Opposition Leader Mia Mottley today launched a broadside against the 2016 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals presented Tuesday evening by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler.
In her response to the financial plan, Mottley described the measures as little trinkets given to Barbadians as political hush money, but lacking in substance to address the concerns of the local population.
The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader spent nearly three hours shredding the budget as a plan geared towards satisfying the provisions of the International Monetary Fund and aimed at the survival of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in the lead up to general elections in two years time.
Mottley said the “patch work” budget appeared to have been written by the fortunate few who dined on “the fatted calf”.
“This speech was a join up, join up speech reflecting . . . individuals from several and varied perspectives, with varied and varying agendas. It was patch work budget,” the Member of Parliament for St Michael North East said as she compared Sinckler’s presentation to a comedic piece by Trinidadian storyteller Paul Keens-Douglas about a boy with a tattered kite.
“We saw an attempt to promote the interests of those eating the meat of the fatted calf . . . we saw and heard the politics as introduced by those whose sole mission is to have this Government remain re-electable,” the BLP leader added.
She claimed all the special interests groups had a hand in the budget, but that it bore no resemblance to the “real” Barbados in which the majority lived.
Mottley told the House of Assembly that Sinckler was at war with himself trying to please the international community that was breathing down his neck, the technocrats who were advocating some semblance of order and his comrades who did not want to go into the second day of the DLP annual conference against the backdrop of a “painful” budget of
$160 million in new taxes, and nothing to celebrate.
“And he seeks to cushion these measures [taxes] in a disingenuous and dangerous way because the proper diagnosis that is required for us to move forward and to protect the stability of this country, was ignored,” the Opposition Leader claimed.
Mottley argued that the new taxes were imposed to stop Barbadians from spending so the foreign reserves could be preserved.
The Opposition MP also accused the minister of rebuking Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Dr Delisle Worrell by contending that the foreign reserves were not an issue when the Governor had previously announced that new measures were coming in the budget to address them.
The BLP leader also knocked Sinckler for failing to tackle the island’s debt in his budget. Mottley reminded the audience, including those watching on television, that this country was the most indebted in the Caribbean and among the top three in the world. She said Barbados’ debt was now $12.1 billion, representing 137 per cent of Gross Domestic Product [GDP], adding that this figure did not include arrears of $1.6 billion.
Instead, she said, Sinckler offered trinkets designed to put the Government back in the good graces of the very citizens it had offended, leaving the ailing economy and the people of Barbados as the real casualties.
Mottley shot down the manner in which the new National Social Responsibility Levy was imposed, arguing that Sinckler tried to hide its real impact by saying it was to fund health care. She accused the Minister of Finance of doing the same thing in last year’s budget when he promised that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital would benefit from the cess on diesel.
Mottley was at pains to point out that the budget had failed to address the Sam Lords Castle project, which though approved, did not yet have the benefit of its detailed drawings.
However, the Opposition Leader found something to support in the budget, giving her approval to the increase in old age pensions, the national clean-up drive and the appointment of all temporary public officers.