Minutes before the 2015/2016 Budget presentation at 4 p.m. yesterday, 62-year-old unemployed Owen Simmons was standing outside the north gate of Parliament, hopeful the Budgetary Proposals would be of good news to him.
As he watched the parliamentarians enter, particularly star of the day Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and his boss Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, both arriving around 3:47 p.m., Simmons said he hoped to find a new job.
The homeless man, who celebrated his birthday yesterday, told reporters he once worked at a popular hotel in the east of the island as a resident chef, but was fired after being caught in the kitchen eating a hot dog by a member of management.
“If I could find some sort of work, I would be very happy. I was living at the restaurant and I had to give up the residence. So, right now, I am living on the streets,” he said.
The usual crowd of supporters, wearing their party colours and calling the names of their favourite politicians as they drove into Parliament Yard, was absent. There was a mere handful.
Standing not too far from the homeless Simmons was construction worker Rudolph Straughn, who said he was currently out of work and was waiting to see what the Minister of Finance had to lay on the table. However, Straughn stressed that at the end of the day, growth in the country was not only dependent on structures implemented by the Government, but also Barbadians who must be prepared to work hard and have faith in God.
“The people in this country need to get back to some serious hard work, and I think that has gone out through the window. Some serious spiritual morals need to come back,” the jobless man said.
A Government worker, who indicated she was always supportive of Government’s measures, was hoping there would be no more taxes.
Requesting anonymity, she added: “We’re just creeping out of a recession, and we hoping for the best, because we are not the worst.”
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley while making her way to meet with members of her party about 3:25 p.m. declined to give any detailed comment on the anticipated Budget. However, she did mention she did not believe in “pre-empting people”.
An upbeat and excited Member of Parliament for St Peter Owen Arthur, who parked his car about 3:53 p.m., three minutes after members of the Opposition had made their way into the House of Assembly, said the best thing about being Independent on this day was that he was more himself now than ever before.
Arthur said he was neither for nor against the Budget, but for what was in the best interest of the country.
Having “done it” for over 30 years in Government and Opposition, the former Minister of Finance said he was in sympathy with the pressure Sinckler was under.
“I understand what the Minister of Finance is going through right now; plus, I understand what the shadow person of finance is going through right now, because it is the toughest assignment expected of any Barbadian politician.
“I used to feel sorry for myself when I was in Opposition, and the Minister of Finance had just spoken for three and a half hours; and . . . have to go home now and prepare a speech from 9 o’clock to 12:30 p.m. You don’t like it,” Arthur explained.
Thew calm Member of Parliament for The City Jeffery Bostic, making his way into the Opposition Leader’s Office, said he was hoping that within the Budget there was a good plan to stimulate the revitalization of Bridgetown that would trickle down to residents.
Bostic said while Budgets in the past had outlined plans to lift the commercial aspect of The City, none had come to pass.
“My hopes are not high at all, because the difference between Government’s expected revenue and expenditure is just around $1.5 billion, a gap that has to be dealt with. So that suggests to me that we are not going to have a good day today,” The City MP said.
Shadow Minister of International Business, Commerce and Industry Kerrie Symmonds who arrived about 3:15 p.m., said he was looking forward to a Budget that brought more pain, agony and very little constructive and positive efforts to return the economy to a path of growth.
“I am going to talk about that during the course of presentation because that’s what’s missing from this debate –– serious discussion about what we can do to develop growth and commerce,” Symmonds stated.