A Democratic Labour Party (DLP) vice president wants Government to focus more on people as they seek to rebuild the economy. In a similar tone, he is also urging his own party to return to “putting people first”.
Ryan Walters, who was speaking at a panel discussion at Parkinson Memorial Secondary last weekend, said the country is at an economic and social crossroad and called on Government to decide which path it will take.
“Should it [Government] pursue its aggressive economic targets of debt to GDP, foreign reserve cover, high fiscal surpluses and the like, or should the government focus on the social aspects of our economy namely its people? I don’t think it is humanly possible, at least for me, to talk about any economic target, any metric, any surplus or deficit without talking about how it impacts people and how those targets are influenced by people,” he said.
Walters was joined by former Minister of Economic Affairs Dr. David Estwick at the panel discussion, hosted by the St Michael South East branch, and moderated by economist Kemar Stuart. The panel spoke on: Unmasking the truth about the economy: What does a no-tax Budget mean to you.
“As a country, if we concentrate on putting legitimate money in the pockets of our citizens it redounds to the benefit of all. This economy business has a domino effect, everything affects the other no matter where you look. The common theme across all sectors are you and I,” he said.
Turning his focus to the cost of living, Walters noted that in a couple months some of Government’s temporary solutions will be up for review once again.
“What they are doing is giving you temporary relief every three months. On the Crop Over weekend coming up, the Consumer Compact with the private sector will come to an end. So when everyone is ‘wukkin up’ prices could very well be going up in the supermarket. The conversation around that time will not be focused on cost of living.”
Walters added: “In September, the VAT on electricity has to be reviewed again; the cap on the fuel has to be reviewed again. So it is like you are pushing the can down the road and using temporary solutions to fix very permanent problems. There is no indication that, although they had in their 2018 manifesto that VAT would be reduced, there is no indication that they will reduce the VAT now by 2.5 per cent.
That would give a direct and permanent ease.”
On the issue of debt, the DLP vice president also accused the Government of mismanaging finances when they wrote off one billion dollars’ in VAT owed by private sector entities.
“Over a five-year period the NSRL [National Social Responsibility Levy] would have collected at least $1 billion. So they gave away one billion in NSRL and $1 billion of your money in VAT ease, that is $2 billion less than we would have had to borrow.
So management of money is one of the most vital things when it comes to managing the debt profile of the country,” he explained Speaking directly to the party membership, the former candidate for St Michael North West commended his comrades for standing and speaking on behalf of the people while being ridiculed in the name of the party.
“I am confident that the Democratic Labour Party does not lack ideas. I am even more confident that it does not lack experience but for some reason we haven’t been able to put this formula together. I am glad to see that we have so many committed and dedicated members, those that held office or support in other ways.
He added: “Bravery in a political context must go beyond speaking to a specific issue, that is the easy part. Facing the electorate, being ridiculed, cursed on the political trail, having your family maligned, having your jobs and livelihoods at risk is an exercise in courage and bravery that is not for the faint in heart.”
Walters however, appealed to his party to do more to develop the new members.
“I want to be part of the process of ensuring that they are equipped with the institutional knowledge, something that our Comrade and former Senator Maxine McClean has been relentless about. I believe that by now we should have had strong support structures that treat the development of all members including myself, especially those that want to serve in the House of Parliament.
“The goal of this political party has always been and should continue to be, one where we develop our people for the benefit, not only of themselves, but the people of this country, rather than for the development of a CV (curriculum vitae) and a single person’s advancement,” the politician said. He urged his party to return to its old tenet of promoting people.
“This is something that we should be ringing in the ears of the people of Barbados because the DLP, as I know it, some may call it the old DLP, has always promoted the point that Barbados is more than an economy, it’s a society.
“I am not sure what this new DLP is talking about these days. But, I am comforted when I reflect on slogans such as: “Fighting For Your Security and Your Future”, back in 1976 “Design for Living for a Free People”, “Pathway to Progress… Transforming the Nation to Meet The Real Needs of the People” … and the most current “One Barbados – People Progress and Prosperity, Putting People First”. These slogans cement that people are at the forefront of what we do… and I know as a party we can defend this,” Walters added. (BT)