Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s push for managed migration of CARICOM nationals into Barbados as an answer to the island’s underpopulation problem, has been slammed by Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley, as “insensitive to out-of-work Barbadians.”
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Atherley contended that Mottley’s message was insensitive to the hundreds of Barbadians unable to find work. He further noted that the Prime Minister’s focus should first be on opening new sectors for unemployed Barbadians, before any attempt is made to turn attention outwards.
“That message is not suited for this particular time. We are in a situation in Barbados where we cannot employ the numbers of people that we need to see employed. We have not opened up significantly, any new avenues of enterprise and industry in Barbados. We are still reliant on the traditional sectors, in particular, tourism. So I do not understand how you can be making it a priority message of yours, that we need to have a situation of managed migration, so that we can treat to the eventuality of having greater numbers in our population to facilitate our development,” said Atherley.
The Opposition Leader suggested that the Prime Minister’s position was essentially a slap in the face of the public workers who were retrenched under the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme.
“You have people at the public service who were sent home under this BERT programme, you have people that have been sent home by the private sector. The economic situation in Barbados now, especially if you look with reference to the impact of taxation, is such that people are being laid off and sent home. We have thousands of people coming out of the secondary school system and at the tertiary level every year, and these persons cannot find work. So, this message of managed migration is not the right one,” he said.
Speaking at a Regional Forum on Transformation at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre earlier this week, Mottley said, Barbados does not have enough people producing on a daily basis to be able to make the transformation that it needs to carry the country to the next level.
“And that is why, on a sustained basis, I take the responsibility as lead Prime Minister for the CARICOM Single Market and Single Economy as passionately as I take the responsibility for the domestic affairs of this country… for the two are inextricably linked.”
However, Atherley contended that Government should instead be focused on treating to the education system, ensuring that it produces persons who are able to fill sectors that are deficient in requisite skilled labour. He argued that within the traditional sectors, Barbadians were only finding low-level work and the time had come for Government to re-orient and re-train Barbadians so that they could build out new sectors.
“Treat to the education system and treat to the matter of development of skill and knowledge bases in non-traditional areas. It is not a simple quick resort to bring persons in. I am all for welcoming our brothers and sisters from the Caribbean. I am a regionalist and an integrationist, and I support the free movement of people whole-heartedly. All I am saying is that having invested so heavily in our education system and with the number of people coming out of that system every year, the priority message cannot be to bring in more persons and add more numbers,” Atherley stressed.
He added, “Our developmental orientation needs to be re-examined. Where are we? In this new era of new sectoral development with respect to energy, with respect to technology and even the creative economy, we have got to address the product that we are producing. We also have to try to bring people into ownership so that we could have a greater volume of self-business.”