Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader, Mia Mottley, this evening announced a swathe of new governance measures to be implemented if her party forms the next government.
The plan includes compulsory access to potable water, a guaranteed income for each household, to free wifi, and increased investments in tourism.
“Barbados must stop the bleeding. And we must do all that we can to return growth to this economy, because our revenue will never improve by taxing more, but only if this economy grows,” she told a packed Lester Vaughn Secondary School auditorium.
She spoke of a need to effectively administer Barbados’ resources following what she saw as years of mismanagement by the current Democratic Labour Party administration.
“Just as the longest journey starts with one step, the ability to manage $4 billion must start with the first dollar,” she said.
Mottley also indicated that as a priority measure, “the printing of money at the Central Bank must stop because it puts the Barbados dollar at risk”.
“We must set out to return Barbados’ credit rating to investment grade because we finance our development not only from concessional sources, but from capital markets.
“We will have to abandon the failed DLP-style fiscal consolidation – tax and tax, and austerity and austerity – and focus on growth in the productive sectors, in job creation. Control the growth of our debt by being both strategic in new debt, and in growing the economy.”
The Opposition Leader said that as a matter of policy, “all expenditure must be assessed by what is essential, then what is highly desirable, and then what is optional”.
Based on this hierarchy she outlined a number of priorities for a BLP administration.
“Every Barbadian must have access to water because water is the source of life and without it you constrain development. Barbados must be a safe place to live work and visit. We must deal with the crime, especially the automatic weaponry.
“No household in Barbados shall go without a living income, whether it is from a job, a pension, NIS benefits, or through additional welfare-related benefits, or government working with civil society.”
Mottley also stated that every child must leave school with a certificate or skill, and there must be free island-wide wifi.
“Access to the Internet is like access to education in the 20th Century. This is the platform for power, and our people must not be denied if they live in Bayland, if their mother can’t pay for them to get wifi… everybody across this country … must have access, because they must not be left out.”
The party leader also addressed a matter that has been long called for by the Barbados Association of Retired Persons and some financial houses on the island.
“We must introduce from early on a legislative framework for reverse mortgages. It doesn’t cost the government anything, but what it does is to unlock capital, and unlock money for people who have retired who may be asset rich and cash poor.
“When they get the money they would spend it too help the economy move forward.”
The Opposition Leader spoke of a bold initiative that would marginally increase the size of the island, in a fashion similar to the Pelican Island land retrieval
“We can facilitate the reclamation of 2,000 acres of land so that we can have green field property for our new tourism build-out. And we do this not by adding a cent in public debt, but by passing legislation,” she said, explaining that such new territory will be at the disposal of government for possible commercial sale.
“Land that is reclaimed [accrues] to the crown, and the crown then through statute determines how that will go.
“But we will only do it after the appropriate social and environmental impact studies are done,” Mottley said.