The Opposition People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP) is welcoming measures being put in place by Prime Minister Mia Mottley to cushion the blow from the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Leader of the Opposition Bishop Joseph Atherley said he is persuaded that there needs to be expanded vision that goes beyond construction and tourism.
In a press statement issued today responding to the measures Prime Minister Mottley announced on Wednesday evening, Atherley said the vision should be one, which sends significant signals; recognizes the digital economy, creative and renewable energy sectors, new forms of agriculture, health, education and sports.
He said the vast majority of Barbadians do not have the savings to manage comfortably without income even for short periods; a fact which he said was a sad and striking commentary on a country that boasts indicators of developed country status. country’s economic model.
Atherley noted that while Government sees an urgent need for a significant amount of economic activity to support those who have lost jobs, and keep Barbadians employed, while keeping the essential services sector afloat, the Opposition holds the view that the stimulus should be more broad based on providing for areas of economic activity that provide a return on investment in broader terms “rather than in the context of the narrow sectoral interests seemingly targeted”.
“According to the outlined measures, one of the two billion dollar economic injection over the next two years, 1.7 billion goes to construction and largely so hotel related infrastructure construction. Then of course beyond that is stimulus via government capital works on roads and public buildings.
“Secondly perhaps government needs to see the COVID-19 created context as an opportunity to move towards creating a culture that reflects enlightened consumption and encourages both savings and investment; while at the same time encouraging economic activity, which is productive, saving and earning foreign exchange, and generating meaningful employment,” he said.
Additionally, Atherley said that while 300 odd million is being diverted to Green Energy projects, the PdP has called for this sector to be seen as one of significant potential for diversification in the economy.
He noted that while non-specific sums are alluded to which indicate some state stimulus in the area of digitization, housing, health and education services, the Opposition is calling for dispensation relative to health care.
And while one of the PM’s announced measures outlined a 750 acre food programme, the Leader of the Opposition said food security is a necessary pursuit since Barbados can no longer afford an annual food import bill of $700 million.
He said alongside traditional activity in the agriculture sector, an orientation towards various types of non-field agriculture must be utilized.
“Government needs as well to answer the question on water supply and availability in rural Barbados. The view held by the PdP is that there must be a robust marketing agency, which facilitates for farmers viable outlets for their produce. The necessary marketing should not be the task of the farmers. One would also have to be somewhat concerned to the fortunes of farmers in light of the disappearance of the tourism market,” he said.
Atherley lauded the support for self-employed persons affected by COVID-19, but suggested that the brevity of support of $3 000 per month over a period of only two months is clearly going to be insufficient.
He said the reality of this class of entrepreneurs not accommodated in the legislation must be addressed in a more permanent fashion.
“The PdP also calls for a more transparent process around the selection of 2 000 homes considered to be vulnerable. The Opposition will not oppose the plan to assist businesses by allowing deferral of statutory payments by businesses in an effort to protect jobs.
“This after all was among our early proposals as we entered the COVID period. We would be concerned however that those to benefit from such would not include those who have benefitted from earlier tax waivers,” he said.
He added that while the $20 million Small Business Wage fund will help to protect some jobs, he believes that the support needed by these entities will go way beyond wage support.
“The measure of course will help to reduce the pressure of the NIS. But these businesses need support for expansion. We repeat our call for the type of government guarantee mechanism which, will facilitate access to this sector to the capital liquidity in the traditional banking sector. (AH)