A woeful state of affairs and the financial equivalent to the south coast sewage mess!
That’s how Prime Minister Mia Mottley today summed up all that members of her one-week-old Barbados Labour Party-led administration have found since assuming office following last Thursday’s general election.
And while stating that the situation was far worse than she had expected, Mottley accused the former Freundel Stuart administration of “picking the duck’s back bare”, while revealing a number of dubious deals approved by the last Government mere days before the May 24 general election and even after Parliament had automatically dissolved on March 6
“A contract and a letter was signed with a company called Global Ports Holding PLC, that will see them receiving a 30-year concession to operate the Barbados Cruise Pier for a paltry sum of US$34 million and in exchange they would have the Barbados Port Inc, pursuant to a concession agreement, assign its right to collect certain charges from cruise lines directly and the Government would receive instead a service fee pursuant to the service agreement [for] which we have not yet seen what that fee is,” the Prime Minister disclosed, adding that she had asked the Attorney General Dale Marshall and the lawyers for the Bridgetown Port to look into the issue as a matter of urgency, “particularly since this contract seems to be tied to a Berth Six contract” at the Port.
Mottley also revealed that a range of tax concessions were given by the Ministry of Finance to Berth Five Projects Limited “in the middle of the [election] campaign” as well as to Vision Developments Inc., the company behind the proposed US$100 million Hyatt Centric Resort project.
“Perhaps the most egregious part of it was one [concession] that was for a 2018 Mercedes Coupe, while Parliament no longer existed, to be used for the Director of Sales involved in the Hyatt hotel,” Mottley said, adding that “there is this attempt, and it is coming across from every ministry, to be able to tie any new Government’s hands with the appointment of personnel or the renewal or appointment or development of contracts and leases.”
However, while assuring that her Government was not daunted, the Prime Minister said a full account would be made to the country and to the Parliament of the “egregious” contracts that have been signed and which have emerged even with the country having a critical deadline to meet in the coming days.
“Our date with destiny starts from Tuesday with foreign debt payment between June 5th and 18th, which represents a high point of foreign debt payment for us over the course of the month of June to the tune of $100 million.
“Our foreign reserves are at a tenuous stage . . . . We have a state of a affairs where our deficit is unacceptably high. Indeed our debt represents the third highest in the world after Japan and Greece,” she cautioned.
Addressing her first post Cabinet press briefing today Mottley, who came to power promising to immediately repeal the dreaded National Social Responsibility Levy among a series of givebacks, was noncommittal today on the matter, as her new Government scratches its head over what to do about over $1.7 billion in current arrears.
“As of the 30th of September last year, outstanding wire transfers as per the Accountant General’s records were $621. 4 million. University of the West Indies, as per the last audit confirmation, was owed $229. 7 million and state owned enterprises $467.7 million, bringing to a total of $1.315 billion.
“And when we add to that approximately $345 million owed by the Barbados Revenue Authority [to taxpayers] you see that we are on or about approximately $1.7 billion,” she told reporters at Government headquarters this afternoon.
Accompanied by the Attorney General, Ambassador Dr Clyde Mascoll, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn and economics professor Avinash Persaud, Mottley further explained that “large and huge” amounts were owed by statutory corporations.
“As of September to now, the Barbados Water Authority has had literally an increase of over $15 million, which represents about a 27 per cent increase in what it owes out.
“I need not tell you therefore what I am likely to find at the Transport Board, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the National Housing Corporation, the National Conservation Commission, the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation – the figure that we have here is a paltry $10.2 million, . . . but the actual debt of the CBC is in excess of $125 million. So that these figures do not appropriately capture that.
While shaking her head in apparent dismay, Mottley also highlighted the Sanitation Services Authority and the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. saying overall, “it is a woeful state of affairs and really and truly anybody who presided over this really needs to answer to the country for what, in my view, is a dereliction of duty that is unparalleled since independence”.
To make matters worse, she said there was still the sewage mess on the south coast to attend to and “I am now being advised that there are issues with the Bridgetown sewage project . . . with respect to failing equipment as well as the same woeful state of affairs with respect to garbage and the absence of garbage trucks [and] the Transport Board, in spite of the $86 million that it owes, there are no buses on the road.
“This country is in need of serious, urgent action with respect to its economy and its Government,” the Prime Minister warned, adding that the situation was worse at the National Insurance Scheme, which is owed $459.1million.
“That represents the absence of contributions from the Government of Barbados. It represents a failure to pay rent since 2016 for all of the buildings of which the Government of Barbados either occupies or has an obligation to pay for like the CXC building and it represents a failure to account for the reimbursement of non-contributory pensions for that period of time as well. This situation cannot be allowed to continue,” Mottley maintained.
Her comments were strongly backed up by Mascoll, who sought to warn that “we have found ourselves now in a position where we have to think in terms of even greater adjustment going forward”.