Layoffs in the public sector and an increase in bus fares will come in exchange for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) backing the Govenrment’s economic recovery and transformation programme, Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley has warned.
He urged the Mia Mottley-led Government to come clean on exactly how long the expected pain will be under the hands of the IMF during debate in the House of Assembly on the Public Service (General) Order, 2018, the Government’s across-the-board pay rise for public sector.
But the Opposition Leader succeeded in drawing the Minister of Transport, Works and Maintenance Dr William Duguid to intervene and say he was not aware of any fears among Barbadians that the bus fare will go up. But Atherley replied that the minister did not deny his assertion of a pending hike.
“Just as there is that growing voice of fears re bus fares, re layoffs, there is that growing voice of fear with respect to what is going to happen re state-owned enterprises in Barbados, notwithstanding any survey being conducted out there in the public,” he added, referring to the Government’s online canvassing of public opinion on the future of scores of state agencies.
Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment Marsha Caddle hit back at Atherley for signing on to the measures, proposed in the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) manifesto for the May 24 general election while he was running on a BLP ticket.
“The honourable member for St Michael West whose signature is burned in my brain as appeared in the manifesto [was] present when many of thee measures were developed. So this is not something that we had waited on an IMF to come and say to us as a Government of Barbados that we need to do,” Caddle, an economist contended, adding that this programme is what is necessary for this country at this time, with or without the Fund.
The Fund has commented on the level of consultation and engagement between Government and the people of Barbados, something she noted the international financial institution found to be a rarity, she told the House.
The Fund also noted the frequent meetings with the Social Partnership and the survey being conducted by the Government asking for suggestions on the way forward for the economy, she added.
These are issues which the Fund would normally request, but Barbados had already gone ahead because it knew what it wanted for the country, Caddle said.
Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn said that during the coming weeks the Government will be imposing discipline on statutory corporations as part of the programme with the IMF. He joined Caddle in noting the IMF had been disarmed by the speed with which his administration was putting home-grown measures in place which included restructuring public debt.