Opposition spokesman George Payne wants to know where Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has been living.
Responding to Stuart’s contribution to the 2017-2018 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue, Payne concluded that Stuart was totally out of touch with the economic reality of the average Barbadian.
“He spoke about buses running, about people working, people paying their bills and hospitals providing medical care. I cannot believe it,” said Payne.
He also took issue with Government’s recent announcement that students attending the University of the West Indies would be required to pay 20 per cent of their total costs, saying hardly any time was given for the changes to “sink into the minds of the average Barbadian.
“They did not even come and say, ‘let us set up some fund whereby those persons who could not access education would be able get a loan to go to university’. Now the Prime Minister has come in here saying that ‘everything is working alright’,” the Member of Parliament for St Andrew added.
Payne also took issue with Stuart’s response to the island’s latest downgrades, saying the same way the Prime Minister was dismissive of the pronouncements of Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, his Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss was dismissive of him.
“When I heard the Minister of Small Business spoke earlier this week, I was saying maybe he has gone a little bit too far [but] having heard Stuart today, I am more than disappointed,” Payne said, as he took a further jab at Stuart in light of recent retrenchments from the public service.
“It is clearly obvious that he does not know what is happening in this country as I speak. Maybe he is not aware of the people who were sent home and who are out of work. It reminds me of the situation in 1991 when a former Prime Minister, who spoke of gloom and doom, came to this House and said ‘all is well’,” Payne said in reference to former Democratic Labour Party leader Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, now Sir Lloyd, whose implementation of public sector layoffs and an eight per cent pay cut eventually broke the back of his then ruling administration.
“He [Sandiford] said, ‘you only have to send home a few people to balance the books’,” Payne reminded before taking another jab at Stuart, saying “he is trying to make us believe that all is well, totally dismissive of everybody else – he is dismissive of economists who have made dire pronouncements about the economy of Barbados”.
However, the St Andrew MP said it was obvious that the economy was not doing well and that the time had come for a national debate on the economy.
“He [Stuart] comes in here to tell us that that debate must come. What debate is he talking about? The debate is already here. He is not aware of the fact that we have gone past that?” Payne asked, adding that he had lost all confidence in the Prime Minister.
“What builds up a country is the confidence that international investors place in the country. Anybody listening to the Prime Minister today would no longer have any confidence; any international investor listening to Stuart would not have any confidence in this country. None whatsoever!
“I really do not know what to say especially when you look at the Estimates,” the Opposition spokesman said, while noting that Stuart had not only dismissed the need for devaluation, but that he had also ignored the sentiments of former Prime Minister and independent representative for St Peter Owen Arthur on delinking the Barbados dollar from the United States currency, as well as his advice on the printing of money.
“He just glossed over it,” Payne said, adding that it was incredible that a political leader who was in charge of “a sinking ship” would behave in this manner.
Payne’s position was reflected in a statement issued tonight by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley who said the Prime Minister’s position was unacceptable and he should resign.
“When the country needed explanation, he gave us silence, and now that the country needs action, he has given us explanation. Barbadians, if you were in any doubt as to it, this Prime Minister is out of touch, out of
tune, tired and unmotivated to carry on . . . and we simply say, Prime Minister Stuart needs to go,” the Opposition Leader added.