PM: Better public transport and healthcare coming
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is promising that better public transport and healthcare are coming, but at a cost, and that improved solid waste disposal was also on Government’s agenda.
He gave those assurances as he delivered the keynote address to the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) 61st Annual Conference at the party’s George Street headquarters on Sunday.
The escalating cost of providing health care to citizens was a major focus of Stuart’s address to the packed auditorium, and he acknowledged that his administration has had to look for ways to finance it, “if we are to retain its best features”.
Stating that the Ministry of Health was pursuing a solution, the Prime Minister gave no further details.
However, Minster of Finance Chris Sinckler announced last week during the presentation of the 2016 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals that a National Social Responsibility Levy would be imposed on imports to finance healthcare.
Noting that medical workers and the general public were demanding better equipment and services, Stuart told DLP delegates that “these are all legitimate concerns and must be addressed, but they come at a cost”.
“The greatest contribution which citizens can make to this general effort, however, is to take better care of their health so that we can become a society that increasingly deals with health issues preventively at much lower cost, rather than curatively at much higher cost,” the Prime Minister advised.
Stuart described calls for more reliable public transportation as a “state of bliss [that] has eluded us so far” but said it was still an achievable goal.
He conceded that to achieve this goal, the Government-run Transport Board needed more resources, a more efficient and economical source of spare parts, a highly motivated workforce and the continued commitment of its management.
“I am aware that the Minister of Transport and Works is in determined pursuit of that laudable ideal, but that too comes at a cost,” he added.
In a wide-ranging speech he also touched on waste collection and disposal and education, vowing the DLP would not compromise the way it delivers education, and making it clear waste disposal required a properly resourced Sanitation Service Authority.
Even as he acknowledged that many public services needed improvement, Stuart insisted that Barbadians had benefited from good healthcare, education and social security systems, among other public services, in the last five decades.
“Present challenges should not blind us . . . to the fact that between 1966 and 2016, Barbadians have enjoyed one of the most accessible and affordable healthcare systems in the Western Hemisphere; that we have enjoyed one of the best education systems in this hemisphere; to the fact that we have one of the best social security systems in this hemisphere; that we have been able to benefit from the exertions of one of the most efficient and well trained public services in this hemisphere,” Prime Minister Stuart said.