Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss had readily admitted that Government has work to do, but has cautioned the Mia Mottley led Barbados Labour Party (BLP) that now is not the time for the economy and the society “to be disrupted by any bringing down of a Government”.
Weighing in on this week’s BLP-sponsored no confidence motion against the Freundel Stuart administration, Inniss admitted that certain aspects of the resolution were “quite factual”, particularly concerns about the lack of disposable income, including among members of his St James South constituency, who are predominantly middle-class.
He also acknowledged the need for Government officials “to stay on our toes and ensure communicate with the public; that we listen to any ideas that may come from the Opposition benches and we be prepared to embrace them.”
However, the minister poured cold water on the BLP’s call for governing Democratic Labour Party administration to step down and call fresh elections.
“I’m not disputing the fact that there have been challenges. I have constituents who tell me, and I witness, their challenges in meeting their daily expenses, in being able to pay the utility bills as you would be hitherto accustomed to; I talk to young people who remain deeply troubled about the university education for example and the policies that we pursued,” he said.
“I’m not going to bury my head in the sand and say these things don’t exist, they exist. But at the same time, Government . . . must be consistent in our explanation as to what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, certainly to give hope for a brighter future,” Inniss added.
With the economy now showing signs of growth, he said residents should soon start to see the fruits of their sacrifices.
Inniss noted too that the economic challenges over the past few years had impacted on the country’s foreign exchange reserves, as he emphasized the need to protect the country’s currency peg.
“I believe that both sides, both the Opposition and the Government, have readily accepted that in a small open economy like ours, maintaining the parity of the Barbados dollar vis-à-vis the US dollar is very critical,” he said.
Inniss also reacted to criticisms of the use of funds from the National Insurance Scheme to invest in Government-related projects, pointing out “no Government in Barbados – Barbados Labour Party or Democratic Labour Party – has ever defaulted on any of its debt. We’ve always honoured our debts, including debts to National Insurance.
However, he said “there is this perception that goes out there, that’s rather unfortunate, that when the National Insurance Funds are invested in Government-related projects, that you are placing the future pension benefits and other benefits NIS pay out at great risk”.
According to the minister, NIS funds have also been used to invest in private enterprise, including the Clubhouse at the plush Apes Hill golf course.
He admitted, however, that even though the economy was showing signs of recovery, he was not yet comfortable that many of the structural deficiencies had been sufficiently addressed.