The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) today poured scorn on Government’s attempts to table a Holiday With Pay Bill in Parliament, while insisting Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler must first address pertinent issues relating to the economy.
“We will not participate in long or protracted debates in circumstances where the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance are not prepared to answer the legitimate concerns of Barbadians,” Opposition Leader Mia Mottley said in response to the measure tabled by Member of Parliament for St James South Donville Inniss.
Mottley complained that while a number of events had occurred which had impacted on jobs and job security, Government was focusing on “irrelevant” issues and was not tackling the pertinent ones.
In rejecting today’s debate, Mottley warned “there can be no holiday with pay if there are no jobs.
“It is as simple as that,” she said.
The BLP leader warned that the current economic situation in the country could result in more “holiday without pay for majority of Barbadians” in a few months if fiscal matters, recent downgrades and the move by Guyana to temporary halt trade in Barbadian dollars were not urgently addressed by Government.
“If the Governor of the Central Bank is correct in his letter on January 3, , that they have not been able to balance inflows and outflows of foreign exchange and that there must be deeper fiscal measures to reduce the fiscal deficit as well as to protect the foreign reserves by dampening spending, it means that jobs are at risk. And if jobs are at risk, Sir, there can’t be any discussion about holidays with pay because it will be holiday without pay for majority of Barbadians.
“And we are saying, Sir, that the questions that we are asking are not questions that we want to know. The concerns that we have are not peculiar to the Barbados Labour Party. People are concerned. Is there and will there be further measures that will be imposed on people to protect what the Governor of the Central Bank has said has clearly been a failure since 2013 to balance our reserves?” Mottley asked, while also querying whether Government planned to seek outside assistance to address the fiscal problems.
Her defiant presentation was interrupted more than once by the Speaker of the House Michael Carrington who read for Mottley’s benefit the Standing Order on relevance.
However, Mottley insisted “we cannot discuss holidays with pay unless people are employed in this country. If people don’t have jobs there can be no discussion about people going on holiday with pay or without pay”.
It was then that she was ordered by the Speaker to take her seat.
Instead, Mottley left the Lower Chamber, followed shortly thereafter by members of her parliamentary group, fuelling suggestions of an Opposition walkout.
However, during a hastily called news conference at the Opposition Leader’s Office, Member of Parliament for St James Central Kerrie Symmonds denied there was a walkout and rejected the notion of any type of parliamentary boycott.
Symmonds, flanked by the other BLP parliamentarians, made it clear that even though the BLP was of the view that Parliament was becoming increasingly irrelevant and that Government was using it as a toy, the party was not about to renege on its duty to provide representation in the House.
However, he warned it would not be business as usual and joined his leader in condemning what called a deafening silence by both Sinckler and Stuart on vital economic matters.
“You cannot come to Parliament and go through a circular exercise,” the Opposition legislator warned, while insisting that “the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister must be held accountable.
“In the year 2017 the Barbados Labour Party will be in the vanguard of protecting the nation’s interests. The Prime Minister has been asked to speak to the nation and address these concerns and he has remained mute,” Symmonds complained, while warning the Opposition was not prepared to go through “a circus of pretence”.
Also speaking in solidarity with Mottley was Leader of Opposition Business Santia Bradshaw, who also insisted the Opposition was not boycotting Parliament.
Nonetheless, she said the party had decided it would not take part in what it deemed to be irrelevant discussions when there were serious unanswered questions about the country’s economic future.
Warning that Barbados was inching closer and closer to the point of no return, Bradshaw said the BLP “will not entertain a Democratic Labour Party administration in making a continued circus of what we know to be the House of Parliament.
“If it is that the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance want to take the country down this road, let them do so, but we have made our position clear. Ms Mottley spoke to these issues this morning and again the point has to be made, you can’t have holiday with pay if people don’t have jobs and if you don’t have job security then this debate is null and void.
“So our position again is very simple: deal with the issues at hand –– the economic liability of Barbados and the future of Barbados is what every Barbadian is uttering on the tips of their tongues . . . . People are frustrated; they are asking questions about the future of this country.
The Barbados Labour party is clear; it cannot be business as usual,” Bradshaw stressed.