Hilton Barbados Resort on November 24.

Speaking on theme Rebuilding Investor Confidence in Brand Barbados, the BLP leader said it was possible to place the island on the right path again. However, she said it would not be easy because in addition to getting the productive sector to perform again, a BLP administration would have to reverse economic decline triggered by “institutional implosion and social decay”.

Tugging at the heartstrings of the business community, Mottley said the country was suffering from a huge fiscal deficit, inefficiencies, corruption, economic downgrades and poor business facilitation, and that the BLP was ready to lead with a clear plan and decisive and focused leadership to correct those problems.

“Because of the ill-advised policies, the unfortunate political tribalism and corrupt practices of an incompetent Government, confidence has been undermined, both internally and externally, trust has been eroded, [and] the integrity of the Barbados brand has been severely tarnished. As long as apprehension and uncertainty persist in our midst, the erosion will continue. Without confidence, investment will always falter,” Mottley warned.

Therefore, she said, the task of bringing the country back to prosperity would require “absolute discipline, commitment to mission, creativity, compassion and a willingness to listen” and the involvement of everyone willing to work towards that goal.

“We must begin by acknowledging that much of our present dilemma results from the absence of two vital attributes – bold, focused and decisive leadership and sound, transparent, accountable and disciplined governance,” Mottley told the business community, pledging “a bold new course” and “the right policies” to achieve growth and increase Government revenues.

In a clear reference to the uncertainties that surrounded the recent introduction of the National Social Responsibility Levy, the Opposition Leader vowed that a BLP administration would think through any taxes it planned to introduce.

“I make you a solemn pledge we will not introduce taxes in Budget speeches and then try to figure out how to implement them. This cavalier approach affects confidence at all levels,” she said.
Mottley pledged to strengthen key state institutions and root out corruption, which she charged had become “an alarming new feature” of the current administration.

She also promised to reduce and eventually end the practice of the Central Bank’s funding of Government and to run a fiscally disciplined administration that would not be reckless in its spending.
“The one thing that a government controls is what it spends. We will be disciplined in this regard. The BLP will make choices that prioritize the country’s needs,” she said.

In addition, Mottley promised the private sector that a BLP administration was prepared to enact legislation early in its tenure to encourage investment, and to involve the various sectors, include the BCCI, in the decision making process.

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ECONOMIC BURN

The ‘boy on the burning deck’ is at it again.

Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick is again telling his Democratic Labour Party’s that their economic plan won’t work. The following is what he told  Barbados TODAY in an interview:

TIME WILL TELL who is wrong and who is right!

This was the terse response issued by outspoken Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick today (April 15, 2017) in response to the latest economic action plan, which is currently under active consideration by the Freundel Stuart Government.

The new plan, which includes proposals for dealing with the island’s ballooning debt, does not take into account Estwick’s controversial US$5 billion United Arab Emirates-funded plan, but a much more conservative debt restructuring programme — one which seeks to yield $112 million annually in interest savings, which Estwick is neither convinced is based on the best economic advice nor can yield the desired fiscal turnaround.

However, saying he has been burned enough by his own Government, he has now resigned himself to the position that he must allow his political colleagues to learn the hard way.

“They [Government] are free to choose whatever they want to do. Time is the best evaluator of reason. They have to find a way to attempt to discredit me, but I know that we cannot get out of these economic challenges without restructuring and the financing of the national debt,” he told Barbados TODAY.

“Let them proceed. Time is the best revealer of who was right and wrong. I proposed domestic debt restructuring, foreign debt restructuring, a combination of the two as well as the entire debt via the sinking fund strategy . . . . They are on their own,” he stressed, adding, “I have nothing more to say on the matter.”

The latest debt restructuring proposal is outlined in a 30-page report submitted to the Prime Minister last month by the Fiscal Deficit Committee of the Social Partnership, which was mandated by Stuart on March 3 to make recommendations on the way forward for the economy of the country, whose foreign amortization and debt service is estimated at between $300 million to $400 million annually.

The report specifically suggests that as a means of tackling the bothersome debt issue, Government should cut the coupon rate and extend the maturities on Treasury Notes and Debentures by 200 basis points to yield the $112 million in savings.

