CONTRIBUTION TO DEBATE ON PRIVATE MEMBER’S RESOLUTION BY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION OF NO CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT ON 10TH MAY, 2016 BY EDMUND G. HINKSON, ST. JAMES NORTH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
Praise to Leader of the Opposition for her outstanding and commendable marathon effort in presenting Resolution.
Substantial majority of St. James North constituents, similarly to other Barbadians, now have no confidence in Government’s ability to take country out of socio-economic malaise of last eight years, to properly and effectively, manage nation’s affairs of state or to govern in the best interest of people. Every day people ask me when are the Elections and what BLP doing about changing the Government.
PM’s statement that you have to experience Good Friday to celebrate Easter Sunday makes no sense in relation to what is going on in present day Barbados. The suffering has gone on for too long and Easter Sunday is nowhere in sight.
- MISGUIDED FISCAL POLICIES, POOR ECONOMIC MANAGEMENT AND FAILED LEADERSHIP
DLP Government came into office in 2008 to bat with a firm foundation laid by outgoing BLP Government. Unemployment was down, foreign reserves were up, Barbados was occupying a leading role in Caricom. Ball started to swing and seam slightly. But DLP batted with very poor technique and soon put team Barbados in trouble. High taxation in first budget, failure to make timely fiscal interventions before 2013 General Elections, followed by continuous fiscal adjustments strategies one after the other starting with 2013 Budget, all of which failed. Result has been over 3,000 laid off from public service after PM on Saturday, 27th October, 2015 assured Barbadians that DLP will not be cutting jobs in the public service. “We are going to protect the people of Barbados and the public service from that kind of political slaughter. It will be a recipe for disaster”. Result of this promise has been that in many cases, not only one but both breadwinners in a household no longer have a job having been fired from government employment. House has been lost, young adults have had to drop out of Cave Hill University and people’s health care has been placed at severe risk. No right-thinking person can have modicum of confidence in this Government which in 2008 told us that they will not “lie, cheat or steal” but has proceeded to break every major Manifesto commitment made to the people.
Government has continued to impose draconian taxes and fees on citizens, over 33 in eight years, whilst removing the vast majority of tax allowances which income earners could have claimed as tax refunds. The Government has used the same kind of thinking which it used to create the problem in its attempt to solve them even although, as Albert Einstein said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
All this whilst restricting the quality of social services which people had become accustomed to receiving paid for by their taxes. This has especially affected the community of persons with disabilities and senior citizens, two categories comprising the most financially vulnerable persons in Barbados. The middle economic class is under increasingly severe pressure while poverty is growing, as revealed in the last study on poverty submitted in 2010 which indicated that 20 per cent of Barbadians at that time were living below the poverty line. End result of Government’s incompetent economic management and political leadership is that Barbados, our beautiful country, has fallen from a lofty ranking of 37th of 182 Nations on the Human Development Index in 2007 to 57th of 188 in 2014. A very large number of Barbadians have no confidence in Government going forward.
- DLP’S ANTI-TRADE UNION STANCE:
This has been most despicable. Mention PM’s condemnation in July last year of NUPW leadership in calling it bullies, irresponsible, etc. BLP under National Heroes Sir Grantley Adams and Sir Hugh Springer founded BWU and was instrumental in legitimizing of trade union activity over 75 years ago. PM’s threat to amend section 49 of the Constitution to curtail trade union’s power is unbecoming of someone holding the office of PM.
- BLUNDERING EDUCATIONAL POLICIES:
Nowhere is this Government’s incompetence to manage and lead our country more patently obvious than in its educational policies or lack thereof and its management of the Ministry of Education. Minister acknowledged as worst Education Minister out of 13 by the press, teachers’ unions, university students, BCC students who now also have to pay tuition fees for their degree programmes, polytechnic students and parents alike.
Country was previously known among small developing countries newly emerged from the trappings of colonialism as having a globally competitive educational system which was the envy of many. Sector after 8 ½ years under Jones is lurching from crisis to crisis.
Inability to resolve industrial relations disputes with respective teachers’ unions, as “shoot off heads and crack skulls mentality” has been adopted. BUT members are now “on work to rule.”
