Straughn: Economy never been this bad

Chart showing how the Barbados economy consistently grew through successive administrations until the advent of the Freundel Stuart regime.

Economist Ryan Straughn has cautioned the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) that if it wins the next election, it will inherit an economy that is in worse shape than when the BLP left office in 2008.

How bad?

Nearly $6 billion smaller than it was in 2008.

Delivering the eighth Tom Adams Memorial lecture on Wednesday, October 11, Straughn, who is the BLP’s Christ Church East Central candidate, said while successive BLP administrations had presided over economic activity since 1976, the current Democratic Labour Party (DLP) regime had effectively reversed the gains that were previously made.

“With the exception of 2008, the current DLP Government has failed miserably to reproduce the level of economic activity the Barbados Labour Party handed to them in 2008,” Straughn told the gathering in the Hugh Springer Auditorium of the Barbados Workers’ Union headquarters.

“So far, up to 2016, some $5.5 billion has been eroded from the economic base of Barbados,” he added.

The lecture, held in honour of the island’s second prime minister, was entitled Transforming Barbados’ economy in an increasingly uncertain world: Lessons from Tom Adams for the 21st century.

In distinguishing the track record of the BLP from that of the DLP, Straughn relied on data from the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre and Central Bank of Barbados, along with his own calculations, to show that the current administration had bucked the growth trend for Barbados with its economic figures now receding into the negative column.

The former macro-economic modeling specialist at the Central Bank of Barbados and current financial consultant said the BLP, led by Adams, had introduced a period of accelerated growth when it took office in 1976.

“The Barbados Labour Party successfully reproduced that level of economic activity every year during its post-independence  administration under Tom Adams. But more importantly it added approximately $7.5 billion in new economic activity over the ten years,” Straughn said.

“So we set a new bar, we raised the bar,” he argued, while noting that despite registering such growth, the BLP still lost the government in 1986.

Rating the succeeding DLP administration’s performance, he said it was “decent” at first but then it struggled towards the end of its tenure.

“The DLP created $4.2 billion in new economic activity above that of the Barbados Labour Party. [However] there was one year where it almost failed to reproduce what we were able to do under Tom Adams [and] by 1994 the Democratic Labour Party had only increased the size of the Barbados economy by some $300 million,” the economist explained.

Moving on to the Owen Arthur era, Straughn said that from the year after the former BLP leader took office, the 1995 to 2007 period saw a successful reproduction of economic growth activity “every year without fail”.

He noted that Arthur’s time saw an added $15.5 billion in new economic activity, adding that the former Prime Minister had left the economy with an international credit rating of ‘AA’.

However, he pointed out that under the DLP, the country has suffered a series of downgrades and as of September 27 this year international rating agency Standard and Poor’s placed Barbados’ status of credit worthiness at ‘CCC’. (BLP News/ Barbados TODAY)

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Sir Clifford embodied the best of Barbados

The late Sir Clifford Husbands, Barbados’ longest serving Governor General, 1996 to 2011.

Tribute to His Excellency Sir Clifford Husbands KCMG by Hon. Mia Amor Mottley Q.C., M.P., Leader of the Opposition and political leader of the Barbados Labour Party.

I would like to express my deep regret at the passing of our former Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands. His was a life and career that represented the best of Barbados.

Sir Clifford’s 15 years of service as the representative of our Head of State was characterized by charm, confidence, competence and a strong sense of duty. This allowed him to maintain the honour and dignity associated with the office. He was a stickler for decorum and punctuality and the maintenance of standards.

Sir Clifford believed in the importance of the rule of law and the maintenance of the  integrity of our public institutions and their critical link to nation building. This was equally apparent across his entire distinguished legal career.

We must not forget that it was the Report of the Steering Committee on Penal Reform which Sir Clifford chaired which paved the way for a new Penal system for Barbados in 1998, introducing a new range of non custodial punishments such as suspended sentences and community service.

Always leading by example, Sir Clifford maintained the highest standards of personal and professional conduct. His fierce  independence and competence as a judge was well-known.

Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands (at left) and centenarian Melville Williams enjoying a good joke on the latter’s birthday. Sir Clifford had the common touch as evidenced by the warmth he exuded in his interaction with scores of Barbadians during his tenure, and his words of comfort and hope in his several messages.

I am particularly appreciative of the interaction which I had with him when I served as Attorney General and also as a member of his Privy Council which he ably led. As Deputy Prime Minister I saw him regularly when I would go to be sworn into act as Prime Minister. He would often share of his vast experience and his wise counsel. For that I was always grateful.

To his children SandraDawn, Anthony and Laura and the rest of his family and his friends, I say on behalf of the Barbados Labour Party and my own family, be consoled by the knowledge that here was a man who served his country with distinction and decorum. May his soul rest in peace.

