Let’s join forces
Opposition willing to work with Govt, says Mia
Opposition Members of Parliament are willing to join with Government in conceptualizing a programme to address the hardships currently being experienced by Barbadians.
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley made this offer in the House of Assembly today while speaking during debate on the Special Loans (Amendment)
Noting that retrenched Drainage Unit workers would stop receiving unemployment benefits at the end of this month, Mottley asked: “When unemployment benefits end, what will they have to buy food? What will they have to pay rent? What will they have to support their families?
“That is why Bobby Clarke and others can call for action; and he is right. People across Barbados are saying they cannot take it no more . . . .
“I formally call on the floor of this House for a number of measures to be put in place to ease the suffering of the unemployed. I will go anywhere with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance or any member of that side if you are prepared to make available land to the people. Government owns acres of land in this country.”
Noting that a lease arrangement is a problematic legal arrangement for Government to execute, Mottley suggested that Government lend the people
a quarter acre of land, install water, give them seeds and let them grow some crops or raise livestock.
The St Michael North-East MP suggested that these farmers, supported by the agricultural extension officers of the Ministry of Agriculture, would be able to grow crops to support themselves.
“These are not new, these are not novel. Other governments across the world in deep recession have had to make similar options available to their population,” Mottley argued.
Suggesting that arrangements should be made to encourage vending across the country, the Opposition Leader continued: “In addition, I am calling on this Government to decriminalize illegal vending; make it a civil penalty. We have done the research on it; we will share it with Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and we will work together with him. I am making an offer to the Attorney General, we have done the research and this is an alternative where there will be no long time in drafting.
“There is a concept in law called civil penalties that needs immediate introduction in Barbados, where you can still control and have order, but what you do is stop a man or woman from having a criminal record for simply selling in the wrong place or selling without a licence. I am calling on this Government to simply release the pressure on the people. I am saying that if you want to assist people who were laid off, you must give them access to land or an opportunity to sell without making them criminals,” she added.
Identifying another area where Government can assist persons who are facing severe economic hardships, Mottley said the Opposition was prepared to sit with Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and representatives of the commercial banking sector to address the issue of foreclosure.
“There are too many Barbadians who are receiving foreclosure notices. There are too many Barbadians who cannot make their mortgage payments. There are too many Barbadians whose blood pressure and whose stress levels are being negatively affected because they cannot make their mortgage payments or, in some cases, loan repayments on cars or other substantial loan repayments.”
The Opposition will work with the Government in meeting the commercial banking sector and the credit union movement to come up with a framework that allows loans to be restructured at a personal level for the next two to three years. It has been done in other jurisdictions; it can be done in Barbados.
“In some cases, we may have the banks show a sense of self-sacrifice in reducing some of the interest, but they will still get their principal,” Mottley said.
The Barbados Labour Party leader also questioned what had become of the Hotel Refurbishment Fund, as well as the $2 miliion promised to the Barbados Agricultural Society for lending to small farmers.