Minster of Youth Sports and Culture Stephen Lashley says the time has come for the Government of Barbados to listen to the concerns of citizens.
In fact, he believes that it would be “very foolhardy as a Government not to recognize that persons are concerned”.
So strong is Lashley’s conviction, he said the Government needs to take the concerns of the Barbadian people seriously and listen to them.
“I’m of the view that as the concerns are made known we as a Government have to be able to respond to those concerns in a manner that is reasonable and respectful to Barbadians,” he said on the sidelines of a CPR training exercise yesterday.
“I think it is for us to listen to the country. The Budget has come, I believe the rationale has been given, what I believe though is that we as a Government have to hit the ground and explain in detail the measures, why they are necessary and if necessary,” he said.
Lashley added that the concerns were not coming from one or two persons but from all Barbadians.
“You hear it on the call-in programmes, you hear it on social media, and Barbadians are concerned. I believe they are concerned that this particular tax has gone from two per cent to ten per cent. They are saying to us, does it have to be that much? We have to listen to that. And if it is that we have taken too big a jump that would impose significant challenges, then I think it is for us as a Government to review and to listen. I think over the next few weeks we really have to be in that mode,” he added.
He noted that he would be very open to having a dialogue going forward to address such concerns, adding that Governments has a responsibility to respond fairly to citizens and to present information to them in a way they can understand.
“We have a responsibility to be able to respond in the best way possible. At the end of the day, Government’s role is to ensure that we do what is in the best interest of Barbados but we have a responsibility to walk persons through what is a very difficult road. I think we need to do a bit more explanation because much of what I’m hearing is persons saying that hasn’t been explained before. And I think I agree fully that the Government of Barbados has to explain more,” he said.
He said, however, he does not believe that Government is trying to destroy the livelihoods of Barbadians.
“I don’t think you have a Government that is destined to destroy the livelihood of Barbadians. I don’t think that’s the case at all; the Government is very concerned about protecting the livelihoods of Barbadians. The Budget has been given and the citizens are responding. I think that’s democracy at work. It’s for the Government now to simulate those responses and to explain or make adjustments where necessary without further creating challenges as it relates to our fiscal challenges,” he said.
Lashley also noted that the time has come for more transparency with regards to budgetary proposals.
“I think we are rapidly getting to the stage in Barbados where the secrecy of budgetary methods has become irrelevant. We can give information to the public where we can give information to the public about proposed budgetary measures and get their feedback. We now have to be a bit more open with our measures. We have to explain policies in a way that persons can understand where we are going,” he explained.