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Jordan, Barriteau warn of UWI crisis

Colin Jordan, St. Peter candidate and former president of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association.

Colin Jordan and Professor Eudine Barriteau are warning about a looming crisis in university education here, because of the Freundel Stuart’s administration’s move to make Barbadians pay fees.

Jordan, the Barbados Labour Party candidate for St. Peter, said on Sunday, October 8 at Maynards, Peter, that Barbadians were raised to believe that education was the way out “but now that way out feels almost like a hole that has been plugged. So they’re trying to get out but can’t get out because of Government’s policies”.

“People in St Peter are saying that when you impose fees at the University of the West Indies that the rich people across Barbados, and other places, can still go to university, but that their own children are not able to access university education,” said Jordan after a Rubbing Shoulders mass canvass of St Peter.

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, Professor Eudine Barriteau also warned of this looming crisis, which she said will affect the ability of the average Barbadian to afford a tertiary education.

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Professor Eudine Barriteau.

Speaking during a ceremony on Tuesday, October 10, to announce a US$2,500 scholarship for first year student Akilah Jordan-Watson who won the 2016 Optimist International Essay Competition, Barriteau further cautioned that with the economic situation as it is, students are finding it increasing difficult to pay for higher learning.

“As you know the challenge of funding higher education is being quite acute, and in essence a crisis may be looming,” the UWI principal said.

And while suggesting that Barbadians as a whole had taken higher education for granted, she warned that the cost was spiralling out of the reach of the average student following Government’s decision, back in 2014, to stop paying the tuition fees for Barbadians attending the UWI.

“I am really worried that if the trend continues, only an elite will be able to afford higher education,” the principal said.

Using herself as an example, Barriteau said she would not have been able to attend university had she not been afforded an education by the state.

“I wouldn’t have been able to have done a degree if at the time we had to pay, because my mother would not have been able to afford it,” she said, adding that tertiary education had her what she is today.

“When I think about all the opportunities that I have had personally I know that it is my first degree at the Cave Hill campus that enabled me to do that,” the Grenada-born principal said.

However, with the Barbados economy “tight” at the moment, she said it was really now left to parents to make the sacrifices on behalf of their children.

“Of course the Cave Hill campus is doing its own bit to help students in need of financial assistance, but we can only do so much given our financial circumstances,”Barriteau said, while making a passing reference to the $200 million which is said to be owed to the university by Government in terms of outstanding contributions.

“I don’t dwell on our debt, but it is significant,” she added.

While revealing that she had already written to Government seeking to get it to increase its $2,500 student grant by one thousand dollars, the UWI principal pleaded with non-governmental organizations and the private sector as a whole to assist in subsidizing tuition fees for students.

“I want to appeal to all our leaders, parliamentary, private sector, NGOs, to continue to invest in the young people of Barbados and the region to ensure that they have the opportunities, so they can take themselves further in the process.

“We need help so that we can offer our students more grants, scholarships and other activities to facilitate their development,” she said.

The BLP is committed to reversing this policy if it is elected to power in the next general election. Political leader Mia Mottley has been adamant about this since the Freundel Stuart administration made the move in 2014 and caused a near 50 per cent drop in enrollment.

As recently as February this year while Rubbing Shoulders With The People Of The City mass canvass, Mottley emphatically stated: “We will not be charging fees at the University of the West Indies for Barbadians. Life is about choices. This is a $35 million problem out of an almost $4 billion budget.”

 

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Gov’t ‘playing political football’ on public servants’ salaries

 

Colin Jordan smiles approvingly with his political leader Mia Mottley, who castigated the Prime Minister for comments he made in relation to the National Social Responsibility Levy and public servants’ salaries.

Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley has blasted Prime Minister Freundel Stuart for his comments relating to the almost $50 million raked in from the unpopular National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL).

And she accused the administration of playing “political football” with the island’s public servants.

Speaking to the media at Maynards, St. Peter after a BLP Rubbing Shoulders mass canvass of the northern constituency on Sunday, October 8, Mottley said she was horrified by the Prime Minister’s response to a journalist’s question in relation to the NSRL and an increase in public servants’ salaries.

Stuart reportedly told Barbados TODAY: “The minister can say what he feels like saying, but I don’t have all of the data on the performance for the first quarter and when I get it, I will speak on it.”

The Prime Minister’s comments were in reference to Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s report on the NSRL’s performance to the House of Assembly on October 3. He said the levy had contributed “just short of $50 million” to Government’s coffers, between July 1 and the end of September since it was increased from two per cent to ten per cent, and was on course to raise “just over $200 million” during the current fiscal year.