This approach runs counter to Estwick’s sinking fund proposal for wiping out the country’s entire debt and restoring economic growth and sustainability. However, the committee’s proposal, which comes amid concerns about the island’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves which fell to 10.3 weeks of import cover or below $700 million last December, is more in line with recent suggestions by former Prime Minister Owen Arthur and Opposition Barbados Labour Party economic advisor Clyde Mascoll for there to be a debt exchange, which allows the island to surrender its existing debt and bond instruments and replace them with a different maturity.

The report also acknowledges that the cross default clause on the Credit Suisse Loan would require immediate repayment of $317 million.

“Government should view the cross default clause as an obstacle to be overcome, rather than an absolute barrier,” the report says while warning that the necessary restructuring should be done concurrently with financing from multilateral agencies, which it said typically takes six to nine months to negotiate.

The move is expected to reduce the annual income of the National Insurance Scheme, which currently holds Government debt instruments, by $60 million, but is not expected to have an immediate material impact on the NIS’ cash flow, since the NIS currently reinvests interest in Government paper. However, the committee acknowledged that it could lead to medium term adjustments to its contribution rates, or a reduction in benefits.

Commenting on the proposal today, Estwick was still not satisfied that Government was heeding the best economic advice.

emmanueljoseph@barbadostoday.bb.

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PROPOSALS TOO PIECEMEAL

Economist Jeremy Stephen has dismissed the proposals to shore-up Barbados’ foreign exchange reserves. See interview below from Barbados TODAY.

PROPOSALS PUT FORWARD by the Foreign Exchange Working Group of the Social Partnerships to help the Freundel Stuart administration shore up the dwindling foreign exchange reserves have been dismissed as “piecemeal” by one of the island’s leading economists.

The recommendations currently before Government for consideration include a hike in cruise visitor head taxes and airport departure fees and a full examination of the national import bill “with a view to identifying a list of non-essential items which would be subjected to higher tax rates and or quantifiable limits”.

The committee also recommended a stepped up programme of incentives with a view to attracting more investment to the island, major engagement with the international business sector with a view to making it easier for the sector to do business here, engagement by Government and the Central Bank with the high-end business and financial community on “a targeted programme of sterilized short and medium term loans”, the facilitation of  philanthropy by external high net worth individuals and remittances by the Barbadian Diaspora and frequent opportunities for domestic duty-free shopping zones where both locals and visitors can purchase items at duty-free prices in United States dollars.

However, making specific reference to the proposed rise in airport departure taxes, economist Jeremy Stephen said some of these recommendations would do little improve the foreign exchange reserves.

“Unless the whole purpose behind raising the airport taxes was more along the case of retaining taxes, being able to grow tax revenue, I as an economist cannot fully support the rationale of that leading to foreign exchange retention as such, given the fact that most departure taxes are paid in local currency to begin with,” he told Barbados TODAY.

He maintained that the focus needed to be on retention, and incentivizing the private sector “to bring money back home”.

He suggested this could include implementation of the plan announced by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in last year’s Budget, to create the duty-free zones.

“That would help with retention because that means essentially dollarizing the Barbadian economy; that is you’re gonna have a parallel spend in the economy based in US dollars on shore. That’s one way you could retain.”

He also pointed to the latest calls from the private sector to reduce the deficit, saying both the public and private sectors needed to do their part in that regard.

“A lot of classical economic recommendations have been made with respect to how you reduce wastage in Government spending, but there’s not been any necessary political will to force that on people just yet . . . but the reality of the situation is that private sector investment has been minimal at best the last couple years, without Government concessions somehow backing it,” Stephen said, pointing to a need for civic engagement from the business community.

A second committee, this one mandated by Stuart to present recommendations on how to reduce the worrying fiscal deficit, had suggested an across-the-board 10-15 per cent rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) with no exemptions, concessions or zero ratings for any industry or sector.

It is a proposal that has not gone down well with political analyst Peter Wickham, who told Barbados TODAY he was sceptical about the benefits of such a move.

“If Government is concerned with increasing revenue, a reduction in Value Added Tax might not necessarily be the most helpful thing. I am more inclined these days to consider what St Lucia is looking at, which is the removal of value added tax and replacement [with] a sales tax… I wonder why the private sector might not have wanted to give consideration to that. A 15 per cent sales tax on everything as opposed to a value added tax which is chargeable against other expenses,” he said.

