Tuesday’s Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals was tantamount to a blueprint for increased poverty in Barbados.
That’s a reality Government cannot escape, Shadow Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Jeffrey Bostic, said today.
The City MP noted this was unwelcome news, especially since over the past six years of the current administration’s governance a number of Bajans had already regressed.
“I believe since the economic decline sustained in this country that those levels are probably much higher at this point in time and certainly the measures which have been presented to this House will cause further deterioration,” he said during the Budget debate today.
“I accepted the fact that tough decisions had to be made and perhaps still have to be made, but whatever is done we have to be mindful of the fact that we have increased poverty in this country… We believe that poverty will certainly continue to increase.”
He noted that there was increased demand for assistance from departments within the Ministry of Social Care, but that its Estimates budget for the current financial year had decreased by 6.3 per cent from $62.9 million to $58.9 million. Bostic said instead of facing its financial problems and the economic challenges facing Barbados, Government continued to play blame games, either attributing the problems identified to the former Barbados Labour Party administration, or an international recession the BLP spokesman said did not exist.
“I can’t help but feel a way about this thing of constantly apportioning blame…, and I say so because the reality is … both Governments, BLP and DLP, borrowed money, both government created some debt. If you felt that the debt was so high when you assumed office it was incumbent on you to reign it in but the reality is that it escalated,” he told Government.
“History will not absolve the Government of the day for not accepting responsibility for the challenges of the day … and of finding solutions for those very challenges.
In addition to poverty, the challenges he identified included high inflation and unemployment, weakening competitiveness, galloping and unsustainable national debt, declining revenues, continuous failure of the primary economic engines to ignite, loss of foreign investor confidence partly due to credit rating downgrades. “Barbados has been in negative growth for the whole of 2013 thus far. The third quarter as we all know is usually the worst quarter for Barbados so it looks as though we will have negative growth for three consecutive quarters, which will surely mean that Barbados will be back in recession,” he said.
“We seem to be heading in that direction and … as long as you are a patriotic Barbadian or a resident of this country you must be deeply concerned about the present state of our economy. You cannot be feeling happy about your country’s lacklustre economic performance when the World Bank is predicting economic growth for Latin America for 2013 and 2014.” Bostic said all Barbados had worked for an achieved was now under “severe threat” and that there were major signs of this in Bridgetown, where depressed business activity was now the norm.
He said he believed revitalising the City was key to Barbados’ economic recovery, including exploiting the benefits within the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation of Bridgetown and its Garrison.
“I am not satisfied that enough is being done or is being given to this initiative in this Budget and in this regard I call on the Government to act swiftly in doing what is required to create the environment and business landscape that will … restore and revitalise existing businesses and create new opportunities for maximising the value of our rich cultural and historical heritage. This would crate jobs and add valuable foreign exchange earnings to the country,” Bostic stated. (SC)