“If ever there was a . . . statement by a Prime Minister to tell people the equivalent of ‘like it or lump it’, this is the statement,” said Mottley.

“No right-thinking Barbadian can believe that a Prime Minister who has held the public service waiting in vain, can now say to them that he has not gotten to it and they will effectively have to wait,” she said, adding that Stuart had told the country on previous occasions that he would determine the performance of the NSRL after September 30.

Mottley charged that the Democratic Labour Party should stop “playing political football” with public servants and called on the Freundel Stuart administration to give civil servants their pay increase.

“This Government has got to stop playing political football with the public servants of Barbados,” she said.

“If the public servants deserve the pay increase, as we believe that they do, give it to them. And if you feel you can’t give them a full pay increase because you need more negotiations, at the very least give them a cost of living allowance; a coping subsidy.”

“This notion that you can get around to it when you feel like getting around to it or when you are good and ready is unacceptable, and if you are doing it because you feel you can . . . you can use this . . . in the political run up to the election, by giving them a pay increase just on the eve of the election, I say to you stop it!,” said Mottley.

“. . . Give them the pay increase that they deserve and is long overdue.

“At the very least, give them a cost of living allowance; a coping subsidy; whatever you want to call it, because while you are trying to have these discussions and look for these files, people are falling through the cracks,” said the BLP leader.

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Tourists numbers not translating to cash

Tourism executive and St Peter candidate Colin Jordan speaking at Maynards.

More tourists may be coming, but Barbados is earning less from the sector. And the proof of this can be seen in this island’s economy not growing.

As such, contended Colin Jordan, the Barbados Labour Party candidate for St Peter, under the Freundel Stuart Government the tourism sector has not been contributing to the country as it did before.

“Even though we have more people arriving, more people staying, we are not feeling the effect of those numbers compared to what we felt ten years ago.

“And we believe that if tourism was contributing as it was ten years ago, even with lesser numbers, we would be able to provide more in the area of job opportunities and training opportunities for the young people of this constituency,”  said Jordan as he addressed the media in Maynards, St Peter after a Rubbing Shoulders mass canvass in that constituency on Sunday, October 8.

The former president of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association charged that there is a disconnect between the reports from Government and what Barbadians were experiencing. He argued that if there was growth in the economy, many of the issues such as poor roads and flooding would have been resolved.

“We need our major industries to be working, to be contributing to the national income so that we can have these issues fixed,” he stressed.

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Downgrades show up Govt’s incompetence

These graphs from the international rating agencies, Moody’s (top) and Standard & Poor’s (bottom) demonstrate Barbados’ credit rating downgrade slide.

Barbadians are paying too high a price for this Government’s incompetence and stubbornness, charged Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley.

She was responding to the latest downgrade of Barbados’ sovereign credit rating to ‘CCC’ from ‘CCC+’.

Mottley said the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgrade and negative outlook were likely to further erode investor confidence and warned that the country would not improve under the Democratic Labour Party administration.

Mia Mottley wants to know how many more downgrades it will take for the Government to realize that there is no confidence left in their ability to reverse the failing economic situation.

“How many more downgrades will it take for the Prime Minister and his Government to realize that there is no confidence left in their ability to reverse the situation?” Mottley asked in a statement immediately in response to the September 28th 2017 downgrade.

In their assessment, S&P raised a red flag that Barbados’ longstanding 2-to-1 peg to the United States dollar is under threat as economic conditions continue to deteriorate.

In their grim report, S&P also warned that the Freundel Stuart administration was unlikely to balance its budget any time soon, given lingering challenges including poor implementation of policy decisions, the likely overestimation of one-off revenues, and approaching general elections.

Against this backdrop, S&P lowered the island’s long-term local currency sovereign credit rating to ‘CCC’ from ‘CCC+’, while affirming its long-term foreign currency sovereign rating at ‘CCC+’. The outlook on both long-term ratings is negative.

A major bugbear cited by the New York-based agency is the island’s high fiscal deficit. The deficit is estimated at six per cent, and overall debt at about 140 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), which S&P said was one of the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Barbados’ policy challenges include high general Government debt, deficits, and debt servicing requirements; limited appetite for private-sector financing; and a low level of international reserves raising the risk to sustainability of the peg to the US dollar,” S&P said in its report.

“In our opinion, monetary financing to the central Government is at odds with sustaining Barbados’ currency peg to the dollar, and it significantly curtails the Central Bank’s ability to act as a lender of last resort in the financial system. Low inflation is a reflection of global conditions rather than effective monetary policy execution given the fixed exchange-rate regime,” it added.

