A Government Senator and prominent church leader has denied saying Government should give Barbadians money for making babies as a means of boosting the island’s aging population.
At the same time, Senator David Durant, pastor of Restoration Ministries, has welcomed recent discussion surrounding the declining national birth rate.
Durant took time out of proceedings at the Sunday service to respond to a news report, published in another section of the media just over two weeks ago, which landed him in hot water after he was quoted as saying cash should be offered as an incentive for Barbadians to get more children.
“That was not something that I said. It was a conversation that was very private and was not meant for the press,” Durant told the congregation at his Britton’s Hill, St Michael church, where members of the National Assistance Board (NAB) had gathered for a service in observance of the department’s 36th anniversary.
Durant, who is NAB Chairman, further sought to explain, “I was called and asked just about a couple of stats for the elderly, which I gave”.
He said that after giving figures on Barbados’ elderly challenge, a discussion followed on, ‘what we need for this problem that we are facing’.
“I was shocked, as a matter of fact, my mouth dropped when I saw it in the papers the next day in the way it was said, because first of all ‘money’ never came out of my mouth.
“I said it would be good to give people some incentives because whenever you talk to people about making children, they say, ‘Pastor, it’s too expensive’. So a good way of trying to encourage that maybe, is to give some incentive. It didn’t mean money because we don’t have it.”
Durant told the congregation, “Money can be given in the form of tax relief for couples who are getting children; maybe for six months pampers provided by Government; or you have baby milk and so forth, supplied for six months or a year,” and added, “I was just offering a few different solutions for us to look at because it is a problem we have to address anyhow in the future”.
The pastor said that despite what he saw as a misrepresentation of his statement in the report, much of the ensuing comments on the way forward for Barbados’ demographic challenge was welcomed.
“It caused a discussion. So if I am the sacrificial lamb for a discussion that is to be started, it started. Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and he opened not his mouth. That’s why for the entire two weeks I opened not my mouth until this morning.”
He continued, “My back is broad, and if this is the discussion that has to happen now so we can address [it], don’t wait for the next nine years then to start on it, because we are facing population aging, and the number of aged will soon outnumber the number of youths in our land.
“It is a situation that we are moving to because of the decrease in fertility rate and we will have to address it anyhow.”