Opposition Senator Wilfred Abrahams has branded Government’s decision to reinstate the ten per cent salary of senior public officials as “a slap in the face to the average Barbadian”.
The Freundel Stuart administration had announced the ten per cent cut back in 2014, as a temporary measure to be reinstated after 19 months.
However Abrahams told the Senate last night that he could not support the restitution, given that the economy has not improved.
“Madam President I find it almost unconscionable having stood here today and articulated on behalf of the average Barbadian the questions they want addressed as to what is going on with the true state of the economy and what is the position with the foreign reserves, and when they’re gonna get back their tax refunds and what is the position with the NIS [National Insurance Scheme], that I’m being asked to support a resolution seeking to put money, more money back into the pockets of the people who are responsible effectively for the current economic situation in Barbados,” Abrahams said.
In response to Government’s suggestion that the pay cut was always meant to be temporary, he pointed out that a similar promise was made when Value Added Tax (VAT) was increased from 15 per cent to 17.5 per cent and yet there has been no restoration to date.
“So we’re good on time frames when it’s convenient,” Abrahams said, stressing that “the increase in VAT from 15 per cent to 17.5 per cent was supposed to be for 18 months years ago and it is still in place.
“When this was done, we stood in here and we magnanimously debated this and it was deemed that we were going to be in solidarity with the people in Barbados who were suffering and feeling the pain. So what, we’re not in solidarity anymore?
“The people are still feeling the pain. If they were in pain two years ago Madame President, they are in even worse pain now, the pain is even more acute. This is when we should really be in solidarity with the Barbadian who is feeling the pinch. This is not the time to restore our emoluments that were taken away because we opted to have them taken away in solidarity,” the Opposition Senator said.
In support of earlier comments made in the lower house by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, he said members of the Barbados Labour Party would not accept the ten per cent payment, but would instead donate the money to a worthy cause.
“Madam President I know as a fact that every single Member of Parliament for the Barbados Labour Party, those in the Lower House and those in the Upper House, signed a letter saying we do not want it back. If it has to be paid we’re going to send it to a charity. We do not wish to receive any benefit from that coming back.
“We have taken a stance as a party, until the public of Barbados gets a raise, until the people get their VAT returns, until there is some relief for the common man, we do not want it back. It is blood money,” Abrahams told the Upper House.
However, the resolution eventually passed, with Government senator Jepter Ince dismissing Abrahams’ presentation as mere “antics for the gallery”.
He defended the Government’s position, pointing to an increase in pensions for the most vulnerable citizens.
“For 2016 pensioners in Barbados received one of the largest increases as far as their benefits were concerned, and this Government stated that clearly.
“I heard this argument about public servants not getting an increase; we have just settled with those persons working at the airport. I don’t know whose employees they are, if they are private sector or public,” Ince said.