The ratings agency warned that should Government fail to advance measures to significantly lower its high fiscal deficit, strengthen its external liquidity, and reverse its low level of international reserves, there could be further pressure on availability of deficit financing, albeit from official or private creditors.

S&P further stressed that this situation was also posing challenges to the fixed exchange rate regime, while at the same time pointing out that economic growth was being held back by recurrent tourism project delays, higher taxes, low private sector confidence and consumption, and a significant level of red tape, which weakens Barbados’ overall economic profile.

However, while predicting further downgrade, the ratings agency left room for an improved rating, should the administration achieve certain targets.

“We could revise the outlook to stable over the next 12 months if the Government succeeds in balancing its fiscal budget, either from implementation of fiscal measures or a prolonged rebound in growth; improves its access to financing from private creditors locally and globally; and stabilizes the country’s external vulnerabilities and bolsters international reserves,” the report said.

The latest downgrade has drawn strong reaction from several quarters.

Mottley expressed dismay that the island had been downgraded for the 20th time in nine years and the country was now virtually on par with Venezuela.

President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Eddy Abed said the private sector was extremely concerned about the situation facing the country.

At the same time, President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Eddy Abed said the  latest downgrade of Barbados is yet another dark cloud over the local investment climate, leaving very little hope in the business community that the economy will emerge from the doldrums anytime soon.

He added that the private sector was extremely concerned about the situation facing the country and he feared it would not improve anytime soon, given that the next general election is due within months.

“There is nothing positive about this rating that any of the citizens and businessmen in this country can say that we have something to look forward to.

“Government has been reluctant in approaching the IMF [International Monetary Fund]. Sadly, we are paying the price for it because our foreign reserves are extremely woeful and the prospects going forward don’t seem at all to be positive, so much so the ratings agency has said that the expectations are negative,” he lamented.

Abed also expressed concern that unless Government deals with high debt, the low foreign reserves, the high deficit and the difficulty conducting business here, the island would continue to be downgraded.

Charging that there was “an extreme calm” in the investment climate in Barbados due a lack of urgency on the part of Government, the BCCI head said the situation was now “extremely concerning for businesses”, especially because no policies could be implemented between now and the election, due by the middle of next year.

He warned that it was simply “not business as usual” in Barbados.

“For all the good intention, for all the promises, there is very little that seems to be going on and I think most people are holding their breath and waiting to see. It is a question of confidence. It is a question of return on investments. People will not invest unless there is some sense that they will get a return, and this nasty question of devaluation has raised its head again by the current downgrade,” Abed said.

The following is the full statement of the Leader of the Opposition, Mia Mottley:

“Our credit rating has been downgraded for the 20th time in nine years by the major international credit rating agencies. This has become so routine that Barbadians are becoming immune to the news, but unfortunately, overseas investors and businesses are not.

“If we are to raise our international reserves to the point that makes our dollar safe, it is these people we need to convince of the skillful and energetic stewardship of our economy.

“Equally this downgrade, and the continued negative outlook, will not give either Bajans or foreigners confidence to invest so that the jobs that Bajans so badly need are created.

“Let us put this is context for Bajans.

“Standard & Poor’s rates 130 countries. After this last downgrade to CCC, Barbados lies in 128th position. We are on par with Venezuela. There are only two countries who are rated worse than us – Mozambique and Belize.

“There can now be no doubt that the longer the Freundel Stuart Government tries to hold on to power, the harder and longer our road to recovery will be. How many more downgrades will it take for the Prime Minister and his Government to realize that there is no confidence left in their ability to reverse the situation?

“Barbadians are paying too high a price for this Government’s incompetence and stubbornness.” (BLP News/Caribbean360/ Barbados TODAY)

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Payne: Smear talk bare foolishness

 

 

BLP chairman George Payne (left) says Chris Sinckler’s allegation of a smear campaign against him is yet another attempt to distract the public from the ongoing crises inflicted by the DLP on Barbados.

The Barbados Labour Party categorically denies that it has launched a smear campaign against Government ministers Chris Sinckler  and Michael Lashley. The accusation is not only a big lie, but absolute foolishness. It is yet another attempt to distract the public from the ongoing crises at every level afflicting Barbados.

The party of which I am proud to be Chairman would not stoop to any level to smear our political opponent’s character. That, however, has been the trademark strategy of the Democratic Labour Party for decades. One only has to recall the last two general elections in which the former Prime Minister Owen Arthur was portrayed in the worst possible way to turn people away from the Barbados Labour Party.

Indeed, the Dems have already started similar dirty tactics against our political leader Mia Mottley by using their paid operatives on social media, the radio call-in programmes and otherwise to question her integrity and otherwise tarnish her character. We expect them to come with a patchwork of items sewn together to appear plausible, but on deeper examination will just be a charade of half-truths and twisted facts.

