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.
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.
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.
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.