Alternative social fund needed

senatorwilfredabrahams2013It is not good enough for Government to close a source of public funding with “noble objectives” but provide no alternative.

New Opposition Senator Wilfred Abrahams issued this response today as the Upper House debated and approved the Social Investment Fund Repeal Act 2013.

In his maiden speech, the Barbados Labour Party representative said contrary to the views of some governing Democratic Labour Party members, the fund established by the BLP Government was not one set up to pay people’s water bills and other personal expenses.

Instead, he said, its aim was to “engage in group projects to try to reduce the impact of poverty by distribution of funding and benefits to groups”, part of an overall effort at self governance.

“The concept of this fund was different from the other avenues or welfare options available,” the attorney-at-law said.

“Rather than direct political intervention this fund was managed, so it was not a case of approaching a minister and asking for help. There were avenues within the fund that the applications or requests for funding were considered and ultimately they were considered by the minister, but the minister was not directly responsible for the funds.

“If you close such a fund you have to say what are the options and what is the alternative. Where will Pinelands and the others who benefited find their money?

“It is not sufficient to close a fund and transfer the money… We must recognise that the fund had certain inherent objectives. How has the Government realised or incorporated these objectives into another fund or another avenue? This was not made clear,” he added.

Abrahams also said he found it “unacceptable” that it had taken the DLP four years between ending the fund administratively and legally.

“It is unacceptable that it was not even done during the last Government but is now being done technically by a new Government… What was the reason for the delay? It is not sufficient that the senator says that these things happen.

“I would like to know and the public of Barbados would like to know why now and why not closer to 2009. What options were considered towards re-energising the fund or towards achieving the objectives of the fund? I still remain unclear.” (SC)

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