Stressing the need for strong action to repair the fractured economy, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is warning Barbadians not to expect “overnight miracles” should it win the May 24 general election.
In fact, General Secretary Dr Jerome Walcott today said belt tightening was under way, although he promised a BLP administration would be compassionate in its application of any measures that it implements.
“We are not promising any overnight miracles. We have to clean up the mess the Dems are leaving and restore order to the management of our economic affairs,” Walcott said in reference to the incumbent Democratic Labour Party’s handling of the economy, as he addressed a news conference today at the BLP’s Roebuck Street, The City headquarters.
“There will be a continuing need for sacrifices in some form, but we believe Barbadians are reasonable and understand this. But what will differentiate us from the Dems is the caring, sensitive and compassionate approach we will bring in everything we do. People will always matter and will come first for us,” he stressed.
Walcott’s caution followed on the heels of his party’s leader Mia Mottley’s assurance during the party’s campaign launch at Weymouth, The City, on Saturday night that a new BLP Government would increase non-contributory pensions from $77.50 to $225 every two weeks, scrap the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy, reduce the Value Added Tax, buy new garbage trucks and buses, negotiate a new public sector salaries and wages hike and restore free education at the University of the West Indies.
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur has described the pensions proposal as madness, warning that such an increase would only force the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) into bankruptcy and place young contributors under tremendous burden.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has also dismissed the proposals, arguing that they would cost some $400 million, which he said the country could not afford.
However, Walcott said nothing was further from the truth, adding that details would be revealed at the launch of the party’s manifesto on Thursday night.
“In terms of breaking the NIS, certainly not. In terms of the calculation, it is going to be a very small amount. Some people have a propensity to pull figures out of the sky in terms of costing it. We have done a costing of it and this would be revealed, certainly on Thursday night. It is not what we have heard,” he promised, adding that the party has had the benefit of a lot of expert advice in deciding the proposals.
Walcott said there would be some adjustments to a BLP Government’s budget in order to achieve its declared promises, but he declined to divulge specifics, again explaining that details to this and other proposals would be revealed at the manifesto launch on the Kingsland, Christ Church pasture.
He said the party tweaked its draft manifesto after it was leaked to the public and had sought to address some of the concerns raised by a cross section of the public.
“As you are aware, a draft copy of our manifesto was leaked into the public space. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We were simply amazed, indeed bowled over, by how eager Barbadians were to contribute to our policy platform through the extensive feedback they provided. In finalizing this document, we incorporated quite a number of ideas and suggestions, so that the manifesto we are launching on Thursday night is more a people’s manifesto,” the BLP spokesman stated.
The general secretary said the manifesto will answer some 18 popular questions, including the source of the money to fund its proposals, and will address issues such stamping out corruption, economic zones, paternity leave for men, domestic abuse and opportunities for farmers and fishermen.
Questions have been raised as to where the BLP would get the money to pay for all its campaign promises.
In fact, Sinckler went as far as suggesting that the party was being funded by a Nigerian billionaire with ties to the Jihadist group, Boko Haram.
Walcott, who also serves as his party’s campaign manager, said he had “no so such knowledge or information”, and when pressed on whether or not the Minister of Finance had made up the story, the BLP spokesman said: “What nonsense you come to me with now? I know absolutely nothing about what you are talking about . . . .I think you are being ridiculous to come and ask me about Boka Haram.”
“I am saying your question is . . . absolute nonsense . . . and I find it reprehensible that you would ask me that question,” he told Barbados TODAY.