Member of Parliament for St James Central Kerrie Symmonds is accusing the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government of disregarding the dire economic situation facing the country by using financially struggling statutory agencies in its ploy to secure votes.
Speaking in Parliament Tuesday, Symmonds made particular reference to the National Housing Corporation (NHC) – said to be in debt of over $500 million up to last year – where he claimed there had been “an escalation in the level of employment” ahead of a general election constitutionally due by the middle of next year.
He said the Freundel Stuart-led DLP had been funnelling jobs through the NHC despite appeals for belt tightening and the introduction of crippling austerity measures in the last Budget presented by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler.
“There is a reason why the most recent labour [force] survey has not been made public because that reflects the sordid state of affairs in which Barbados finds itself today where the level of employment in the private sector has been falling but the level of employment in statutory corporations in Barbados has been increasing,” Symmonds said while speaking on a resolution for Government to vest over 6,000 square feet of land in Station Hill, St Peter in the NHC for housing development.
“The Minister of Finance came in 2013 and told us of how people have to go home, how the statutory corporations were over-burdened and they had to be amalgamated to avoid duplication, some will have to be sold off or dispensed with. An International Monetary Fund study was supposed to be done to see what is the most efficacious way of doing this. What we haven’t been told is that the statutory corporations are once again being used to feather the nest of the Democratic Labour Party’s partisan political interest,” he said.
The Opposition legislator said it came as no surprise that “slightly under 40 people were brought from the parish of St Lucy” recently to work on houses in St Philip that were supposedly completed four or five years ago, but had remained empty.
“So the state’s money, the money Mr Speaker that your taxpayers in your constituency must pay and those in mine, that money has been squandered because houses were built and then houses were allowed to fall into a state of waste and disrepair,” he charged.
“The fact of the matter is that we have a situation facing us where there is in the Ministry of Housing, a failure in that ministry to adequately deal with the very legitimate questions that people are asking, even the basic thing of, ‘what is happening with my application,’” he added, while stating that some people had been waiting for houses from the NHC for as long as two decades.
In his contribution to the debate, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart did not address the matter of employment at the state agencies.
However, he said the lengthy waits for homes were nothing new and successive Governments had tried various methods to tackle the issue.
Though not saying if there was any improvement, Stuart said when the DLP took up office in 2008 there were about 28,000 outstanding applications at the NHC. (MM)