As for Mr. Sinckler, his policies have been a complete failure and the perilous state of the economy is proof of that. He has presided over 19 downgrades, the longest period of economic paralysis since Independence, the highest cost of living ever experienced here, the most taxes ever imposed on Barbadians, the longest time public workers ever went without a salary increase, and the total bungling of several matters including Clico and Four Seasons. In terms of Mr. Lashley’s performance in the ministries of housing and transport, he has demonstrated his ineffectiveness to manage effectively.

These are undeniable facts. Our party therefore needs only to speak the truth. The reality of life today for Barbadians will demonstrate who is really smearing whom.

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BLP gives Dominica a helping hand

 

 

Pat Parris, the executive assistant to Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley, overseeing the loading of supplies for Dominica on a truck.

THE BARBADOS LABOUR PARTY family and supporters have donated just over $20,000 in foodstuff, water and personal items to the people of Dominica, following the devastation on that country by Hurricane Maria on Monday.

The items were delivered to the Barbados Coast Guard headquarters on Wednesday for shipment to Dominica.

The party donated 200 cases of water and 145 cases of foodstuff consisting of corn beef, baked beans, tuna, Vienna sausages, luncheon meat, Mackerel and Ensure. The personal items were made up of 52 cases that included bath soap, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, toothbrushes and insect repellent.

Pat Parris, the executive assistant to Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley, who managed the collection of the donations and the purchase of the items, said the effort came from the membership of the party from the various constituencies, as well as a few traditional supporters.

Parris said the party is hoping to make another donation at a later date, and are presently in the process of collecting funds for that. She also appealed to Barbadians to support this worthy effort by taking whatever they can directly to the Coast Guard headquarters on Spring Garden, or through an approved organisation of their choice.

“I know how tough things are for many Barbadians as we are poorer today than 10 years ago. But despite that, give whatever you can to help Dominicans as they are literally at the mercies of the elements because of Hurricane Maria,” said Ms. Parris.

The following pictures show the devastation Hurricane Maria had on Dominica.

This house was reduced to debris by the relentless winds of Hurricane Maria.
Hurricane Maria’s 160 mile per hour winds removed nearly 80 per cent of rooftops across Dominica.
Destruction is evident all across Dominica.
This aerial picture captures the extent to the devastation in Dominica.
Hurricane Maria has been described as the worse storm system to hit Dominica in living memory.

 

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‘The BLP is for all Barbadians’

Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott, General Secretary of the Barbados Labour Party responds to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s accusation that the BLP is an elitist party.

 

I initially resisted the provocation to respond to the Prime Minister’s accusation that the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was “elitist”, since I recognised it was said to distract Barbadians’ from focusing on being worse off today than they were in 2008, when his party first came to office.

BLP political leader Mia Mottley’s large electoral victory margins in a working class constituency is testament to the quality of her representation, not to circumstances surrounding her birth.

His equally ridiculous suggestion that BLP political leader, Mia Mottley, is an “arch conservative” and Barbados’ interest would not be best served under her leadership, was even more laughable.  That statement demonstrated the PM’s conformity to author Piers Anthony‘s assertion that, “when one person makes an accusation, check to be sure he himself is not the guilty one. Sometimes it is those whose case is weak who make the most clamour”.

The fact is that Freundel Stuart, who nauseatingly extolls his working class origins in St Philip, was rejected by those same people among whom he lived, because they saw him for the aloof individual all Barbadians have since come to know.

In contrast, Ms. Mottley has repeatedly had large victory margins in a working class constituency. Her success is due to the quality of her representation, not to circumstances surrounding her birth. This, PM. Stuart, is what matters.

Your suggestion that the BLP is elitist says more about your perception of reality than it does about the BLP and its 79 years of providing a better life for all Barbadians.

One man, one vote and better working conditions for average Barbadian workers came through the tireless efforts of Sir Grantley Adams.

However, given the context of Stuart’s statement and the occasion, it is necessary, for the record, to correct his grossly inaccurate assertion. First, the BLP under the leadership of Grantley Adams secured adult suffrage – the right to vote – in 1951 for all Barbadians. That act gave Barbadians a say in their future, and allowed people of humble origins, like Mr. Stuart, to be become Prime Minister. Was that the action of an elitist party?

Further, the BLP fought for workers’ rights and established the Barbados Workers Union to lead the charge for better working conditions for the working class The BLP, introduced minimum wages, protection of wages, holiday with pay, and workers’ compensation and unemployment legislation. It also paved the way for thousands of casual and temporary public workers to become full-time employees with improved long-term benefits by legislating that anyone acting in   a post must after three years be appointed. We also introduced maternity leave with pay.