With Sinckler set to present the Budget before the end of next month, Wickham warned it ought not be a “giveaway” budget, as the Minister of Finance has to be fiscally responsible, given the current state of the economy.

“He cannot go giving away stuff as consistent with what people do during an election. And I also think he needs to send a message that he is able to deal with the deficit. He has created one in the Estimates, and I’m anxious to see how he will close it in the context of retaining popularity,” he stated.

marieclairewillias@barbadostoday.bb

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NUPW LEFT OUT

The Freundel Stuart Government has once again demonstrated that it cares little about public servants. It blanked the National Union of Public Workers from its recent discussions on the economic future of Barbados, as reported by Barbados TODAY.

THE ISLAND’S LARGEST public sector union Monday accused Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of treating it with “scant respect”.

The charge was levelled by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) in a statement issued to Barbados TODAY, after it was left out of tripartite economic consultations last week.

In fact, the union said it was only made aware late last week via the news media that the Prime Minister and other top officials of his Government had met with leaders of its sister union – the Barbados Workers Union  – and the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations (CTUSAB), as well as the local private sector, to discuss the findings of two Social Partnership committees, which were mandated by Stuart on March 3 to make recommendations on the way forward for the economy.

In a statement issued by the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) last Thursday, the Prime Minister warned of the need for immediate corrective action, with the island’s 2-to-1 peg with the US dollar already showing cracks, and an all-out balance of payments crisis now a possibility given that Government’s debt rose above 110 per cent of gross domestic product at the end of last year, while international reserves fell to $682 million, the lowest level since 2009.

He also called for urgent consideration to be given to the future of three key state enterprises — the loss-making Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Barbados Transport Board and the Sanitation Service Authority, which now appear destined for the proverbial official chopping block.

While describing Tuesday’s tripartite discussions as “frank and robust”, Stuart also said the vital importance of dialogue among all stakeholders at all stages of the process towards solutions of the fiscal deficit and foreign exchange problems was stressed and advised that, in this vein, meetings of the Social Partnership will be taking place over time on specific matters.

However, the NUPW has deemed it “extremely ironic” that the Prime Minister would speak about the concerns of the Social Partnership being imperative, while “completely disregarding the NUPW, the premier public sector labour organization in Barbados, from being part of the composition of either of the committees, that presumably have deliberated over matters which directly impact on the livelihood of thousands of public officers.

“Such exclusion not only demonstrates scant respect for the workers representatives but tantamount to a rejection of the principle of meaningful dialogue being vital for the achievement of effective public policy formulation and implementation in challenging social and economic times in Barbados, one of the core principles upon which the Social Partnership of Barbados was founded,” the Akanni-McDowall-led NUPW said.

It stressed that it was never invited to participate in the recent economic discussions.  The union also made it clear that while the CTUSAB was the umbrella body for trade unions and associations in Barbados, it was not a trade union and therefore does not represent NUPW in these matters.

“Again, the NUPW was excluded from these meetings and therefore has no part in any decisions or conclusions they formed.

“The NUPW wishes to remind the Prime Minister that the much heralded success of the Social Partnership in Barbados resulted from an appreciation that there must be respect for, and equality of, treatment of the Social Partners, which is fundamental for enhancing the ownership of policies and ensuring meaningful implementation, particularly in an environment of harmonious labour management relations.

“The NUPW will continue to be vigilant and unrelenting in its representation of the public officers of Barbados, both in the Central Government departments and statutory boards. The NUPW therefore would expect that due respect will be paid by Government to the consultative process before decisions which impact the lives of public officers in Barbados are taken,” its statement added. (KJ)

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SEVEN DOLLARS FOR US$1?

THE BARBADOS ECONOMY is galloping from bad to worse with no effective plan from the Government to rein it in. Instead, the Freundel Stuart-led administration continues splashing around like a drowning man and blaming everyone for their predicament except themselves for their poor management of the economy.

Meanwhile, noted economists from outside of Barbados are forecasting extremely tough times ahead due to the Government’s inaction and bungling.

Noted Caribbean economist Marla Dukharan is one of them. The respected Group Economist for RBC Caribbean says the foreign reserves picture appears to be getting gloomier, and that in February 2017 the reserves had recorded “its fastest pace of decline” since November 2013.

