Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s warning that Barbadians must be prepared to “carry more of the weight” has left a senior Opposition Member of Parliament wondering whether the country’s leader is aware of the burden that people are already carrying.
The St Joseph MP and former Attorney General Dale Marshall suggested that Stuart was out of touch with the reality other Barbadians face.
Addressing Democratic Labour Party (DLP) supporters and well-wishers during an awards ceremony for outstanding youth over the weekend, the Prime Minister told residents they had come of age economically and could now be weaned off the multiple social services provided by various Governments since Independence.
Positing that the present circumstances of Barbados and Barbadians were far removed from the “road blocks” faced by ancestors, the Prime Minister said at the DLP’s George Street headquarters that “we are now at a point of transition to another stage of Barbados’ development”.
“There are people in the country who can now better afford to look after themselves in a way that their parents could not, or their grandparents could not,” he said, adding that, in the interest of the country, those persons “will have to be asked to carry a little more of the weight.”
But Marshall responded a day later in a post on his Facebook page, saying the only inferences he could draw from Stuart’s statements were that “someone else was pulling the weight for us before now; and we are not pulling hard enough”.
“Where in the boundless recesses of his mind does he come up with these things?” the Barbados Labour Party parliamentarian questioned.
“Somehow I can’t shake the image of a Prime Minister hovering in the skies above our country, untouched by either reality or the daily burdens of life that the vast majority of Barbadians can no longer bear up under, and he, the all-knowing, after careful consideration and weighing of the issues, declares ‘Bajans must pull more weight’ (to the unenthusiastic applause of a DLP crowd, I imagine).
“And then he retreats to his place of peace and quiet, until he emerges again in a few weeks with more of the same – articulate nonsense!” Marshall wrote.
Stuart’s comments came days ahead of the Budget which Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler is expected to present to Parliament by the end of this month.
With Barbados’ bread and butter tourism industry not producing the required financial returns, while the island’s stock of foreign reserves is fast declining, the Stuart administration has been warned of the need for urgent corrective action to stem the downward trend. The advice from local and international economists, including officials of the International Monetary Fund, includes reducing the wage bill as well as the number of social services agencies.
Stating that the many social services in Barbados had been necessary to give citizens a helping hand out of the depressed circumstances of the pre-Independence period, the Prime Minister said on Saturday: “The first 50 years of Independence were years of entitlement . . . but the next 50 years of Independence cannot again be years of entitlement, because we have now built a middleclass in Barbados.
“We have now educated people in Barbados to the extent that more people than ever in this country’s history can take hold of their life chances and move in the direction in which they want to go.”
Stuart further contended that opportunity is now available to most, and he spoke of young people with aspirations because they now live in a country in which they dare to dream. (GA)