‘F’ is for foolishness and that’s what Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kerrie Symmonds suggests the leader of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), Dr Ronnie Yearwood is saying when he gives the Mia Mottley government a failing grade.
He delivered a scathing rebuke of Yearwood’s recent ‘failing grade’ criticism of the performance of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) government over the last few years. The DLP leader said Barbados was no better off than when the BLP took over the reins of Government in 2018.
But on Sunday, at a BLP joint meeting held at Queen’s College, Symmonds stoutly defended the tenure of Prime Minister Mottley, accusing Yearwood of wearing blinkers. Speaking ahead of his party’s celebration of the first anniversary of its election win last January, Symmonds described as a “nonsensical issue” any complaints about minimal growth of the economy. He said because of the pandemic, the majority of world economies contracted. Even the manufacturing powerhouse of China was affected, he added, noting that Barbados was not unique.
“In May 2018 our national debt stood at $18.2 billion. Today as I stand before you, this government has, in spite of COVID, where we had either lost revenue or had to spend greater amounts of money, we have been able to wrestle the national debt down to $13.8 billion.
“I don’t feel that could be an ‘F’ unless ‘F’ means fantastic. . . . The issue of the debt service obligation, that was $0.68 in every dollar had to go towards paying debt, that has now been wrestled down, today it is $0.30 in every $1.00 and you gine tell me that that is worthy of a rating of F?” Symmonds responded.
The St James Central MP said that during a pandemic, when over a nine-month period from March to December 2020 there were some 37,000 claims for National Insurance benefits to the tune of $155 million, the government’s attention could not be on growth but on the stability of the nation.
The minister highlighted several government initiatives, such as the $20 million business interruption benefit for small and micro businesses, delivery of care packages, the household mitigation unit and the construction of the Harrison Point critical care facility to express confidence in his administration’s efforts to improve the state of the economy.
“Help me to understand where growth in those circumstances is to come from,” Symmonds said.
He continued: “We are being pilloried for not being able to produce growth where all that anybody could be expected to do is stabilise the economy. I feel that these things are of sufficient significance that . . . we are treating with an individual who is less ready than Freundel Stuart and I say that seriously.”
Symmonds accused Dr. Yearwood of being driven by “personal malice and grievance” with the BLP, of which he was a member shortly before taking over leadership of the DLP.
“I feel sorry for him because if he is the best they [DLP] have to offer, they are in a bad, bad state,” Symmonds insisted.
“If our major trading partners are experiencing this, the whole region is experiencing this, what manner of man are we dealing with, if this is the best he can come with by way of criticism of this government? (KC)