It has been accused of presenting “pie in the sky” proposals with a view to winning the May 24 general election and forming the next Government.
However, the Mia Mottley-led Barbados Labour Party (BLP) says it has fully costed its proposals for abolishing road tax, the National Social Responsibility Levy and tuition fees for Barbadian students attending the University of the West Indies, as well as for an increase in non-contributory old age pensions and an across-the-board pay hike or cost of living allowance for Government workers within the next six months.
As a means of further easing the tax burden of Barbadians, the BLP, which has been out of office for the past ten years, is also proposing to lower the domestic rate of Value Added Tax from 17.5 per cent to 15 per cent within 18 months if elected in two weeks time.
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur has already warned that the pension proposal alone would bankrupt the National Insurance Scheme, while Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has rubbished the entire BLP economic recovery plan as unrealistic, while warning Barbadians that it would cost the Treasury over $400 million, which it does not have, over the next six months.
However, in its just released election manifesto entitled, The People’s Manifesto, the BLP maintains that its proposals are sound and affordable, while suggesting that it would seek to reprofile $500 million in Government debt interest payments.
“We have costed our proposals, so we know what the country can afford. The present Government has wasted and mismanaged the country’s money. They have collected more taxes than any other Government in the history of the country, but no one can see what they have done with all that money.
“The BLP will manage Barbados’ resources well, end wastage and cut out corruption. This will give us more cash to address priority issues,” the party’s manifesto says, pointing out that “every year, the Government spends more than $500 million making interest payments.
“We will reprofile our existing debt to free up substantial cash flow over the short term. We will further simplify the tax system, tighten loopholes, and enhance compliance.
“The BLP will remove the taxes that are strangling the economy, build investor confidence and encourage private investment. These policies will grow our economy and by extension, our revenues,” the 70-page document adds.
In it, the BLP also talks of plans to boost the island’s foreign reserves ,which at presently at their lowest level in two decades by prohibiting the Central Bank from printing money without parliamentary approval. The BLP also said that if elected, it would also allow all Barbadians who earn foreign exchange to keep foreign currency accounts in local banks.
“We will attract new inward investment through a range of policies, including developing Heritage Bridgetown as a Smart and Creative City, Speightstown as a Heritage, Art and Cultural Hub and other towns across the country as Special Economic Zones.
“We will incentivize the private sector to build new islands off Barbados. We will fast-track inward investment in general.
“We will protect and expand our international financial services sector. We will forge new avenues of tourism including ecotourism, cultural, education, health, sports, destination weddings, yachting, and heritage tourism,” the document also states.
IMF is an option
At the same time, the BLP is not ruling out the possibility that it may have to enter into a borrowing arrangement with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF), given the current poorly state of the country’s finances.
During last night’s manifesto launch at Kingsland, Christ Church, BLP leader Mia Mottley, who is confident of winning the May 24 poll, said while such a decision could only be made after an assessment of the true state of the economy, she was prepared to make the tough call if she had to.
“I said it before that we would do whatever is necessary, that is legal and moral, to rescue this country. Does that mean going to the IMF? It may, we don’t know. But when we get the results in the first few days [of taking office], we will be able to make the judgement,” said Mottley, who went on to promise to release the IMF’s Article IV report on Barbados, which the Freundel Stuart administration has kept from public view.
The BLP leader pointed out that Barbados had gone to the IMF before, noting that each time it had done so, the economy rebounded.
“The IMF was set up for purposes such as this and that is why you heard [former Prime Minister] Owen Arthur in Parliament months ago talking about it; that is why you heard of Tom Adams going in 1981 and Erskine Sandiford going to the Fund and each time, Barbados came out of it. The IMF is not the only way, but it allows us the confidence to deal with partners and capital markets,” Mottley explained before a massive crowd of BLP supporters.
Other highlights of the promisory document is a commitment to maintain the island’s exchange rate of BBD $2 to USD $1.
The BLP also promises that there will be zero tolerance for corruption and that integrity legislation would be enacted at the first sitting of Parliament after elections.
“We will make ministers declare their assets, institute penalties for attempting to bribe officials, pursue campaign finance reform and enact whistleblower legislation,” the manifesto states.
Fixed election date
The BLP also says “it will not abuse the goodwill of Barbadians by forcing ourselves on them long after our ‘sell by’ date. We never have and will not do it now.
“As your Government, we will upkeep and improve democratic processes by introducing referenda to seek guidance from the public on major national issues such as fixed dates for elections, term limits for the Prime Minister and whether Barbados should become a Republic.”
The BLP also promises to establish elected “People’s Assemblies” to empower communities and to get more people involved in the decision making process.
No policy on same sex marriage
However, as of now, it said it had no policy to legalize same sex marriages.
“We have said that repeatedly. We believe that no 30 people should be allowed to make decisions on issues that go to the heart of the nation’s collective values. This issue can only be determined by the outcome of a referendum,” the manifesto adds.
The full manifesto can be viewed at https://www.peoplesmanifesto.info/