Barbadians now experiencing hardship will not be hurt by Government’s decision to end the life of the former multi-million dollar Social Investment Fund.
Responding this afternoon to Opposition Barbados Labour Party concerns that a decision to repeal the facility would be harmful, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler said there were existing agencies to help impoverished citizens and those otherwise in need.
He was speaking in the House of Assembly this morning, as members debated and approved the passage of the Social Investment Fund Repeal Act 2013.
The matter, which was initially tabled in the final days of the last Parliament, came up again because the House was dissolved before the measure made its way through the Senate.
Sinckler said the fund was repealed administratively by the previously Democratic Labour Party administration but had to be also dissolved via Parliament since it was established through an act of Parliament.
“We were advised that it be dissolved principally because there were other institutions performing the same function,” he said.
“You just created these funds, you had no proper governance of them… Public administration in Barbados cannot be considered to be properly executed by duplication.”
The St. Michael North West MP noted that the specific fund was established by the previous BLP Administration to serve as a resource to fund the development activities of various individuals and small businesses in the community, enabling them to “carry out activities that were considered to be of benefit to the community”.
“Of course, as is the case with most of these things, it didn’t quite, in practice, stick closest to its mandate as it possibly could be, and became overwhelmed as it were with requests for many individual treatments which properly found their way, or should have found their way, in other parts of the social development system of Barbados, particularly welfare and so forth … and therefore what was originally a reasonably good idea then became a vehicle for the payment of light bills and water bills,” he stated.
“In addition to that of course there were a plethora of other special funds for social development and poverty alleviation that came about and kind of acted not in concert, but sometimes in collision with the Social Investment Fund…
“And one of the things that the then new Government of the Democratic Labour Party had decided to do … was that some of these funds should be collapsed and brought into a tidier state of operation,” he added.
Sinckler pointed out that the $2.4 million the Social Investment Fund’s had when it was ended by Government was “redistributed in the system”, with a “large proportion” of it transferred to the Micro Enterprise Development Fund, commonly called Fund Access.
“Indeed, … over the last two years Fund Access’ clientele has expanded exponentially on the arrival of the extra resources which were made available to it, and some of the other resources from the fund were redirected to the Welfare Department to assist those persons in our community who might be experiencing difficulties from time to time,” he explained. (SC)