Too many Government contracts end up in too few hands, while small contractors struggle to make ends meet, Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader Mia Mottley has charged.
Speaking last night at a BLP meeting at Frederick Smith Secondary School, Mottley accused the Democratic Labour Party administration of reneging on its election promise to grant 40 per cent of Government contracts to small businesses.
Instead, she claimed, only a “few at the top” were profiting while the majority were left to struggle.
“This Government came in on a platform that 40 per cent of contracts will go to small business people. It has not materialized,” Mottley said in response to a tradesman who complained that he had been unable to find work.
“One of the biggest problems facing this country is the consolidation of contracts and wealth in the hands of too few. . . . This country will only survive if the majority of people are making a living. You cannot have a few at the top [getting all the contracts] and the rest floundering. Barbados is too small to have disparities in wealth,” she emphasized.
The Opposition Leader complained that there was “an insensitivity to the need for creating opportunities for small businessmen selling goods and services” here, in both the public and private sectors.
She said this was particularly true of the tourism sector, “which has a high turnover of items within the hotel plant”.
During the meeting, dubbed the People’s Assembly, there was much discussion on unemployment among small contractors and tradesmen, including mechanics.
The BLP leader pointed to the number of roadside mechanical workshops scattered across housing communities, which she said the Town & Country Planning Department would like to have moved.
She recommended that the solution lies in relocating them to empty buildings owned by the Barbados Investment & Development Corporation (BIDC).
“We have mechanics all over Barbados who cannot afford to rent workshops, or buy the kind of equipment to fix cars . . . yet we have IDC [Industrial Development Corporation] buildings closed up and locked up all over the country. Why can’t we take the small mechanics and put them in these buildings and allow them to cluster? Remove the environmental problem.”
Mottley also called for an amendment to legislation on the issuing of contracts of under $250,000 so that, where possible, the immediate community is given priority in job allotments.
“So you don’t bring people from St Michael to St Lucy, from St Philip to St James to do small contracts that really are community-based, either in primary schools, or within the Urban [Development Commission] and Rural Development Commission, or other small contracts that can be given legitimately to people in order to keep them living,” she said.
The BLP has described its People’s Assembly as an opportunity to hear from Barbadians how they think they can fix the problems facing the country.