The BLP transformed the education system ensuring that the working class could better themselves. We moved a generation beyond “sixth standard” with the introduction of free secondary education opening the St. Leonard’s, Parkinson, West St. Joseph (now Grantley Adams) and Princess Margaret schools. We pioneered technical, skills and vocational training, implemented Edutech and provided and equipped Community Resource Centres. We also raised the school leaving age from 14 to 16 years.

In health, the BLP uplifted the working class by establishing international standards and universal access to healthcare. Initiatives ranged from our immunisation (vaccination) programme; provision of the first health centres; construction of the QEH and five polyclinics; implementation of the Home Help service and the Barbados Drug Service to ensure average Barbadians could get quality medication free.

Furthermore, the so-called elitist BLP was the driving force behind the expansion of the credit union movement which helps thousands of working class Barbadians to own homes, land, vehicles and to start businesses.

We provided the first housing units – the Pine, Cave Hill and Grazettes, St. Michael; St. Matthias and Sayers Court, Christ Church; Six Roads, St. Philip; Coach Hill, St John and Belleplaine, St Andrew. This continued with Ferniehurst and Rosemont in St. Michael, and Kensington Lodge and London Bourne Towers in Bridgetown. The BLP also developed for sale to only working class people nearly 3,000 house lots.

Prime Minister Tom Adams enacted most of the legislation that gave greater rights and economic opportunities to average working class Barbadians.

The BLP then enabled thousands living on plantation tenantries to purchase the land they occupied at 10 cents per square foot through passage of the revolutionary Tenantries Freehold Purchase Act, 1980, which Stuart’s party was against. We created the UDC and RDC to improve the quality of housing, roads and business chances for working class people.

Further, we enacted the Status of Children Reform Act, that gave legal rights to children born out of wedlock, and ended the concept of illegitimacy. These are just a snapshot of what the supposed elitist BLP did.

Conversely, the self-declared non-elitist Freundel Stuart administration stoutly refuses to communicate with the electorate, and has piled on or increased the rate of 30-odd taxes, on the backs of the working class.

The self-proclaimed, more caring Mr. Stuart himself stated no public workers would be going home, but within weeks 3,000 of them were axed. To add insult to injury, no public workers have had a salary hike in eight years, yet Mr. Stuart and his colleagues reinstated the 10 per cent cut to their salaries and made it retroactive, and so collected hundreds of thousands of dollars.

These are but a few of the facts about your fanciful elitism in Barbados’ politics Mr. Stuart, which your misdirected misrepresentation can never change nor erase.

 

 

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Crime in Barbados a crisis

Former Attorney General Dale Marshall says Barbados’ violent crime has reached crisis proportions, and the Barbados Defence Force should be used to augment the manpower resources of the Royal Barbados Police Force.

He made the recommendation on Wednesday (August 30, 2017) the day after two men were shot dead at Marley Vale, St Philip.

Marshall said the Barbados Labour Party was ready “to support in Parliament reasonable measures or any extraordinary expenditure that may be required for this fight”.

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

We are a country in shock. With the brutal shooting deaths of two young men in Marley Vale, St. Philip, last night, we now reeling from an unprecedented 5 gun related homicides in this month alone, four in the last nine days.

The picture that the world now has of Barbados is no longer a place of peace and tranquility, but a small country with uncontrolled gang violence, and brazen public shootings. And for Barbadians, this country is rapidly becoming a place that we do not know and cannot recognize.

This spate of lawlessness cannot be allowed to continue. It cannot be right that Barbadians now feel unsafe in their home and in their communities. Already, we are finding that in many districts, Barbadians are feeling under siege in their homes, afraid to venture out for fear of being the next victim. We must not allow our society to become paralysed in the face of this criminal element, and to be held hostage by this criminal minority.

I am gratified that two former Commissioners of Police have been moved in recent weeks to add their voices to the debate. Both highlighted the fact that one of the major challenges for the proper functioning of our police force was the absence of leadership at the highest level. It would therefore not be surprising that the Prime Minister of Barbados who was on the scene of the Marley Vale murders last night declined to make any comment!

Barbados is in a crisis and it cannot be satisfactory for our leaders to continue this deafening silence. We cannot expect the police force to share operational details with the public, but the country needs to hear from the leadership on what is being done to deal with these issues and what role we can play in the fight. The Attorney General also has to stop being a mere spectator in matters for which he has legal responsibility and which he has the duty to initiate. We have had the experience before of having the Barbados Defence Force augment the man-power resources of the Police Force and this could be especially useful at this time in the already identified hotspots.

