Prime Minister Mia Mottley will deliver her first Budget on March 20.
And she has signaled her intention to lend much-needed assistance to the island’s ailing sugar industry.
Mottley made the announcement while delivering the feature address this afternoon at the official opening ceremony of the St Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway.
“Suffice to say that next Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. I will deliver the annual Budget of the country and will do so as we for the first time, take the second reading of the annual Appropriations Bill, bringing together a process that was hitherto separated for all of our previous experience.
“And the reason for it is this: numbers make no sense unless I can show the country and we can agree as a country where we are going with respect to taking the country both economically and socially as a society,” Mottley said, making reference to the establishment of the Standing Finance Committee, which for the first time saw Ministers and public officers being questioned by members of Parliament about their respective ministries and how monies allocated to them would be spent.
Following an earlier call by St Nicholas Abbey’s owner Larry Warren for more attention to be paid to the struggling sugar industry, the Prime Minister gave her assurance that Government would not turn a blind eye.
She agreed that the industry needed to be made more viable.
“The first claim on the country’s biomass cannot be foreign investors of whom we know little, but has to be the sugar industry of Barbados, so that a sugar factory can be powered 12 months a year to become a viable financial proposition, being able to stabilize the sugar industry. More than anything else Barbados has to stem the decline of the sugar industry by making sensible financial decisions that can make the industry profitable again at all levels,” Mottley said while being sheltered from a heavy downpour with an umbrella.
“ . . . I will have the opportunity to be able to speak at greater length next week Wednesday on the 20th, where we will map out not just what may be a revenue shortfall, but more importantly where Barbados is and where we must take it to ensure that the future is secured, sustainable and prosperous, not just for a few but for all.
“It is investments like this, married with policy decisions like the ones we are making to secure the sugar industry, and the timeliness of action as we are doing with the support systems that we are putting in place that would make the definable difference to confidence returning to this country,” the Prime Minister added.
During his opening remarks, Warren said the plantation’s arable land was being maintained for future cultivation “in whatever form the sugar industry eventually evolves into”.
“It is a passion of mine to see the industry viable and sustainable without Government’s support. I’m saying this not just because it’s a good thing, but we have such a huge investment here in St Nicholas Abbey and our mission is to maintain not only the house, but the entire land of the plantation which has not changed for 350 years.
“So it’s in my interest too, to see sugarcane come back to this plantation and this is really the driving force, but also of course for the island,” Warren said.