Calling it a “sincere” rescue and restoration plan, Barbados Labour Party leader Owen Arthur tonight unveiled a “people’s manifesto” he promised would put money back in Bajan pockets and breath new life into the island’s economy.
A comprehensive programme to reduce the cost of living, including offering cheaper electricity and fuel rates, a $77 million plan to fix the CLICO and problem, and wide ranging tax relief were among the key measures which would be introduced by a new BLP administration.
Waving the 84-page document aloft before a large crowd, which braved intermittent showers at the Eagle Hall, St. Michael meeting, the former Prime Minister said it would focus on three major principles.
These were revitalising the economy and effectively building a new one on new pillars and policies, ensuring Barbadians were provided for socially but in an affordable manner, and returning stability to the country through a new governance model.
“I do not believe that there is any other aspect of this campaign that better reflects the Labour Party at its best than this manifesto. This manifesto, all 84 pages of it, reflects more so than anything in this campaign, the excellent way that we intend to govern your affairs when we become the government of Barbados,” he told the audience, which was largely dressed in the BLP’s favoured red.
“It was prepared not by a group of Labour Party people sitting in a back room concocting things, this manifesto was prepared through extensive and intensive consultation all across this land. It is not the party’s manifesto, it is the people’s manifesto.
“Tonight I present it to you … as an honest, sincere plan for the rescue and the restoration of this country from the greatest calamity that it has ever undertaken. In preparing it we have done things that some were telling us that we should not do.
“We want to hold ourselves open to you by presenting to you a manifesto that is based upon the best advice not from the Barbados Labour Party people, but the best advice that we have been able to garner from all of the people of Barbados,” he added.
But Arthur said the BLP was “satisfied that unless you deal with cost of living you cannot get out of this mess”, pointing to the failure of the Democratic Labour Party government to fix this problem it had identified as job number one, two and three.
The economist said the price of energy and electricity, which had increased by 65 per cent under the Dems, constituted the biggest cost of living problems, followed by the price of food.
He noted that while the DLP “promised that it would solve the cost of living by taking over the distributive sector”, his party would seek to do so in various ways.
This included restoring the Value Added Tax to its original 15 per cent rate, remove, phase out or reduce various impositions affecting the cost of food, including import duties, the common external tariff, and cess tax on gasoline and diesel, as well as increasing competition in the distributive sector provided it was done in a fair manner.
He also pledged that a new government led by him would fix the CLICO and British American Insurance problems in Barbados first, and that there would be a comprehensive forensic audit into CLICO.
Arthur spoke in the context of Barbados facing an extraordinary challenge and therefore needed extraordinary corrective action.
“Barbados has reached the stage where it needs a government that can dream things that never were and ask why not? Because our country is facing a set of problems that is so monumental that this is not the time for business as usual, this is not the time for half measures, this is time for not only dreaming big dreams, but doing big things as well. This manifesto haas been inspired by that spirit,” he said.
“I do not accept the philosophy that is being put out there that we have to wait until the rest of the world gets better before we start to make things better in Barbados. I don’t accept that. That is to accept a passive approach that has never before been known in this country and the Dems are telling us that we can’t do things because there is international recession.
“This generation of Barbadians is no less capable than previous generations of Barbadians of grappling with any situation that confronts us and mastering it, … and I also say to Barbados that the other small countries that are showing that they too can do well in today’s environment are no better than we are, and this manifesto has been crafted to give effect to that spirit.” (SC)