The government must give leadership to this battle, and a battle it has now become. To deny that in recent years there has been a tremendous upsurge in firearm usage in Barbados would be to bury our heads in the sand. Added to this is the recent statement from the Commissioner of Police that we have 16 gangs in the St. Michael area alone.

We all have a stake in this battle against the purveyors of gun violence since the future of Barbados is at stake. These shootings will affect us all from our homes to our hotels from our churches to our places of entertainment, from our rum shops to our restaurants. They will affect our economy, our way of life and will destroy our families.

It might be tempting for some to reduce this to a political issue, but we cannot play politics with crime. This is not an issue that can wait until after the next election. It has to be tackled today.

If we stand together, we can win back our streets! The Barbados Labour Party again pledges to support in Parliament reasonable measures or any extraordinary expenditure that may be required for this fight.

 

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Walcott: PM’s speech rings hollow

Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott, General Secretary of the Barbados Labour Party

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s speech to his party faithful at their 62nd annual conference made a mockery of Barbadians and what they are going through, says Barbados Labour Party General Secretary Dr. Jerome Walcott.

Further, the speech which was televised live and billed as a national address, left Barbadians no wiser as to what  Government’s plan is to fight spiraling gun violence and to fix the economy that increasingly shows signs of collapse.

“Few Barbadians have more comfort today than they did before his statement. Mr. Stuart failed to reassure Barbadians that his Government actually has a plan,” said Dr. Walcott in his immediate response to Mr. Stuart’s speech on Sunday (September 3, 2017).

The following is the full text of Dr. Walcott’s statement:

At a time when Barbadians are living in fear of gun violence and increasing signs of economic collapse, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart failed to use what was billed as a national address, carried live on television, to effectively state what his Government is planning to do about these urgent matters.

Instead, he delivered a “dry and lifeless” address to the nation which has left Barbadians with no ideas, solutions, comfort or hope now, or for the future. There was no plan for taking Barbados out of reverse and into drive.

Mr. Stuart gave a history of failure of the Democratic Labour Party over the last nine years and catalogued his Government’s inability to be innovative in managing the economy since 2008, which has led to the tough times Barbadians are experiencing.

On the economy, Mr. Stuart said it is a revenue matter and should be dealt with from a revenue perspective. In other words, he is convinced that taxing Barbadians is the only way to get the economy going. Even after failure upon failure of his administration’s fiscal policies he still insists this is the way to go.

But we are not surprised that Mr. Stuart chose to stick to this old model of raising revenue on the backs of Barbadians instead of identifying solutions that would bring about economic growth. It is consistent with him and his party’s inability to offer practical solutions to Barbados’ problems.

Barbadians are today no wiser on how Government intends to battle the criminal elements that have seen four gun related murders in nine days last month, plus a number of public shootings.

It is shocking that the Prime Minister spent no more than five minutes speaking to crime, and failed to announce any immediate strategy to stem the tide of gun violence. Instead, he spoke of a suite of legislation before Cabinet but gave no details.

Few Barbadians have more comfort today than they did before his statement. Mr. Stuart failed to reassure Barbadians that his Government actually has a plan to fight the escalating gun crime. The Prime Minister failed to demonstrate that he and his administration understand the mood of the country at this time. He demonstrated yet again his utter contempt for Barbadians by his failure to address this urgent issue in a comprehensive manner.

Once again, the Prime Minister indulged in a history lesson in which the DLP again refused to accept its role as the Government and take responsibility for anything. It is obvious that his words are at a stark variance from what Barbadians know to be the truth and at total variance to what they have been experiencing under his stewardship.

Mr. Stuart declared that nowhere is the DLP’s commitment seen more than in education. Yet it was under their tenure that the channels through which young people can realise their dreams were removed.

The DLP has decimated the enrollment of young people at UWI and cut several of the other progressive programmes that gave young Barbadians opportunities to learn skills or start a business. Instead, the DLP has used the money once so dedicated to the hosting of a football tournament and camps, where the caterers gets the bulk of the money.

Mr. Stuart had the unbelievable temerity to say that his administration does not believe in sending home public servants. Yet it was his administration that sent home 3,000 public servants, even after he had given the public the assurance that no public servants would be terminated.

It is one thing for Mr. Stuart to grandstand in front of his faithful, but it is another thing to make such baseless statements to Barbadians when the evidence to the contrary is pellucid. There are too many in Barbados without even “half a loaf of bread” for the Prime Minister to make such an offensive statement. He clearly is living in a different country.

Another glaring example of this disconnection between the truth and reality is Mr. Stuart’s reference to a viable safety net through the National Insurance Scheme. His Minister continues to say the NIS is viable, yet his administration is largely responsible for the $600 million owed to the scheme.

Mr. Stuart’s speech can be summed up as a hollow statement that makes a mockery of Barbadians and what they are presently going through.

