Government’s $600 million stimulus package is a mystery to Independent Senator Professor Henry Fraser.
The respected medical professional and outspoken architectural historian is in no doubt, however, that the amount of money state departments are spending on electricity and other utility costs is “scandalous”.
Fraser shared his concerns this morning as he spoke on the second and penultimate day of the Estimates Debate in the Upper House of Parliament. He said there was not enough information on the stimulus programme announced by Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Chris Sinckler, last week.
“I congratulate the Government on the stimulus package because I think the stimulus package is terribly important… We have the $600 million vaunted as the stimulus package, but I have found it very, very hard to find out exactly how it is all to be spent,” he said.
“There have been some summaries we know, from what I have seen in the Press and specifically from what the Leader of Government Business presented yesterday. We know that Andrew’s (Sugar Factor) will be improved, that the (Pierhead) marina will be built, that energy supplies would be diversified and I really support that very, very strongly… I hope that that will be accelerated because this is so crucial.
“And the entire content of the package of stimuli isn’t really easy to find in the document or the reports. I have been asking for it but I haven’t been able to locate it either on Web or in the Press, and more time is clearly needed for a grasp of everything that’s implied in the stimulus package,” he added.
Despite his reservations about the stimulus plan, Fraser was clear in his mind that Government needed to, and could do more, about controlling its energy costs.
He said when he examined the Estimates document he found “a vast amount of money” spent on utility bills.
“The utility use in Government departments is extraordinary, is dramatic. I don’t suppose that anyone has really looked at this in a big way, except the people at the Barbados Light & Power who go smiling all the way to the bank,” the senator stated.
“We know the vast amount of all of our Government expenditures on the 24-plus thousand employees, but … two and a half per cent or $15 million is spent in just one third of the Government ministries…”
“These are areas that I think need to be addressed in several ways. It would appear that there is serious abuse of the luxury of utilities in Barbados. We would not leave all those lights on and the AC on at night all over the house in our own home. We would not leave the taps running, and if the faucet was faulty we would have it repaired so that leakages were not on going.
“This is, I think, scandalous and we need both monitoring and accelerating the switching to solar systems on all of our Government buildings and we will save so much money it will be unbelievable,” he added. (SC)