President of the Democratic Labour Party, Verla DePeiza, is of the view that the ruling Barbados Labour Party’s admonition to “get on board” with their economic recovery programme is an attempt to “silence those who have an opposing view” and has urged Barbadians to ask questions about the implications of the policies associated with it.
Speaking during a joint branch meeting of the DLP’s St Philip constituencies over the weekend, DePeiza said, “A scary thing is happening in Barbados. When people attempt to question the current state of affairs, they are being told to shut up. Even up to this weekend, we were told we must all jump on board and speak with the same voice. This bothers me in a democratic society where everyone is constitutionally entitled to his or her individual opinion.”
The DLP President outlined the many questions Barbadians had every right to ask, including details of the current arrangement with the International Monetary Fund. “What are the repercussions when the IMF does its quarterly report? We were told we would get this first set of funds, and for the next seven quarters we will get more once we meet certain benchmarks. But what are the penalties if we don’t reach these benchmarks? Will more people go home? Will more taxes come? Could you also say what the targets are in the first place?” she queried.
DePeiza also stated that although public servants who are being laid off were advised to apply for jobs at the Ross University School of Medicine early next year. She said, “Most of the jobs I have seen advertised are for faculty. They are looking for people to teach medical students. How many clerk typists in the public service can apply for such jobs? Will Government be able to retrain those workers between now and January to qualify for these positions?”
She also said despite all the protests against the Municipal and Solid Waste Tax the DLP implemented when it was in office, the new administration introduced a similar levy that was more costly and unfair to the average taxpayer. “Whereas our tax was pro-rated according to property size, this one has people in Millennium Heights paying $1.50 a day, and others in lower income areas paying the same rate, and then to have the Minister and [BWA] chairman say “we will disconnect your water if you don’t pay” is uncaring and unfeeling.”
On the debt restructuring programme, the party’s first female leader said, “We had a situation recently where persons holding government paper were given information which suggested that along with having the debt protracted by signing and saying yes, you were relieving Government of its obligations as guarantor to several loans. But when will we be told the proposals put to the other agencies? We have been given the individual’s obligations, but what about other agencies? Should we not have in this new climate of openness and press conferences full detail, not just talk but information?”
Nevertheless, the DLP President reassured Barbadians they would be the mouthpiece of those who felt disadvantaged. “These are not easy times to be a DEM, but this is when your mettle is tested the most. We are ready, willing and able to be the voice of the people of Barbados who are waking up to a nightmare,” she concluded.