Earlier this month (April 2017) Dukharan’s views on our economy were carried in a Caribbean Strategic Research special report on Barbados with Global News Matters.

In that interview Dukharan stated that our traditional currency peg of BBD$2:USD$1 “currently seems unsustainable”.

She argued that given the deterioration in our foreign reserves and the doubling of the domestic monetary base in three years “the current ratio is over BBD$7:USD$1, meaning that a significant correction of some sort is needed”.

Imagine having to spend seven Barbados dollars to buy just one US dollar!

This is what this highly respected economist is saying our currency is really valued today – see Special-Interview-with-Marla-Barbados.

This is what the Democratic Labour Party Government has done to our economy. They have ruined Barbados yet again.

That Damn Lying Party has brought Barbados down with their ill-advised policies as they did back in 1994.

Read the full interview with Dukharan to see clearly how serious a mess the Democratic Labour Party has created, and how their poor management has jeopardized the well-being of all Barbadians.

Though we have a different strategy to Dukharan’s to get Barbados out of this crisis, her views are instructive of where we are and how much work the Barbados Labour Party will have to do once again to rescue Barbados.

But, like in 1976 and 1994 when we were also called upon to save this country after the Dems messed it up, we are focused and ready to do so.

Be assured that we have plans to get Barbados working again in the interest of all Barbadians. And in the fullness of time they shall be revealed.

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PM LACKS CONFIDENCE IN SINCKLER, SAYS STRAUGHN

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HEROES DAY PICNIC ‘THE LARGEST EVER’

More than 10,000 people attended the Barbados Labour Party’s tenth annual National Heroes Day picnic at the Ermine Bourne Highway yesterday.

Contending the picnic was possibly the largest such event ever held in Barbados, BLP General Secretary Dr. Jerome Walcott said that initially the party had booked 83 commercial passenger vehicles to transport supporters from each of the 30 constituencies to the highway. But even this record number proved inadequate, and the party had to contract 20 more vehicles.

“We ended up hiring a total of 103 commercial passenger vehicles, including coaches, minibuses, ZRs and 15 Transport Board buses,” said Dr. Walcott.

One MP, St George South representative Dwight Sutherland, confirmed the crowd was the largest he had ever seen for the annual event during his six years of elective politics.

“By 11 a.m. we had already passed 10,000 persons and more persons were still coming. This indeed is a hallmark within our party and we will continue to do this because we as a party continue to show our dedication and commitment to what our forefathers would have done for this country,” Sutherland said in an interview with Barbados TODAY.

With the unprecedented crush of vehicles on the highway, Dr. Walcott said the police worked hard to keep the traffic flowing.

“The Royal Barbados Police Force personnel expertly managed the situation to ensure the smooth flow of traffic through the highway for those just passing, while making sure those who needed to park could be accommodated. The police’s efforts cannot be understated,” stated the general secretary.

Traffic apart, the day was essentially a mix of camaraderie between party supporters’ and individual family fun. The crowd, made up of Barbadians from all walks of life, were also entertained by the various DJs on hand.

Unfortunately, in the first major incident at any of these picnics, a drowning occurred. The individual was an elderly Christ Church gentleman named Edwin Atherley. He was 69 years old and lived at Lodge Road.

In expressing his condolences to the loved ones, family and friends of Atherley, Dr. Walcott said: “The sudden loss of any life is tragic and is something one can never be prepared for. Because of this, when such incidents occur it deeply affects those left behind. This is why as a party we grieve with those who were close to Mr. Atherley.

“We want you to know that the BLP hurts with you because we, too, regarded him as a member of our family.”

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BLP MOURNING LOSS OF EDWIN ATHERLEY

The Barbados Labour Party is mourning the loss of a ‘family member’.

Edwin Atherley of Stanford Road, Lodge Road, Christ Church drowned after going swimming on National Heroes Day. He was at the time attending the tenth annual BLP Heroes Day picnic with family and friends on the adjacent Ermie Bourne Highway.

Mr. Atherley, who was 69, was an active supporter of the party in the Christ Church East Central constituency.

General Secretary Dr. Jerome Walcott extended the BLP’s heartfelt condolences to Edwin’s wife, Hortense Atherley, and his other loved ones, family and friends.