It is nothing short of nonsensical and uncaring for the Prime Minister, after every sector of Barbados has been severely damaged by his administration’s inept economic management to assert the DLP is not concerned with Gross Domestic Product. Instead they are about “Gross Domestic Faith, Gross Domestic Hope, Gross Domestic Happiness, Gross Domestic Fairness, Gross Domestic Stability and Gross Domestic Comfort”.

None of these things exists in Barbados now. He is only correct about the Gross. That is, there is Gross Suffering, Gross Despair, Gross Uncertainty and Gross Discomfort in Barbados over jobs, the economy, the cost of living, health, public transportation, roads, crime and surviving.

Thankfully, the Barbados Labour Party stands ready to yet again get Barbados working in the interests of all Barbadians.

Here, we would like to congratulate CBC for opening up the television station to the leaders of political parties represented in Parliament when addressing annual party conventions. We look forward to the same opportunity in October.

 

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Herbert predicts cash flow problems for NIS

A private sector executive is predicting that it will not be too long before the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) begins to suffer from the very cash flow problems that the Freundel Stuart administration is experiencing.

Therefore, President of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Charles Herbert is not optimistic about the NIS’ long-term financial stability unless there are some drastic changes to its mode of operation.

Herbert told a public forum organized by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados on Wednesday (August 23, 2017) that the social security programme would definitely have a cash flow problem in the foreseeable future.

As a result, he said, Barbadians should expect either fewer benefits or they would be asked to make even higher contributions.

“We do have real problems. But the truth is, all it is going to mean is – and we already have the highest NIS contributions in the region – they are going to have to go higher or we are going to have to cut benefits because we cannot realize our investments . . . . So I think cash flow is going to be an increasing problem for National Insurance like it is a serious problem for Government,” Herbert told those gathered at the Savannah Hotel for the forum themed Homegrown or IMF Designed: What Should Barbados Economic Plan Look Like?

The actuary explained that having gone through the phase when contributions were higher than the paid benefits, and a second phase where they were both about equal, the social security programme must realign some of its investments.

However, he said the scheme was facing a major problem since Government had become addicted to “just borrowing all of the money that should have been invested.

“When we reached the phase where we are no longer generating all of this money to be borrowed, is partly when our problems in having to go now to the Central Bank came because we were already addicted to this steady supply of cash,” Herbert said.

The BPSA head estimated that about a quarter of the contributions due never make it to the scheme.

Therefore, he said, “what the NIS is having to do is actually not renew its investments with Government, creating a refinancing problem in Government simply because they need cash flow”.

Consequently, Herbert said, in some cases health benefits claims were taking up to a year to be settled.

Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced in his Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals (the Budget) last May 30 and again last month, that with Government owing the NIS in excess of $250 million in arrears through its statutory corporations, there was a plan to issue additional Government papers at a lower interest rate to clear the debt.

The NIS currently holds approximately $1.9 billion in Government papers, representing in excess of 75 per cent of the fund’s assets, and up to the first quarter of this year it had about $222 million in investment overseas.

At the time of the Budget presentation, Sinckler had pointed out that in this financial year savings from the proposed debt re-profiling would be in the region of $70 million on interest expense.

“It is also expected that part of the proceeds from the savings accrued will in turn go to assist with the liquidation of outstanding arrears owed to the NIS,” he said then.

However, Herbert said by lowering that interest the NIS would need more income, which could lead to higher contributions.

“So really all we did when we did that is say ‘you know what, you are going to have to pay more contributions to National Insurance sometime in the future to take in the shortfall or adjustments that I just put on investment terms,’” Herbert said.

Noted economist Marla Dukharan

Chief Economist at Bitt Inc, Marla Dukharan, described the situation as “a very, very serious” one, pointing out that the NIS already had a liquidity problem that would only be exacerbated by Government’s fiscal programme.

Pointing to the International Monetary Fund Article IV Consultation, which highlighted the need for Government to pay the NIS contributions in a timely manner, and give consideration to a possible reduction in benefits if the situation was not quickly corrected, Dukharan said the NIS’ financial position was of grave concern and she believed it could require recapitalization in the future if certain steps were not taken now.

Pointing out that the NIS’ expenditure had exceeded contributions since 2013, instead of the expected 2024 date, Dukharan said the irregular payment of contributions to the fund (by Government) and the proposed swap of debentures for debt had put the fund “in a much worse position” than anticipated.

And she predicted that when an adjustment programme is implemented to correct the fiscal deficit, low growth, falling reserves and high debt, Government would be “heavily reliant on the NIS”, which she said was “in a very weak [financial] position”. (Barbados TODAY/BLP News)

 

 

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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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