Government faces parliamentary test

Barbadians are now worse off today than they were back in 2008 when the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) left office.

This was the contention of Opposition Leader Mia Mottley today as she formally tabled her third no-confidence motion in the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government.

The five-page motion, which now has to be fully debated in Parliament, amounts to a scathing attack on the performance of the Freundel Stuart administration.

In it, Mottley accuses Government of all manner of evil to do with its handling of the island’s economy, including failure of its overall fiscal strategy, which she said was highlighted by the country’s worsening debt situation and its declining foreign reserves position and had also contributed to Barbados now having a “nominally” smaller economy than it did eight years ago.

In presenting the motion to the House, the Opposition Leader also charged that there had been “a dramatic deterioration in the disposable incomes and a decline in the quality of life of Barbadians of all income levels”, resulting from a wage freeze in the public sector and parts of the private sector; Government’s imposition of over 33 increases in taxes and fees over the course of the last eight years; its removal of allowances and deductions for income tax purposes and persistent increases in the cost of living.

At the same time, Mottley said Government had been faced with “severe cash flow difficulties” which had affected its ability to pay substantial arrears to Barbadians, including income tax, corporation tax and Value Added Tax refunds.

Furthermore, she told the House today that “the Central Bank of Barbados has, in spite of multiple and diverse warnings, persisted in the printing of money to support the Government’s desire not to default on local debt, such that it now holds $1.1 billion in exposure to Government paper up from $20.5 million in 2007, thereby putting at risk the exchange rate peg.

“[In addition] the NIS [National Insurance Scheme] continues to be also used as a means of financing Government’s mounting unsustainable deficit, such that at December 31, 2015 the NIS held over $3.2 billion in Government paper while at the same time being owed about $240 million in arrears by the said Government of Barbados,” she added.

She further attacked Government, saying it had “persistently refused to take Barbadians into its confidence” in relation to new or revised policy pronouncements which “threaten to have a negative impact on the well being and fundamental rights of the populace”.

In this regard, she pointed to the administration’s decision to introduce “compulsory fingerprinting at ports of entry”.

She also singled out the Catastrophe Fund, which was established to mitigate losses of Barbadians from natural disasters. However, during last year’s Budget, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler said Government intended to repeal the legislation which etablished the Fund, currently managed by the National Insurance Scheme, so that approximately $20 million of the Fund’s $42 million could be diverted to a new Health Care Capital Expenditure Fund.

Today, Mottley also accused Government of acting in “a high-handed and contemptuous manner” by refusing to disclose the particulars of several memoranda of understanding or other agreements, including, but no limited to, the Sandals MOU and “the diverse Cahill Agreements, into which they have entered in the name of the people of Barbados and which have an impact on the well-being of the population, environment and economy of the country”.

And without making mention of the word “elections”, Mottley suggested that the time had come for the Prime Minister to throw in the towel by calling an early poll.

“Be it resolved that this Honourable House has no confidence in the Government of Barbados to properly and effectively manage the affairs of state over the next 22 months of its constitutional term of office, in the best interest of the country and its people,” said Mottley whose motion is unlikely to succeed, given Government’s majority in the House.

The ruling DLP currently commands 16 of the 30 seats in the House of Assembly, with the BLP assured of the support of 12 MPs, following its dismissal of Christ Church West MP Dr Maria Agard last November, and the decision by former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, who is the current representative for St Peter, to quit the party back in July, 2014.

Mottley had previously filed similar submissions on the CLICO issue in 2008 and one against Sinckler in 2013 over his fiscal strategy.

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