Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley is questioning Government’s decision to wind up the more than 10 year old Social Investment Fund at a time when “people are clearly suffering”.
The St. Michael North East MP said the facility had served a useful purpose over time as it “sought to fight against poverty and to assist the needs of the vulnerable, in particular through institutions that currently exist” and told Parliament she saw the need for a Needy Trust Fund in Barbados.
“I am not sure that we are doing the right thing in repealing it. I think that at this very time when people are clearly suffering as a result of the economic recession, when the economy is smaller than it was six (to) seven years ago, when unemployment has doubled what it was five years ago, when prices have increased by 35 per cent, there is in fact a need for a Needy Trust Fund to be able to help ordinary people get through,” she said during debate on the Social Investment Fund Repeal Act 2013 in the Lower House this morning.
“I don’t know about other parishes, but I know about St. Michael for sure, and in St. Michael … a man that wakes up with $20 in his pocket now feels like a lord because so many people are without funds.
“The government has said … that many of these things ought to be going to the Welfare Department and I therefore look forward to an increase in the subsidy of the Welfare Department in the light of this abolition of the Social Investment Fund by law as we receive the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the next financial year…
“We all know the extent of the hard times and suffering and to that extent I trust and pray that while we may be transferring the surplus to the Micro Enterprise Development Fund … that that is not the only purpose that the Social Investment Fund played and to that extent where and how are we going to meet the purposes that it met for a number of years,” she said.
The Barbados Labour Party leader said the fund now officially repelled had been an innovative method of fighting poverty directly in the island’s communities.
“This was a way of ensuring that small loans could be made and loans therefore were never made directly from the Social Investment Fund to any individual,” she recalled.
“Persons who needed funds never interfaced directly with the Ministry of Finance or with the Social Investment Fund, but it was done through the individual entities that existed to provide that kind of support, the majority non governmental, but some governmental, in the form of the Urban Development Commission and the Rural Development Commission.”
Mottley also questioned why it had taken Government four years to repeal the fund via Parliament.
“You cannot take a decision at the end of March 2009…and then four years later after the decision is taken, and I suspect after the funds have been transferred without legal authority, this House is now being asked effectively to ratify, even though the bill does not use that language,” she observed. (SC)