BUSINESS MONDAY: ECONOMIC VIEWPOINT: Gov’t highlights achievements

IMPROVED water delivery systems, more housing solutions, a record breaking tourism industry, a new Renewable Energy sector, and Offshore Medical Training, are some of the successes of the Democratic Labour Party government.
That’s the conclusion of Government Ministers who have spoken repeatedly about what has been done by the Freundel Stuart administration leading up to the elections. However, come Thursday, the electorate will decide whether in view of those and other achievements, and what Government intends to do next, based on its manifesto pledges, to give a third consecutive term to the DLP administration.
Mr. Stuart said his government has unfinished business, so his party deserves another term.
The DLP’s performance was outlined at meetings, starting in Bay Street, as speaker after speaker detailed the achievements against what they said were the odds, and in difficult economic times.
Minister of Housing and Lands, Denis Kellman said that the Government has delivered housing plans at locations around Barbados. He also promised more to come should the ruling party be re-elected. The St. Lucy MP named the several areas where houses were built, where lots were provided, the policy where persons living in Government’s housing estates for 20 years were given the units.
Dr. David Estwick, the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources Management, said that during the last drought, they took a decision to sink wells across the country to boost water supplies. In the areas like St. Joseph and St. Andrew, where water woes became chronic, wells were put down, mains were laid to connect the Golden Ridge Pumping Station and Reservoir in St. George, to the Castle Grant facility in St. Joseph, which services that parish. Work was done at the Belle Pumping Station, in Bridgetown, Christ Church, St. Philip, and St. John to name a few.
The main’s project was financed by a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. In addition, low income earners can now get water tanks, and new desalination plants are being undertaken. One is currently going up at Spring Garden, and others are planned for St. Lucy and for Christ Church. There is a new BWA Building with some of its space currently being occupied by a private sector company. Dr. Estwick said they were using renewable energy to bring down some of the costs of operations at the BWA.

Stuart said Government also introduced several new pieces of legislation to improve the lot of Barbadians, and some departments of government. The adjustment to the Minimum wages act to up minimum wages; it established a pension scheme for BDF personnel; they introduced and passed the Employment Rights Bill; and Health and Safety regulations in the workplace; amended the Act that would protect farmers from crop thieves; and amended the Police Act to help fight crime.

On this score he said his government has rebuilt the Black Rock Police station; opened one at Cane Garden, St. Thomas; is building another at Hastings, Christ Church; completed the Crab Hill police Station; the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Conference Centre; and the St. John Polyclinic. Last week a new Terminal for PSVs was opened.

Stuart said Government has appointed more than 1 000 public officers, and beyond that built two new office complexes at Warrens to house public officers, and is now preparing space in the Carpark next to Furniture Limited to house Immigration Officers. They have built a new Lab just opposite the QEH, are building a new SSA headquarters at Vaucluse, St. Thomas, along with a Waste to Energy project there.

The Prime Minister said further that under Ronald Jones, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, a quiet revolution has taken place in education. New schools have been constructed including the Blackman Gollop, and the rebuilding of the Lodge School. Three nursery schools (thanks to cooperation with the Maria Holder Trust), were also built. The list of schools with sixth forms has been extended, and the student revolving loan fund has been recapitalised.

Jones spoke of more plans for outfitting education. He touched as well on the new Offshore Medical schools which will provide a revenue stream.

Renewable Energy sector is up and running, and there is a Cultural Industries sector.

Tourism Minister Richard Sealy has spoken about what he called the strides in tourism – record arrivals, new investments including Radisson, Sandals and Sam Lords Castle which is to become a Wyndham Property, and in other new hotels. The delayed Hyatt Hotel in Bridgetown could be a reality.

The DLP’s campaign therefore has been to highlight and to defend these policies, while promising others in its manifesto. This is as the Government seeks a third term, achieved only by Owen Arthur and the late Errol Barrow.

However, a sore point for government is the economy which has not been as robust as one would have expected. Growth has been very low, reserves falling, and until recently, inflation has started to increase. These along with the high levels of taxation including the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) have been talking points in the current campaign. The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has promised to do away with the NSRL should that party win the election. However, Finance Minister, Christopher Sinckler, has said the economy is improving.

The DLP has also gone after the BLP’s leader Mia Mottley, as well as the BLP’s manifesto which some commentators and Government Ministers said is loaded with inconsistencies.

With a few more days until the election one waits to see what will happen.

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