Minister of Environment and National Beautification Trevor Prescod is urging Barbadians to temper their expectations of the less than three-week-old Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Government.
In his contribution to the debate on the $1.2 billion so-called mini Budget presented by Prime Minister Mia Mottley on Monday, Prescod told the Lower House today some people seemed to expect the new administration to wave a magic wand and make the country’s long-running economic woes disappear.
In defence of a number of taxes imposed by the new Government as part of the austerity Budget, the minister argued that these expectations were even more unrealistic given that the administration was still assessing the state of the country’s debt left by the previous Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration.
“I have been hearing people talk about the imposition on taxes at the level of water works. I have been hearing people say that these are draconian measures and that they didn’t expect it to be this tough.
“Persons could only say that because they don’t know how things really are. We are only now trying to find out how things really are. The Ministry of Finance now has to do the work of a magician and I don’t understand the people who don’t appreciate it because if we don’t do this now the crisis will deepen,” he said.
Prescod used the opportunity to lambaste the DLP, which failed to win a single seat in the May 24 general election, all but accusing the party of making improper payments to its cronies.
He repeated an allegation first made on the campaign trail in the lead up to the election, that the then DLP administration had signed off on a $5.8 million payment in legal fees for the discarded Cahill Waste to Energy project, a portion of which was paid as a deposit to an unnamed attorney.
“I have in my possession a document here for $700,000, only a part payment of legal fees for Cahill. Legal fees for $5.8 million for a lawyer who just received a QC (Queen’s Counsel), even though the project does not exist. This is the level of nastiness because there is no adjective that could describe this injurious act,” Prescod said.
“People need to understand that we are where we are because of what they did to this country. We cannot tell you today, even with all of the economists that we have, the full state of things. Every time we unearth a bit more mud, we discover more and more debt. We cannot tell you how much it is because every day we are seeing contracts for institutions, some of which never existed,” he added.
In 2014 the Guernsey-based Cahill Energy announced that it had signed an agreement with the Government of Barbados to build and operate a waste to energy plant on island. The project, which was earmarked for Vaucluse, St Thomas, was estimated at $240 million. The DLP administration later abandoned the project after widespread public outcry over the cost and potential environmental impact.