Opposition Leader Mia Mottley Monday evening described Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s introduction to the 2017-18 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure as “an admission that the economy is in deep economic difficulties”.
She said that Sinckler’s six-hour presentation revealed an “absolute failure by the Minister of Finance”, who she accused of being on the defensive and attempting to put blame on past Governments.
Mottley also recalled that during debate on an Opposition-sponsored motion of no confidence in the Government back in 2010, Sinckler had denied all of the economic difficulties, which he was now owning up to.
She also reminded him that on the eve of the last elections in 2013, he had “joined in chorus to say there will be no sell off. There shall be no charging of [university] fees. And there will be no layoffs in the public sector”.
The Opposition Leader further attacked the quality of Sinckler’s presentation, saying, “I have never seen as Estimates as poorly prepared as these.
“When you go through it you will see explanatory notes from last year, programmes being explained for last year that don’t exist in this current year,” the Opposition Leader said, asking: “A Cabinet really presided over this?”
“I am not going to dignify and legitimize this exercise. I want us to deal with the strategic issues that face this country,” the Barbados Labour Party leader said.
While accepting the minister’s invitation to have a serious discussion on the future of Barbados, Mottley proposed that it be done almost immediately by cutting short the traditional talk by Members of Parliament on the Estimates, “because we are at that date with destiny today”.
“. . . If we are serious let this House go into immediate [Finance] Committee tomorrow morning, and let us discuss in the context of the heads of the Estimates,” Mottley suggested, while making it clear that she was speaking only for her party and not former BLP leader Owen Arthur, who in the absence of Dr Maria Agard, who is on sick leave, is the lone independent member scheduled to take part in the Estimates debate.
“We are at that time in this chamber when all good men and women must stand up for this country.
“Let us go in and discuss how best we can treat to producing a document by the end of the week that makes sense, that reflects a direction; that is an interim direction, until the people of Barbados can have their own say,” she stressed.
Coming off Saturday’s BLP-led March of Disgust, which attracted a massive crowd estimated at 10,000, Mottley insisted that any action agreed upon must be short term because ultimately the people must make the final decision on who they wanted to lead Barbados to recovery.
“The only option left is to give the people of this country the right to decide and determine their fate at this point,” the representative for St Michael North East said.
“You can’t say that we are at that point and then deny the right of the people to have a say in the quality of life and the type of life that they want in this country,” she insisted, while pointing out that the life of the current Parliament expires in 51 weeks.
After that she said: “no matter what we say, the Prime Minister says, the Parliament dead as a door nail.”
Stressing that the decision on who leads the country out of its current economic challenges should be taken to the people before the constitutionally due date, she asked, “if a conversation and activities for debt re-profiling takes six to 12 months, are we going to seriously have that conversation on the eve of an election, or in the middle of an election? Or are we going to recognize that we need to do our business as adults . . . and to recognize that we need to go to the people of this country for a clear mandate?”
Mottley said the enormity of Saturday’s march means the people were ready for the sacrifices and changes, “but we feel that we have to be part of that exercise. We can’t be ignored,” she stressed.