Opposition MP Edmund Hinkson believes that Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick still owes the country an explanation, after his recent public show of dissent over government’s economic policies.
Hinkson is therefore looking forward to this month’s debate in the House of Assembly on the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure to see what Dr Estwick will do.
He noted that the matter had been left hanging by Estwick after he had informed the public of his position that Government’s economic programme was headed down the wrong track and made a public issue of the fact that he had not been granted a hearing by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet on his alternative economic plan.
“We haven’t heard any word on what their [Cabinet] response has been,” said Hinkson, following publication of key elements of the Estwick plan, which is centred around the borrowing of US$5 billion from the United Arab Emirates to take care of Barbados’ debts.
“The Government has made commitments to the International Monetary Fund to go forward with their medicine and the Credit Suisse loan, which has as one of its clauses that complying with the Article 1V consultation is a condition of that loan, so the Government is bound to go forward with those arrangements,” he stated.
Therefore, “I don’t know how Mr Estwick’s proposals are going to be accommodated or if they can be. It is probably too late for that,” he added.
The St James North MP said while it may make some sense to look outside of traditional markets to borrow money, “I am not so sure to put all your eggs in one basket – in the Middle East basket but there again to me, we have to look outside of traditional markets, we have to look to the Far East more and other sources of finance.”
“That is always dangerous, that is high risk,” he said.
And given Barbados’ weak bargaining postion, he stressed that “any money borrowed is going to come with harsh conditionalities”.
“Whether it is UAE or another market, I think we have to seriously start looking outside of our traditional partners for funding and for investments in our economy.”
Hinkson said it was important for Estwick to be true to his word and his soul. He advised the Government MP for st Philip West that “he should be able to stand up and vote with his conscience against whatever Estimates are brought by the Stuart Government.
“Obviously that has implications for him but I believe that you have to be true to your conscience and put country before political party,” stated Hinkson, who pointed out that Estwick was a man with political options, which did not necessarily mean quitting the ruling Democratic Labour Party and joining the opposition BLP.
“He could also abstain from voting,” noted Hinkson, who said “ clearly all of Barbados – in particular the political-minded – are looking to see what he will do”.
Hinkson argued that the ruling Democratic Labour Party had serious divisions that were affecting its ability to administer the country politically.
“Invariably ministers contradicting each other at every stage. No clear policy among the ministers. The Prime Minister himself seeming to be at variance with his Minister of Finance on issues. The Minister of Labour differing from the Minister of Commerce. The parliamentary secretary in the ministry of education differing from the Minister of Labour. The apex of the division is the Minister of Agriculture David Estwick, now coming straight out with a thesis fully published in the print media showing himself over the last five years at odds with his own Cabinet colleagues. In terms of collective responsibility it is something that the country should be worried about,” the St James North MP said.
In light of the recent controversy in the BLP surrounding Owen Arthur’s declaration that he had lost all confidence in his leader Mia Mottley, Hinkson also commented that “Arthur has not done anything to suggest that he is not a loyal BLP member.” He said he expects the St Peter MP will make his usual “stellar” contribution during the Estimates.
“The closest of families have arguments, misunderstandings, no two people are the same, big men and big women will see issues from different perspectives occasionally. The closest of marriage partners or couples living together disagree occasionally. It is a question of how it is managed. Brothers and sisters, who have grown up in the same house, as close as they may be, will have contentions at some time. I see this as no different. The issue has not affected the business of the party.”
Hinkson, who is marking his first year in parliament, described his tenure so far as “challenging but enjoyable” in face of job losses, poverty and disillusionment that has not dampened his ambition of one day being in government. (NC/KJ)