Inability to resolve growing number of issues related to student on student violence, conflict between teachers and students, principals and teachers, principals and teachers on the one hand and parents on the other hand and teachers and the Ministry. Jones’ approach has been to label some children as “demonic” and to establish a committee two weeks ago to investigate violence in schools which, he says, will provide recommendations as to its resolution.
This decision is a complete dereliction of the ministerial duty of Jones as the person entrusted with the very important political mandate for the educational development of our people, especially our youth. It is indicative of why the general population and the stakeholders in education have no confidence in him as Minister. Numerous studies already have been undertaken. The establishment of committee is merely a substitute for decisive political action which is required. The Education Act and Regulations have sufficient teeth to effectively deal with this issue. We have no confidence in this Minister.
This government has failed to reform curriculum after 15 years to make it more relevant to modern day Barbados. The Education Ministry is now apparently preoccupied with partisan politics.
There has been a refusal by Minister Jones, a former BUT President being advised by a Chief Education Officer and Parliamentary Secretary, both former union head and secretary respectively, to meet with teachers. My advice to the teachers is not to meet with him or with those in cabinet who have publicly voiced support for him when they come to ask you for a vote.
Failure to appoint 100’s of eligible teachers to permanent positions in spite of promises to do so.
Failure to resolve a plethora of environmental issues at a myriad number of schools, as the Ministry has no policy of proper maintenance of the school plant and infrastructure.
Failure to establish Teachers Service Commission provided for in the Constitution of Barbados as promised to the teachers on 6th September, 2012. Minister Jones then told them that the paper to establish this Commission had already gone to Cabinet.
Jones has presided over the dismantlement of 50 years of hitherto previously free university education for Barbadians, resulting in the loss of hope for 1,000’s of Barbadians from working class backgrounds. No Barbados government has ever been able to afford free university education but all of our governments previous to this one did. PM had in October 2012 committed to Barbadians that the DLP will continue to fully fund UWI education of our citizens. This promise was broken within one year afterwards.
Failure to clearly enunciate policies relating to funding of tuition fees of some UWI students, whether it is by way of bursaries or grants, again resulting in hundreds dropping out.
Jones should be removed as Education Minister. Furthermore, he has failed to honour pledge and commitment to this Parliament first made 14 months ago and repeated in March this year to deliver policy documents relating to education to the Opposition Party. Under Westminster system, he is no longer fit to be a cabinet minister.
- LACK OF TRUST:
The people have lost trust in this Government led by a PM who has presided over an administration which has been marked by broken promises after broken promises. Ultimately he has to take full responsibility for his party’s failure to honour its commitments.
- PROPOSED CABINET MEMBERS’ SALARY INCREASE:
Government’s display of callousness, insensitivity and contempt for Barbadians is demonstrated by Resolution which was laid in Parliament last week to raise salaries by ten per cent in a situation where public servants have not had a salary increase, bar increments, for the last 7 years. These Ministers are effectively telling the public who pay them and who they should serve that they cannot exist on a monthly salary of $13,000.00 plus travel and entertainment allowances plus over US$150.00 each day whenever they travel overseas as they frequently do flying first class. However, the DLP government is telling the electorate that the 1000s who have been fired from their government employment and are still unemployed as well as those who have not received their termination pay or even vacation pay after over two years must find a way to survive.
- LACK OF COMMITMENT TO PROPER GOVERNANCE:
PM has to take responsibility of failure of Government to enact Prevention of Corruption Legislation. The AG’s recent statement that those who draw reference to this failure are making “stupid noises” demonstrates that he too is not fit to be the principal legal advisor to the government.
There is a total lack of accountability and transparency in Government. No Freedom of Information Legislation. These are further breaches of 2008 Manifesto promises.
- COVENANT OF HOPE:
We in the BLP today pledge to restore hope to our country’s youth as opposed to the hopelessness that many are now experiencing under DLP. We will create a safe and nurturing environment within which they can grow to their maximum potential. We will aim to create through our policies, a new generation of confident and capable, multilingual world class citizens, as we are capable of doing. We will give them the skills and provide them with the opportunities which will allow them in turn to make our Barbadian brand again the envy of other small developing countries.
I fully support this Resolution and call on the Government to dissolve Parliament and place the fate of our citizens during the foreseeable future in the hands of the electorate, since we cannot continue on this path for another 20 odd months.