Walcott: Gov’t must come clean
Opposition Senator Jerome Walcott is urging the Freundel Stuart Administration to come clean and tell Barbadians that the Government’s policy to close the fiscal deficit and address the economic recession was inappropriate and it intended to change it.
As Opposition Barbados Labour Party’s senior spokesman in the Upper Chamber, Walcott was this afternoon contributing to the debate on the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for 2013-2014.
Walcott observed that in 2008, the Government imposed over $100 million in taxes on Barbadians “as though they were going to tax the country out of the recession”.
He suggested that the ruling party’s policy seemed to be to continually blame the global recession for the state of affairs in the island, even though the vast majority of states around the world, including those in the Caribbean, were showing growth since 2010, except Barbados.
“And we must wait patiently and murmur not?” the Opposition senator asked rhetorically.
He also questioned the preparation of this year’s Estimates. The former minister of health in the previous Barbados Labour Party Government observed that on one page the deficit was shown as $98.8 million and the other it was $225.9 million.
Turning his attention to the National Insurance Scheme, he expressed concern about the use of the NIS in assisting Government in financing various initiatives.
Walcott reasoned that while the minister responsible for this department had the authority to direct the fund, that did not exempt him from his fiduciary accountability to it. He questioned if the scheme would be in a position to pay pensioners when their money became due in the next few years.
The Opposition senator claimed too, that the Government was being pressured into financing the Apes Hill and Coverley housing projects. Walcott also alleged that “not one cent” in lease money had been paid by the Government to the NIS, which funded the construction of the Baobab Tower in Warrens, St. Michael.
The senator noted that no provision had been made in the Estimates for this or for the $2 million per year lease for Kensington Oval. He told the Upper Chamber that no money had been paid by Government during the last two years to the Oval, despite entering into an agreement to do so.
On the issue of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the ex-minister of health criticised the Freundel Stuart Administration for what he asserted was chaos in the newly-opened Lions Eye Care Centre in respect of a disease that came to light recently, problems in the dialysis unit, “suffering” in the Accident and Emergency Department as a result of long waiting times, five out of eight elevators not working and a shortage of nurses.
He also drew attention to transportation and “cried shame” on the Government for owing United Commercial Autoworks Limited about $12 million and making provision for only $20 million for public transport in the Estimates. (EJ)††††††