President of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Dr Ronnie Yearwood has labelled the Mia Mottley-led administration as “incompetent”, having failed at growing the economy, improving the island’s tourism product and tackling crime.
In his first press conference for 2023, Dr Yearwood said the Government had been especially dismal in its handling of the economy which had seen only “negligible” growth.
He accused the Barbados Labour Party administration of going on a “borrowing spree” since coming into office in 2018, with little to show for it.
Dr Yearwood also highlighted an absence of any growth policies as evidence of Government’s failure.
“The Barbados economy has struggled for growth under the Mia Mottley and the BLP administration. This is obviously due to the ravages of COVID-19, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that, but really, it has also been due really to the austerity measures imposed by the administration.
He noted that the austerity programme has been accompanied by Government inability to conceptualise a growth strategy.
“There’ve been no growth-oriented policies coming from the Government,” Dr Yearwood added.
“After a 0.1 per cent decline in 2019, a 14 per cent decline in 2020, tepid growth in 2021 of 1.4 per cent, and approximately 10 per cent in 2022 and 4.8 per cent this year, will mean that five years after assuming office the Barbados economy under the BLP will approximately be 1.6 per cent larger than when they came to office.
“So in five years they have grown the economy by 1.6 per cent. That’s it. That’s basically negligible growth. Nothing has happened. So you have that period and that growth record of the Mia Mottley administration and it is dismal even when you factor in COVID and the responses to COVID, it is still a dismal record.”
He contended that while none of the projects announced by Government had come to fruition, all of those which the Government was “riding on” were started by the previous DLP administration.
Furthermore, he added, Barbados still had among the top 20 highest gas prices in the world, and he questioned why this was the only Caribbean country on the list.
Dr Yearwood also suggested that the Government give public servants a pay increase of between five and seven per cent to cope with the rising cost of living.
During the Press conference, DLP’s former candidate for the City, economist Kemar Stuart suggested that the present administration had borrowed more foreign debt in its five years in office than the DLP had in its 10 years as the Government.
He maintained that the country was in a “debt trap” which could not be easily solved.
Dr Yearwood also strongly criticized Government for its inability to reinvigorate the country’s tourism sector.
He said while other Caribbean countries were boasting of increased tourist arrivals, it was unclear where Barbados’ figures stood.
The DLP president called on Government to say whether it was true that tourist arrivals were down significantly when compared to 2019.
“I’m asking, is it true that we are about 250 000 tourists less between where we were in 2019 to where we were at the end of 2022 because we have not been given official tourism statistics since last year.
“…But the reality is that we can see our neighbours in Grenada winning every single tourist award. We can see our neighbours in St Lucia and Antigua and Jamaica with their tourist arrivals up, in some instances by as much as four to five per cent, and we are nowhere near, so it cannot just be COVID. There has to be some kind of competence ability. How are they doing it and we are not?” Dr Yearwood questioned.
He said the country’s international business sector was also in dire straits and suggested Barbados would soon be blacklisted again.
Dr Yearwood also criticised Government’s efforts in tackling crime branding them as paltry.
He said recently-appointed Minister of State in the Office of the Attorney General with responsibility for Prevention for Crime, Corey Lane was underqualified and not up to the task.
“You’ve appointed a non-trained criminologist. How do you appoint Corey Lane as your principal crime stopper or principal agent to address crime when you already have an Attorney General? That is the job of the Attorney General,” Dr Yearwood said.