Economic hard times, austerity measures or not, Barbados’ controversial constituency councils are here to stay.
So to is the David Thompson Memorial Constituency Council Football Classic. Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Steve Blackett, made that defiant declaration today following Opposition Barbados Labour Party calls for the two to be shelved and their funding allocated to more productive areas in light of Government’s large fiscal headache.
The St. Michael Central MP mocked the BLP on the issue, saying that while its hierarchy had the constituency councils “stuck across their throats like a bill fish bone”, its members, including some sitting parliamentarians, were notifying Government they wanted to be involved. Speaking this morning during debate on the Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals Blackett said:
“From the get go they were pursuing these councils with vigour. These councils are stuck across their throats like a bill fish bone. As minister I am comfortable that the councils are doing what they were to do in terms of reaching constituents, … and reigniting community participation that was waning.”
The minister said the councils had improved the delivery of social services in Barbados and had over the past year used their $3 million budget to bring “considerable relief” and assistance to the public.
“I want to ask the Opposition if $3 million is too much to spend on Bajans and if they feel so say so. I am contending that the best people to spend money on are tax payers themselves,” he stated.
“Up to this day the Barbados Labour Party has not seen it fit to join the other 420 Barbadians who are civic minded enough to have come forward and presented themselves to serve as members on these councils.
You can criticise it if you want but it will continue and further entrench itself in the psyche of Barbadians,” he vowed. Referring to the BLP criticism of the councils, Blackett said “some of them are breaking for themselves because we get individual requests from some Barbados Labour Party MPs”.
“Not only the MPs are breaking for themselves but the rank and file of the Barbados Labour Party, they have applied in droves to sit on the councils and we will readily accept them because they are Barbadians.” Blackett also said he would not apologise for staging the memorial football tournament in memory of former Prime Minister David Thompson.
“It is a tribute to our late Prime Minister who believed in the councils and it was his brainchild and we are going to honour that in this Government as long as we are the Government,” he asserted, noting that the tourney stimulated economic activity in Barbados between October and December, providing revenue to people involved in transportation, catering, equipment rental, stage management and other areas.
“If something is wrong with that then let it stay wrong,” he said defiantly, saying he would launch this year’s edition tomorrow. (SC)