A heap of blame was hurled across the floor of Parliament Tuesday morning, as members debated a resolution for the acquisition of just over 2.9 hectares of land in St George.
Leading off the debate, Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman dismissed charges by the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) that the Freundel Stuart led administration was guilty of “taking land for the poor and giving it to the rich”.
“We have never ever done that. If you want to accuse us of taking land and getting the maximum return on it we are guilty, and then we cannot be charged for that because that has been a policy in this House,” said Kellman.
“We will ensure that we maximize the returns and that we create the right balance because what is needed is the right balance. You have to have a social side and the social side must be financed. You cannot have only a social side, you must have an economic and productive side too,” insisted Kellman.
The St Lucy representative said the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government had a track record of providing affordable housing solutions for Barbadians, adding that the 2.9 hectares of land at the Brighton Plantation would be no different.
“When it comes to housing solutions, we have done well in St George, we have done well in St Philip, we have done well in St Michael over the years and St James, and of course we have to turn our attention to St Lucy . . . but we will ensure that wherever we go that national housing will not be holding the bag,” said Kellman who in the course of today’s debate also accused the BLP for trying to privatize some state enterprises over the years in an effort to say it could reduce transfers.
However, Member of Parliament for St George South Dwight Sutherland accused Government of “destroying the middle-class” and making it poor. He also blamed the delay in several construction projects on bureaucracy.
“How can we have sustainable development when we have so much issues with housing projects over the last eight years that have been built in this country, where the poor continues to suffer, the poor continues to ask for housing solutions?
“Economic development is in crisis. Climate resilience is probably one of the areas I can say there has been little effort in, but when you look at the sustainable development agenda and this whole aspect of alleviating poverty and fostering economic development we have not achieved that because the poor [are] getting poorer,” Sutherland claimed.
He was strongly supported by Opposition Member of Parliament for St George North Gline Clarke, who said the NHC had “gone astray” by only providing housing for people in “a certain income bracket”.
However, Clarke, who is a former minister of housing, said according to the Auditor General’s Report a significant percentage of tenants in at least one Government housing development was in arrears.
Meanwhile, Christ Church South representative John Boyce pointed an accusing finger at the BLP for providing the “genesis of the accumulating debt” of the NHC.
“We must examine the record the National Housing Corporation and that fundamental 180 degree turn that took place between 1996 and 1999 under the honourable member for St George North, when the National Housing Corporation all of a sudden became a contractor-in-chief, building not only its own headquarters,” Boyce said, while also pointing to the construction of the Warrens office complex.