Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has defended the over $5 million budget for this year’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, saying it is a once in a lifetime achievement for Barbados, and it will be recognized.
Responding in Parliament yesterday to criticisms of the proposed spending by members of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party, Stuart was adamant that the show would go on, insisting that the island, at age 50, had much to celebrate.
“I know that a number of questions have been raised, some snide remarks have been dropped, the independence celebrations have been slandered by members on the other side, and all sorts of dark motives have been attributed to the Government for having Barbadians celebrate the golden jubilee of their independence,” he said, in making his contribution to the debate on the 2016/2017 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure.
Under the Prime Minister’s Office, a total of $5,111,542 has been allocated for the coming financial year, which begins in April, to cover the expenses of the National Independence Secretariat, which is in charge of the yearlong activities.
This is in addition to the $1.27 million set aside for the celebrations in the last fiscal year.
A further $75,000 has also been budgeted for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to cover the operating expenses of the overseas missions for the jubilee celebrations.
While accusing members of the Opposition of engaging in “shame and scandal politics”, Stuart said: “I understand well the tactic of saying the monies allocated for the 50th anniversary celebrations should more properly be allocated to the service of the causes of the poor and the most vulnerable elements of this society. I heard the same thing when this Parliament was celebrating its 375th anniversary.
However, he pointed out that Barbados would only have one chance to celebrate its 50th birthday.
“This is a one-time opportunity for the country and it is an opportunity we have to seize now. It’s not a period for extravagance and uncontrolled merriment, . . . it is also a time for reflection because Barbados has to look at itself, we have to understand where it is we came from, we have to understand where we are and we have to be clear where it is we are going.”
The Prime Minister stressed that the festivities were “not up for negotiation”, noting that similar criticism were levelled in Parliament ahead of the declaration of independence in 1966.
“It’s the party that I lead that took this country into independence. Interestingly enough some of the same arguments were heard 50 years ago in this House as well. On that occasion, it was that we shouldn’t have independence at all. Or if we’re going to have it, we should have it within the context of a Federation. History repeats itself and I would have thought that it was a sufficiently important national moment for the country to unite, look back at what we’ve achieved, and resolve to do better over the next 50 years,” Stuart said.
The Prime Minister noted Barbados’ sister Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country, Guyana, is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and the government in Georgetown has set aside funds for that purpose.