Government’s economic policy is creating a poorer class of citizens, with many parents forced to feed their children ramen noodles and sardines for breakfast, the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has charged.
St James South candidate Sandra Husbands suggested the administration was formulating economic policies without giving much thought to the impact on people’s ability to spend.
As a result, she said, many households were struggling to meet the very basic of needs.
“We have close to 4,000 children who have to get up every morning and go somewhere for somebody to give them breakfast. That never used to happen in this country. Children got up on mornings and could say if they want cornflakes, pancakes or they want nuggets. Many parents find themselves having to feed their children on ramen or macaroni and sardines, or nothing. When the economy is in that downward spiral your dreams are suffering,” Husbands said in a presentation at Queen’s College this week that formed part of a public education series on How The Economy Works Towards an Informed Voter.
The former Small Business Association president was particularly critical of Government’s tax policies, warning there was an optimum level beyond which “it discourages or chokes investments or business” and limits people’s spending power.
“If you keep extracting money from out of the spending wheel of the economy the economy will contract. When you tax people before they spend the money what you do is cause a contraction in the economy. So if you take up my income tax higher, if you tax my entertainment allowance, if you tax my travel allowance I now have less . . . to spend in the economy. So when I don’t spend thestart to suffer.
“So it [the economy] has to continue to grow. Any time it stalls, any time it declines, what you are doing you now put your youth at risk and . . . they have studied and can’t get work, that is a social disaster,” Husbands stressed.
The BLP spokeswoman pointed to the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) as one of the victims of Government’s economic policy, reminding the audience that enrollment had sunk from about 6,000 locals per year to approximately 3,800 after Barbadian students were made to pay full tuition.
The ripple effect, she said, included a loss of about a third of the approximately $30 million UWI generated in income each year and cuts in several areas, including courses.
She said not only would this make the university less attractive to foreign students, property owners would also suffer because of a drop in the number of available tenants.
“When you do that you set up the economy for contraction [and] over the next ten [to] 15 years you are going to feel that contraction across the economy. It did not make sense. Cut the inefficiency, identify the key areas you want people to study in, sit down and work out how many students you can carry and pay for them to get their university education because a university graduate will always earn more than a non-graduate . . . . If you have people with lower skills it affects the quality of investment that you can bring. You cannot bring businesses that need the higher skills, you can only attract businesses that need the lower skills and the economy continues to contract,” she said.