Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn has accused Government of neglecting what he describes as the many “casualties” of the BERT programme.
The trade unionist, who was speaking in the Upper House during the Debt Holder (Approval of Debt Restructuring Amendment) Bill, 2019, said people at the bottom were the ones feeling the effects of the programme.
“This Ernie and Bert programme has caused a lot of people to lose jobs and as a result they have lost homes, losing their minds, losing their spouses and every kind of thing else they have lost. There are casualties of your programme.”
He added: “The Government went on this programme to restructure and the number look good but you are not looking at the underlying thing – the people at the bottom. It looks good at the top. But the civil servant who had one salary and no other job has gone home…”
Franklyn said were it up to him he would make companies pay up on VAT owed as opposed to putting the burden on “poor people”.
“I am being asked what I would have done. What I would have done is to collect the over $1billion dollars in VAT that was outstanding rather than writing it off. I would get it by selling the properties of people who own them. You writing off debt for them but you aren’t writing off debt for the people who can least afford it.”
The Senator revealed that there were many who cannot cope who visit his office daily seeking assistance.
“There are people who frequent my office to send their children to school and to get food. Some of these people who went home the only real meal they get is when the children go to school. This Government is patting itself on the back that it has accomplished a lot of things leaving the people who need them the most to suffer and struggle.”
The head of Unity Workers’ Union reminded Government that they were elected to see after the needs of the most vulnerable.
“You are successful when you take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. You sent home people and some are still waiting on severance pay. When you say Government is paying its debt no, you are not paying all. You are not paying the ones that matter.”
He continued: “I will be happy if this Government does well but you are not doing well. You are doing well for the people you care about. This Barbados Labour Party was born out of the labour. You are supposed to take care of the labouring classes but you are taking advantage. Yes your credit rating will rise but we have people in this country who cannot eat… Then you hear stay the course… the course to what hell?”