Govt MP wants free bus rides for students reviewed

Two of Government’s flagship social programmes could come under pressure this year as the Freundel Stuart administration explores various avenues to slash a ballooning national deficit of five per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), and worrying debt in excess of 100 per cent of GDP.

Government backbencher James Paul said he was looking forward to some serious discussions this year on what adjustments that could be made to some social services currently enjoyed by Barbadians, including school meals and free bus rides for school children.

Paul acknowledged that it was an election year, and “we will see the best and we will see the worse in people”.

However, he said it was important to have a discussion on these issues in light of the country’s economic situation.

“If it is one thing I would want to emphasize is that, despite what other people say, I would like to promote the best in terms of Barbados and what it means and what we can achieve together . . . and I think it is useful when we go into 2018, we are going to have a debate, we are going to have a debate in which the different options are going to be put on the table in terms of the way forward for this country.

“We are going to have a debate in which we are going to have to choose whether or not the social safety nets that we had provided for our people, whether or not the free bus fares, whether or not the meals for school children [will have to be cut]. All of these things are going to be put on the table and they are going to be challenged,” the Member of Parliament for St Michael West Central stressed.

While Government officials have in the past raised the prospects of shedding some social programmes, Paul is likely to raise eyebrows by zeroing in on these two initiatives.

Earlier this year business executive George Connolly advised the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government that as part of measures to curtail the fiscal debt it should reverse the 2008 signature decision to introduce the free bus rides for school children.

Insisting that he held no “political position” on the issue, Connolly, described as a DLP supporter, told party faithful at the DLP luncheon lecture on March 7 that there was “no way that one could continue to take a product that costs money to produce and give it away for free”.

“If I produce a product that costs a dollar and I make a determination that I am going to give it away, then I am a charity and charities have special rights and privileges,” he said at the time.

Then Prime Minister David Thompson had announced in his 2008 Budget presentation that all schoolchildren in uniform or under 18 years old and carrying identification would be allowed to travel free on the buses.

At the time, Government had allocated an extra $8 million to cover the new free ride service.

The school meals programme dates back to 1963, when it was introduced as a pilot project to provide cooked lunches for 1,600 students in six primary schools.

7 Responses to Govt MP wants free bus rides for students reviewed

  1. Philip Matthews
    Philip Matthews January 2, 2018 at 10:24 pm

    10 years gone, 50 years of progress gone ,

    Reply
  2. Larry Thompson
    Larry Thompson January 2, 2018 at 10:26 pm

    Best thing i heard from wanna

    Reply
  3. Elvis Howard
    Elvis Howard January 2, 2018 at 10:51 pm

    Where you come from all of a sudden and got so much to say. Do you have children going to school . We have to re look what you earning also. Better yet givr some to the much – needed.

    Reply
  4. Cecil Brooks January 2, 2018 at 10:58 pm

    I am at a lost for words when it comes to the actions to solutions
    that comes out the present members of the great DLP party, the Party of the Late Rt Hon Errol Walton Barrow. I have said this before, when you stop free school meals and the free bus fares, you will never put pressure on those who have the means to pay for these services. The people you hurt are the poor. When you did the wholesale holocaust of not paying university fees, those who had the means are still going to U.W.I, the ones who wanted to go but can’t go are the poor. you seem to think that the solution to social programs is to stop them. Social programs are there to help the poor, if you think people should not benefit from social government funding, please make sure it is not the poor. The DLP that was founded by Mr Barrow was to uplift the poor by education. The present members of the DLP should remember not to make any avenue that leads to an education a difficult one. The only people who get hurt when this is done is the poor.

    Reply
  5. Randolph January 3, 2018 at 5:59 am

    James Paul is one who will lose his seat without a doubt.

    Reply
  6. Sheron Inniss January 3, 2018 at 6:40 am

    Free bus fare for school children should never have occurred. The old system of taking care of who could not afford was pretty good. A political gimmick that will bite the DLP in its behind. That for lik them.

    Reply
  7. Sue Donym January 3, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Well, it all depends… if the motive was vote catching, that’s one thing, but if it was meant to help those in need and get school children off the inadequate public transport, then, what’s there to review?

    School meals is a bit different as I believe very few people would object to being asked to pay double ($2) for a week of lunches.

    Reply

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