Member of Parliament for Christ Church West Dr Maria Agard is disappointed that the budgets of both the Ministry of Agriculture and the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) have been slashed.
Saying she expected Government to pay more attention to these sectors, Dr Agard expressed surprise that the Ministry of Agriculture would be receiving $68 million less than it did last year.
“I fully expected for example, that the Ministry of Agriculture would be the beneficiary of increased funding. Surely, there is no greater need than for Barbados to reduce its heavy reliance on imported foods and by extension to increase its domestic crop production,” she argued during debate on the 2016/2017 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue in the House of Assembly this afternoon.
“Not only so that Barbadians can feed themselves, but also as a means to decreasing our high import bill.
“It would also serve a pivotal role in the fight against lifestyle chronic diseases to a change of diet to a more healthy set of options. But to the contrary, this Ministry has had its budget reduced by approximately $68 million,” Dr Agard said, noting that Government’s allocation for “crop production has also been reduced from $51 million to $32 million.
“These are measures which on the surface seem confusing in the scheme of national development,” Dr Agard added.
She argued against this move, noting that the time had come for Barbados to look seriously at increasing its crop production.
Additionally, Dr Agard said with the vast number of challenges currently being experienced by the BWA, she was at a loss as to why that budget had also been cut.
“Equally confusing to me, in terms of national priorities is the vote to the BWA that has been reduced from $80 million to $32 million.
“This in light of difficulties experienced not only in the north, but throughout Barbados where it is said that our water mains network being over 150 years old and subject to constant leaks to the tune of 50 per cent of the water piped, need to be addressed.
The Christ Church West MP said in those circumstances, it was difficult to comprehend why a complete overhaul of the water system was not a national priority for water-scarce Barbados.
“Water is too crucial to all aspects of any country’s development not to be given greater national priority,” she stressed.