Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has not ruled out the possibility of embattled Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler retaining that portfolio if the governing Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is re-elected in the upcoming general election for a third straight term.
During a town hall meeting in New York earlier this week, the Prime Minister was asked if “in the unlikely event that the DLP retains the Government, are you going to keep Chris Sinckler as Minister of Finance, or are you going to take over the ministry?”
In response, Stuart pointed out that similar doubts were expressed when former Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford took over from Dr Richie Haynes, who had resigned. However, he explained that unlike Sinckler, both were Barbados scholars and graduates of University of the West Indies and universities in England where Haynes took medicine and Sandiford studied literature.
“Let me tell you what Sinckler’s biggest problem is in Barbados. He went to the Garrison Secondary School,” Stuart said, while describing the embattled member of his Cabinet as “a minister who works hard”.
“People have sought to prevail on me to take over the Ministry of Finance because no Garrison schoolboy should be Minister of Finance in Barbados, I was told,” Stuart stressed.
With the Caribbean Development Bank describing the local economy as the worst performing among its 19 borrowing member countries, and with the International Monetary Fund predicting economic growth of only 0.5 per cent this year, the Prime Minister went further to defend Sinckler’s leadership of the all-important finance ministry, arguing that “Sinckler was not Minister of Finance in Greece, and Greece collapsed in the crisis”.
“If you can present evidence to me that Chris Sinckler is corrupt, that his moral standings as Minister of Finance falls below what is acceptable for Barbados, you have a listening ear. Chris passes the intellectual capacity and the hard work test for me with flying colours,” Stuart added, while describing the persistent criticisms of Sinckler’s performance as “offensive for another reason”.
It is that “some of the same people whisper, that nobody that went to Foundation should be Prime Minister, either”, said Stuart in reference to criticisms of his own ascendency to the position of head of Government.
When asked why he accepted ownership of the sewage crisis, but not the management of the economy, Stuart said he was prepared to take full responsibility for what has happened in Barbados.
“I will look all 250, 000 Barbadians in the eye and tell them that decisions had to be made and that I made them in the way that I considered to be in the best interests of Barbados,” he said.
The three-hour event organized by the Friends of DLP Barbados New York held at the St Gabriel’s Episcopal Church on Hawthorne Street, New York, attracted a cross-section of Barbadians, including members of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party.
Stuart, who was accompanied by DLP General Secretary George Pilgrim, in accounting for his stewardship of the economy, posited that Barbados had remained stable and safe, despite very difficult times.
He also spoke to the importance of character in times of adversity.
“I would not have wished to be Prime Minister of Barbados at any other time than the time I have served as Prime Minister.
“My entire character was forged on the anvil of hard choices, sacrifices, challenges and I am of the view that hard times test the strength of your character,” he said.
He did not give any hint of an election date but made a prediction.
“If I do not dissolve it before, Parliament will die on March 5th, 2018. As Prime Minister, I will have 90 days to call an election. So, there will be an election between now and June 5th, 2018. The noise has started, and so it should. We did it when we were in Opposition for 15 years, but we intend to win the argument, we intend to win the opinion, and we intend to win the election. We, as a party will continue to offer justice for all,” he said.