Democratic Labour Party (DLP) vice president Ryan Walters has given Government a “failing” grade for its COVID-19 stimulus package.
Walters, who is the DLP’s spokesman on business, commerce and entrepreneurship, delivered his debut political platform speech on Sunday night at Newbury, St George, when he told listeners that nothing much has happened since the Government rolled out its COVID-19 economy resuscitation plan.
“They will not tell you of the failed economic stimulus package of May 29 when they announced a $2 billion stimulus package to rescue Barbados as the economy was about to shut down. . . . Most of the capital works projects identified in this package did not even get off the ground. These were projects the Government did not even have control over,” he said.
“They couldn’t dictate when to start, stop, pause, increase or anything. But yet they are presenting a $2 billion stimulus package to rescue Barbados. Nothing happened. Some of those same projects have not even broken ground today.”
Speaking in support of the DLP’s candidate in the November 11 by-elections, Floyd Reifer, Walters said what Government had proposed under the $200 million Barbados Tourism Fund Facility to help the tourism sector “never got off the ground”.
“The things they had in their control, this is what they did. They said we are going to put $200 million in the tourism sector. It would help for the tourism owners to refurbish their places and spruce up the place so that when the tourism economy opens we would look very good. Ladies and gentlemen, that programme did not even have the backing from any financial institution or the IDB and it never got off the ground. It is $200 million of nothing.”
Walters further accused the Government of setting up a $40 million VAT loan fund and not reporting back on the amounts of money disbursed. He said since there was no information, the DLP was left to “assume that no money was spent in that fund either”.
He claimed that of the $2 billion package, only $5 million was used to help businesses.
“They said they are going to take care of small business and they pledged $20 million in a Small Business Wage Support Fund so that small businesses can tap in, get low interest rate loans and be able to pay some wages for a little time. They reported that they spent $1 million out of $20 million in the fund. They offered some NIS benefits to those self-employed persons that paid NIS prior to COVID. In summary, the Barbados Labour Party spent $5 million out of $2 billion to resuscitate this economy. They should be shame,” the DLP vice president told the gathering.
Walters, who will be contesting the St Michael North West seat when the next general election is called, lamented the fact that there were no extensions to any of the programmes. He said businesses had no opportunity to go after a certain time to ask for assistance.
“COVID has gone nowhere. The Government has forgotten that small businesses represent 92 per cent of formal businesses in Barbados. They have also forgotten that small businesses represent 60 per cent of employment in Barbados. Common sense and simple maths would make you think that if you keep small businesses open you would keep employment going. Even in the absence of tourism, persons would have to go to work, you have to get a cashier, someone to pack the shelves, a security guard, janitorial services; at lunch, persons would be able to go down the road and buy a hamburger or hotdog and when they go home they can go to the minimart or the side shop. These are the things that would help Barbados to survive under these COVID conditions, because money would be circulating, people would be employed and everyone would try their best to survive,” Walters told the meeting. (IMC)