The leader of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Verla De Peiza this afternoon tore into the Mia Mottley administration for its handling of the economy, warning of more painful taxation to come, and calling for “full disclosure” on the next steps.
Delivering the first installment of the Astor B. Watts lunchtime lecture series since its resumption at the DLP George Street headquarters today, De Peiza launched a broadside against the Government for “devaluing” the investments of pensioners by adversely altering the terms of their debentures, bonds and treasury bills.
She frowned on the decision by the Government to extend the time within which pensioners now have to wait to fully benefit from returns on their investment.
“So there is no worth in Government paper now. How do you restore investor confidence? All of those pensioners who took their gratuity and put it in Government paper. Persons who came into funds through estates or some other how, thought they were making a wise investment. What do you say to them now?” the DLP leader queried.
An animated party leader said she did not want to hear about a plan to rescue pensioners unless she is told what that plan is.
“Because you [the Government] had a plan for [pensioners] plans and didn’t ask their opinion before you sent out that notice [on the debt exchange programme]… and then couched it in terms that made it impossible to say no, because you burdened them with the guilt of a failed country if they did not say yes. That is how it was sold,” she told a full house of predominantly aged supporters.
The DLP president also raised the possibility of a constitutional motion in the High Court challenging the Government’s decision to “deprive” pensioners of their property as well as an injunction either to insist they paid according the original contract or to stop the new debt exchange from going ahead.
She said while she has not seen the paperwork, she is aware that both legal measures were pending against the Government.
De Peiza then targeted the IMF-funded proposals to grow the economy against the backdrop that the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) has been abolished, which been blamed by the Central Bank of Barbados for a slowdown in the economy during the last year.
“So I want to know, if the IMF says that they are raking in more now that the NSRL has been removed in terms of taxes . . . and having the NSRL slowdown the economy, how do these proposals make the economy grow? It has to be more than putting money in the foreign reserves. That is important, that is absolutely important, but we have to be feeling it in our homes. And right now, the only thing we are feeling is pain,” she said.
De Peiza listed the new water and sewage contribution, the fuel levy, the proposed hike in bus fares and the delayed tax on online transactions as all additional taxes inflicting increased pain on the population.
She then took a turn in the media, blaming journalists for not properly analysing the issues on behalf of the people.
“I don’t know that we have had the kind of analysis that I would want from the media, because I would expect that they would step up at this point . . . ask hard questions on behalf of the people of Barbados. I am not finding that that is happening. So we have to do it on behalf of the people of Barbados,” the DLP leader declared.
She called for more information from the Government on the IMF programme, contending that mere slogans were not sufficient.
“We don’t want the platitudes, we want the information. So give it to us; our backs are broad. We know that this programme is going to hurt. Tell us what that pain is, what that medicine is, so that we can structure out lives accordingly. Tell us when you will start with the bus fares. Tell us what is happening in this country. Tell us how you plan to address each one of these. What information you are giving to us. Can we have full disclosure? You won an election on full disclosure . . . . Keep your promise to the people of Barbados. If you keep no other promise, [because] you haven’t kept any other yet . . . tell us what it is that we have to face, so that we can know,” De Peiza said.
She also commented on the joint police and army operation in St Lucy this morning, suggesting that it would have been illegal, had her former Administration not passed legislation giving more powers to law enforcement officers.
Her address also include the latest announcement that the controversial Hyatt Centric Resort was going ahead under this Government.
De Peiza directed her comments to political activist and newly-appointed CARICOM Ambassador David Comissiong who sued the former administration for approving construction of the project insisting on an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
She therefore wanted to know what Comissiong had to say now that the venture was going ahead in the absence of any announcement of an EIA.
As the party seeks to rebuild from the devastating general election that shut the DLP out of Parliament altogether, DePeiza announced the party is to hold a retreat for all members aimed at moving the 63-year-old party forward.