Opposition Member of Parliament Kerrie Symmonds yesterday chided Prime Minister Freundel Stuart for refusing to “rein in” Government ministers who are pursuing private enterprise instead of managing their heavily indebted public entities.
Contributing to debate in the House of Assembly on a Barbados Labour Party (BLP)-tabled no confidence motion against the Government, the MP for St James Central identified what he saw as inaction by Stuart as among reasons for the motion.
As the first speaker following Opposition Leader Mia Mottley’s marathon five-hour-long presentation, Symmonds spoke of the National Housing Corporation (NHC) wilting under a growing debt that was now at almost $200 million, and had seen Government bypass Parliament to have the Ministry of Finance issue advances in support of NHC staff salaries to the tune of $2.46 million monthly.
Symmonds contended that minister responsible spends more time on his own businesses instead of devoting time to taking the NHC out of its financial hole. In this regard, he spoke of a convention of governance “that when you serve as a minister, that is a full-time job that you do 24 hours a day”.
“The person who has to rein in that conduct is the Prime Minister of Barbados, who must be aware of what is transpiring,” Symmonds said.
He told the House that the public sector debt has moved from $5.8 billion when the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) took office in to 2008, to $9.4 billion at present, explaining that the NHC’s growing debt falls within the billion dollar figure, while more than 38,000 working class Barbadians who are in need of homes languish on a waiting list.
Symmonds quoted from what he described as public records that show the NHC’s debt standing at $95,327,000 as of June 2014. Added to that, he said, was a $4.7 million debt to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) at March 2015, plus unfunded liability pensions of $42 million.
He also said there was $29 million for the building contractor of the Grotto housing units, and $7 million for the land on which the five buildings stand.