Outspoken Government Minister Donville Inniss has two main wishes for Barbados this year – for residents to be more focused on what direction they want to take the country and for the struggling economy to return to sustainable growth.
With a general election looming between now and June, Inniss who is seeking to defend his seat as Member of Parliament for the St James South constituency, also said in the midst of the highly anticipated election he wanted Barbadians to remain “settled”.
“There is a general election that is imminent sometime in the first half of 2018, and as a result there will be a lot of upheaval – a lot of noise and a lot of rabblerousing – but in the midst of it all I hope we remain focused on Barbados and what is in the best interest of Barbados and not what is in our best interest at the individual level,” he cautioned.
Inniss fully expects the economy to remain the main talking point into 2018 but warned there were no quick fixes regardless of which party takes control of Barbados’ financial affairs. “I hope that we really are settled down very early in the New Year as a nation. The issue of the economy will always continue to loom large but I think once the election is over whoever wins, which ever party forms the government, there will have to be a continuation of a facing up to that reality and not just grandstanding and trying to adhere to false promises,” he said.
In this regard, he cited a recent commitment given by Barbados Labour Party leader Mia Mottley that the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) would be scrapped if the Opposition takes office .
Other key stakeholders and the public have also been calling for the removal of the revenue-generating measure.
Inniss, who has repeatedly said he was negatively impacted by the high level of government taxes just like his constituents, however argued that such a suggestion was unrealistic.
“When people come and say remove all these taxes, these are the same people who will keep noise when their constituents cannot access essential medicines in Barbados. They are the same ones who would keep noise when they realize they cannot meet the payroll for the public sector in this country.
He insisted that the island deserved better.
“What Barbados needs in 2018 is a very enlightened and sober conversation, not so much only about where we are today but where we want to get to and what it takes to get there, not a lot of grand promises and grandstanding,” said Inniss.
Last night, the Minister of International Business, Industry, Commerce and Small Business Development joined fellow Barbadians in ringing in the New Year, and celebrating his January 1, birthday at his annual Old Year’s Night/birthday party at his upscale Husbands Heights, St James home.
The 52-year-old told Barbados TODAY that upon reflection, 2017 was a very challenging year for many. “Some people had challenges financially and also in their personal lives. But when you reflect on it all in spite of the challenges Barbados has remained a blessed country. Our social services still function. We still have strong governance principles, law and order is still in tact and we are pretty much a country we can be happy with,” said Inniss.
The all-inclusive $50 event, which is in its 12th year, usually attracts anywhere between 300 and 500 people. Inniss said he was satisfied with this year’s turn out, adding that he was happy that for a small fee Barbadians had the opportunity to “have nice food, party and shrug off the old year and welcome the New Year”.
“We don’t believe that we have to be spending $200 or $300 per person as I see some . . . are doing in hosting events for the night. I believe you can have an inexpensive and nice house party and that is what we always try to provide here,” he said.
Wishing better fortunes this year for Barbados, Inniss also pledged to continue to tackle a number of outstanding issues affecting the business community including improving the environment for doing business and the vexing matter of blacklisting.
He acknowledged that while Government had to provide an enabling environment for businesses to grow, he wanted private sector operators to become more entrepreneurial and rely less on government. (MM)