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Heated clash

Minister of Health, Donville Inniss.

Government and the Opposition clashed on the contentious subject of financing for health care and education in Barbados today as Parliament debated a land resolution related to both key sectors.

Minister of Health Donville Inniss and St. Michael North East MP Mia Mottley, a former Barbados Labour Party leader, were the two combatants.

Inniss, Member of Parliament for St. James South, said the BLP had “made it abundantly clear” that it would “cut” financial support for health and education if elected to office.

But Mottley said this was untrue, and that in fact her party’s proposals would assure Barbadians of continued free health care and education, but would also make their lives easier through various tax incentives.

The back and forth came as Inniss contributed to debate on the leasing of Government property at Lower Collymore Rock, St. Michael, for use by the Chronic Disease Research Centre.

“The Opposition party in this country has made it abundantly clear that they will cut health care and education in Barbados … and have not identified one iota of suggestions as to how health care and education in Barbados will be financed so I am not getting caught up in no palaver around this place,” Inniss told the House of Assembly.

“We have to be serious in this country. Health care and education have been the pillars of socioeconomic development in Barbados and we have to engage in serious debate in this country in respect of how these two programmes will be financed.

“We must never ever feel that access to sound education and decent health care must be beyond the reach of the average Barbadian … and this idea of cutting willy-nilly I hope Barbadians are listening and listening well and not getting caught up in … palaver and chest beating that comes from the Opposition benches,” he added.

But Mottley said the minister’s statements were “misleading”.

“There is absolutely no policy statement from the Barbados Labour Party in respect of the cutting of health care expenditure or university expenditure,” she stated.

“…And in fact to the contrary in respect of the university and the hospital we have said that while that constitutes 50 per cent of government’s public transfers and subsidies that the government needs to find another way of dealing with its issues without compromising the quality of education and the quality of health care in Barbados.”

Mottley also referred to a BLP proposal tabled by her in a Budget reply that tax incentives would be offered to citizens to help with the provision of health care.

She was responding to a statement Inniss made during his contribution that if you earn more than $25,000 “you will not be entitled to free health care in this country.”

“In the Budget reply I made it clear that the Barbados Labour Party would seek to put in place tax incentives for persons earning over $25,000, but who had also medical insurance that they could claim the premiums up to a maximum of $6,000 a year, but you can’t extrapolate from that that a person who falls down or a person who wants to go and get health care at any public health institution is denied from so doing,” the former Opposition Leader stated.

Inniss said Barbadians should feel assured “that the health care system is in very good hands under this Democratic Labour Party administration”. (SC)

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