Minister of Finance Christopher Sinckler tonight tackled the tough issue of cost of living as he defended the stewardship of the Democratic Labour Party over the past five years.
Addressing a crowd at Rices, St. Philip, the St. Michael South West MP told the crowd that the leadership of the Barbados Labour Party in times of plenty, could not be compared to that of the DLP in one of the toughest recession in decades.
“We came to office to find the most virulent economic recession … and one of the things we promised was to tackle the cost of living… When the Labour Party was in office, unemployment in Barbados which throughout the course of the five years that we have been in office has averaged 10.5 percent. It has gone up to 11 per cent at some times or come down to below 10 on a couple of occasions, but it has averaged out 10.5 per cent.
“When the Labour Party was in office when there was no recession and we were in office in the worse recession in human history, unemployment under the Labour Party in 1999 with no recession and with money flowing, with the great economist at the helm was 10.4 per cent. In 2000, it was 9.4 per cent; in 2001, 9.9; 2002, 10.3; 2003, 10.7. There wasn’t no recession then, and you hear all the critics, criticising the Democratic Labour Party about how many people are unemployed and about how many jobs were lost; but yet they could not get unemployment at a rate better than ours when the world economy was performing at its best,” he stated.
Charging that the BLP was engaging in “optics, propaganda, tricks and lies”, Sinckler said in order to understand the prices seen in Barbados he would draw on the four main commodities and drivers of prices on the world market — oil, wheat, corn and soya.
Oil, he stated, was 150 per cent higher under the DLP’s term than when the BLP was in Government, when oil averaged US$34 per barrel.
“Under us, it averages US$86 per barrel due to the fact that we have to spend almost BDS$800 million importing fuel. Fuel drives every cost, everything you do… We can do a graph to demonstrate the correlation between the movement of oil prices and the movement of electricity bills.
“People say, ‘Why you didn’t cut VAT or reduce electricity bills. We tried that and brought the Barbados National Oil Company to its knees. We almost did not have an oil company,” he stated.
He charged that the then dire state of the oil company was a legacy of the BLP, but under David Thompson the DLP had decided the situation had to be brought to an end.
The finance minister declared that the BLP had wanted to provide a “feel good” situation for the people to win votes, but in the process had almost destroyed the oil company that was a mainstay in the economy.
“It is the optics,” charged Sinckler, even as he noted: “Oil prices — 151 per cent higher.”
Stating that the Cabinet of Barbados was not comprised of magicians, he queried: “How is it possible in the face of these things bring down oil prices and prices in Barbados?”
“What you have to do in this situation is to manage,” he advised.
He told the crowd: “You judge people not by how good they are when times are good. If you in a marriage, the quality of the marriage is not when money is flowing… The quality of the marriage or relationship is when things get tough.”
Returning to the cost of commodities, Sinckler said similarly wheat prices were 78 per cent higher under the DLP, with the BLP facing prices of $157 between 1995 and 2007, while the DLP between 2008 and 2012, had to deal with wheat prices at $280 per metric tonne.
Corn prices, he said, were also 108 per cent higher and whenever they increased worldwide, Barbados had to do the same. Under the BLP, he claimed corn was priced at $2.04 per bushel, while the current Government dealt with prices of $6.06 between 2008 and 2012.
“All of this is what we had to contend with that drove up prices. I am asking: Do you believe in these circumstances there is any miraculous thing the Democratic Labour Party could have done to reduce the cost of living? Barbadians are not fools, they know we have tried our best under the circumstances…
“Owen said I had the worst recession ever to manage. I agree with him and that is why today because we gird our loins. We exercise faith in the people, they exercise faith in us, and that is why we can say we are standing tall even in spite of the fact that some prices might be high and unbearable…,” he stated.
“We have focused on the basics. This economy is about foreign exchange… If you don’t have foreign exchange it is lights out. Thanks to the Democratic Labour Party, the fat lady is still croaking because we have ensured foreign exchange is still in the Central Bank.” (LB)