The incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is promising to decriminalize small quantities of marijuana for personal use, as well as for medical purposes, should it retain power in next week’s general election.
The pledge is contained in the DLP’s manifesto, a leaked copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY ahead of its unveiling at a meeting in Oistins, Christ Church tonight.
Robert Bobby Moris, the DLP’s campaign manager, has confirmed that the 56-page document which Barbados Labour Party leader Mia Mottley first flashed before supporters last night, and which Barbados TODAY has obtained, is indeed the party’s official list of campaign pledges.
The party does not elaborate on its plans to decriminalize the herb in the document, except to state that it will decriminalize medical marijuana and possession of less than a minimum quantity of the drug.
The debate over marijuana use has been a highly controversial one here, with Rastafarians insisting it should be legalized for religious reasons, while a growing number of people, many of whom are members of the disabled community who say they are tired of the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, have been calling on the authorities to legalize it for medicinal purposes.
However, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite has said Barbados “will not, and should not jump ahead” to decriminalize ganja without proper dialogue.
“I am not an advocate of the decriminalizing of small quantities because we do not know what we would be encouraging young people to put into their bodies,” Brathwaite said in November 2016 during debate on legalizing the drug.
As recently as last September the Attorney General also repeated his position that any move towards decriminalization should be made from an informed position.
Meantime, the DLP has placed a series of tax breaks for the all important tourism sector at the centre of its programme for a third term.
The manifesto, entitled Stand Strong, Barbados, outlines the party’s plans to diversify the Barbadian economy around tourism, which has been the country’s primary foreign exchange earner.
“The integration of tourism with agriculture, renewable energy, cultural industries and manufacturing will be the economic priority of the DLP over the 2018 to 2023 period. This new diversified economy will provide new opportunities for the skilled persons that make up the middle class, and provide the basis for tax relief,” the manifesto reads.
The DLP promises to provide a land tax rebate of up to 15 per cent for tourism-related entities that can demonstrate at least a 25 per cent increase in the use of local inputs ranging from agriculture and cultural industries to manufacturing.
Entities will be eligible for the rebate in the year they achieve the target, with 2018 as the base year. The rebates will continue as long as those levels are maintained.
There will be a further ten per cent land tax rebate for tourism-related businesses that install systems that produce at least 50 per cent of their electricity generation requirements from renewable sources. New agri-businesses are also being promised a ten-year tax holiday.
Additional incentives to the agri-business sector include 150 per cent deductible on interest paid on loans used for developing the sector, expenditures for product development and research, as well as expenditures for staff training.
In addition to strengthening food security through agriculture, and developing the renewable energy sector, the DLP plans to modernize the public sector, to include the introduction of a pay-for-performance system based on key performance indicators for all Government departments and statutory corporations.
The ruling party also promises to double the budget of the Youth Empowerment Scheme, increase the number of primary school teachers by 500 in the next four years, establish additional campuses of the Samuel Jackman Institute of technology in St Lucy and St Philip, and extend business hours at the magistrates’ courts in order to ease the case backlog.
Some of the pledges are similar those in the BLP manifesto released a week ago. For example, both parties advocate the provision of free island wide Wi-Fi, as well as incentives for the privately-owned transport sector to purchase green vehicles.
And like the BLP, the incumbent is also planning to upgrade the polyclinic network to expand access to health care and ease the burden on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
However, the document, which is filled with picture illustrations, is silent on how a re-elected DLP Government would address the country’s falling reserves, which, according to the last Central Bank report, stood at $423 million, or 6.9 weeks of import cover, well below the recommended 12 weeks. Instead, in a one-page reference to the economy, the document states that taxes would lessen as the economy grows.
The manifesto is also silent on what is to be done to fix the two-year long sewage spills on the south coast, while the issue of garbage collection was covered by promises of tougher legislations for illegal dumping and a national recycling programme.