“The sudden loss of any life is tragic and is something one can never be prepared for. Because of this, when such incidents occur it deeply affects those left behind. This is why as a party we grieve with those who were close to Mr. Atherley.

We want you to know that the BLP hurts with you because we, too, regarded him as a member of our family,” said Dr. Walcott.

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A NEW VISION FOR BARBADOS

SURVIVE OR TRANSFORM? Why it is now or never for a new development model in Barbados.

That’s the topic of the annual Grantley Adams Memorial Lecture to be held on Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. at the Grand Salle, Central Bank of Barbados.

Development economist Marsha Caddle, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) candidate for St Michael South Central, will deliver the lecture.

Caddle will look at why the current approaches are no longer enough to realize the levels of economic and social progress expected at this stage in our development. The lecture will also explore what needs to be done differently if Barbados is to truly thrive in every dimension in the decades ahead.

Caddle’s areas of specialization are institutional and human development economics, including governance; financing for development and poverty, inequality, social protection and labour markets. She most recently worked as a Governance Specialist with the Caribbean Development Bank.

National Hero Sir Grantley Adams at the helm of the BLP constructed the five pillars on which modern Barbados rests – heath, education, housing, national security and opportunities for social development. Most importantly, they attained the

right for Barbadians to vote, enabling us to fashion our own future based on the leaders we choose.

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BEWARE THE ENEMIES OF OUR DEMOCRACY, WARNS TONI MOORE

General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) Toni Moore yesterday hit back at Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman’s charge that opponents to the proposed Hyatt hotel were “enemies of the State”, while warning that the island’s democracy was under threat.

Kellman issued the statement in Parliament last week, and while he did not call any names, it was a clear reference to attorney-at-law and social activist David Comissiong, who has taken legal action against the multi-million dollar project.

Moore told the annual May Day parade at Browne’s Beach, St. Michael that while the workers of Barbados have had to carry more than their fair share of the effects of the economic downturn over the past five years, “it is scary when in challenging times, economic forces seem to be positive only in the direction of a privileged few.

“And dare we speak out against the inequity even on the basis of wanting to verify the environmental integrity of certain decisions, we are deemed enemies of the State,” said Moore.

“Brothers and sisters we are deemed enemies of the state for speaking out, but the enemy that we should be aware of and be afraid of is the enemy of our democracy. That which wishes to tell us that we can’t see wrong and speak about it for fear of recrimination.

“So, we must see backdoor methods being adopted in hotel construction and we must be quiet. We must witness approvals to establish a new berth in the Bridgetown Port, and we must see attempts to introduce new ways of doing things down in the port so that port work is no longer for port workers, and we can’t say anything. We must not speak up and become enemies of the state. So we must know that there seems to be a concerted attempt, a deliberate ploy to run down the fleet of buses to make way for a new system to be justified, but shush General Secretary, don’t say anything if you are a friend of the state,” Moore charged.

The union leader said that while the BWU believes that citizens must accept their fair share of responsibility for the future they want, the union could not accept that overburdening public servants was equal to giving them a fair share.

She pointed to the upcoming Budget, which is expected to be presented before the end of this month, in which she said Barbadians would be asked to make even further sacrifices.

“Public servants for almost a decade now have not received a salary increase but what makes this situation more unpalatable is that public servants will be asked to accept further wage restraint and brace themselves for some bitter pills all in the name of responsibility when at the same time the leaders in Government put back on a ten per cent [on their salaries], which was taken off as a show of identifying with the people, a show of bearing pain as the people have been bearing. . .

“So, we will not apologize to the leaders or as [late trade union leader] Sir Frank [Walcott] would have said, ‘the creatures of Government’ when we challenge that the Government of Barbados has failed to demonstrate leadership.”

In her hard hitting statement reported in Barbados TODAY, Moore insisted that Government should not expect some of the lowest paid workers to sacrifice more, while at the same time “they are grabbing and brekkin’ fuh themselves”.

“Who then are the real villains of the economy? Is the social justice when our leaders refuse to demonstrate the standards that match the circumstance; the standards that will assure our stability and our sustainability. The demand for a bigger pension is not the standard that matches the circumstance,” the BWU leader added.

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