BLP warns NIS is not Government’s ATM
While opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) supports Government’s plans to borrow $76 million mainly to improve police accommodation, it has questioned the sourcing of the money from the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
Senator Jerome Walcott, opposition leader in the Upper House, expressed his party’s concerns today during debate on a Government resolution seeking parliamentary approval to borrow the money.
Walcott said even though the Opposition agreed that the police needed improved infrastructure, it had to “reiterate the concerns being expressed by persons in Barbados in terms of utilization of the funds of the National Insurance Fund” as an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) for Government’s projects.
The opposition senator referred to officials of the current administration speaking about profits for NIS when Goverment borrowed from the Fund. Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer told delegates attending the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) 60th annual conference at the weekend that the NIS was repaid with interest whenever it loaned Government money.
“I understand the arguments being advanced in support of this but I am merely referring to the various actuarial reports in the past and the most recent one which have highlighted the level of commitment and indebtedness of the Government of Barbados is to the NIS,” he noted.
The loan will be used to finance construction of a new police station at Hastings, a public centre complex at Cane Garden, a police headquarters in the Pine, a police station and magistrate’s court at Boarded Hall, refurbishment of the old Barbados Water Authority headquarters in the Pine and the Elaine Scantlebury Home at Bellplaine, and repairs to the Old Male Barracks at Central Police Station and the former Black Rock Police Station.
Walcott spoke of the project being long in coming. “Having heard the Attorney General speaking about this soon-to-be constructed new police station and enhanced facilities, I am at a bit of a loss that some seven years later . . . we’ve now reached the stage where we are about to implement this very important project.”
The former health minister restated the BLP’s position that the mere provision of new buildings would not fight crime in Barbados. “The construction of new police stations and enhancement of facilities will not solve the intense crime situation,” he contended, noting that “almost daily there are reports of shootings and robberies in Barbados”.
Claiming that Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith had provided conflicting figures on gun-related and other violent crime, Walcott said this did not bode well for the country.
“Whether we play with the statistics and we argue that there is no real change, there is no real increase, the point of the matter is this is the current situation in Barbados. Average Barbadians are living in fear to some extent.”
Walcott sought to make clear that his party did not lay blame for the crime upsurge solely on the current government, saying he did not believe that crime should be politicized. He also gave the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) a vote of confidence. “I have no doubt that the acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith and the Royal Barbados Police Force will succeed in bringing this situation under control . . . [They have] done it in the past and I have no doubt that they will do it again”.
He however warned that Barbados’ crime situation would not be erased overnight and a lot of work needed to be done. Among factors the opposition senator listed as being responsible for the current level of violent crime are illicit drug activities and, “whether the Government likes it or not, unemployment and the state of the economy also impacts on this.”