Tuesday, April 23, 2024

‘It’s a Govt of consultancies’

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Opposition Leader Ralph Thorne has labelled the Mia Amor Mottley administration as “a Government of consultancies”, arguing that the vast sums used to pay them would be better spent on the people who
need it most.

He lamented that those in need included the temporary workers who are now jobless after the National Clean-up Programme ended March 31 last year.

In his Budget Reply in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, the Democratic Labour Party’s political leader asked how the country was better for “a regime of consultancy” and if the “Government was incompetent”.

He was even more scathing in his criticism of the allocation of $188 million to the Prime Minister’s Office for the 2024-2025 financial year, charging it was the most ever in Barbados’ history and suggested a portion of it could be used to “safely employ people”.

Thorne said as was tradition in Barbados, education received the largest financial allocation ($417.3 million), followed by the Ministry of Health and Wellness ($236 million). However, what was different this time was that Prime Minister’s Office received the third highest sum which was separate from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs’ $185 million for the next financial year which starts on April 1, 2024, and ends on March 31, 2025.

“Please forgive me for shouting but I want my voice to reach those people . . . . While the Prime Minister’s Office is allocated the sum of $188 million in one financial year, we are sending home people in this country. We are telling them they’re not worthy to grace the fields of our employment. What are their children doing tonight? Every one of us in here has represented them.

“I repeat what I said last year when the Government offered to me to submit names of those people for employment – $500 a week – and we sent them home and that is why I quarrelled in here last year . . . . You sent home the poor people. You told them that $500 a week is not good enough for them, but you can put $188 million in a Prime Minister’s Office. Mr Speaker, I want to know tonight where that $188 million is going, where’s it being spent?” he asked.

The Opposition Leader told the House that “67 people were taken to Dubai on a climate change conference by this Government”.

“What glad tidings did they bring back from Dubai, funded by the taxpayers’ money through the Prime Minister’s Office no doubt, while poor people can’t get $500 a week in a little job cleaning the roads of this country, cleaning the grass pieces of this country.”

He added: “Bring back the people to work and you will still have money for the trips, and you will still have your consultants. I have no doubt there are honourable members in this place who want them re-employed. Give yourselves a chance. Speak to the Prime Minister during Cabinet meetings. Have some courage; say something sometimes. Go in there and say, ‘Prime Minister, I want back those jobs for my people’.”

Thorne said the Government was “overspending on itself and overspending on consultants and overspending on overseas travel . . . .

“Justify this to the people of Barbados . . . . Tell them that there’s enough money circulating into the Government coffers to employ them. All of you belong to a Government that is sacrificing poor people in this country for the expensive lifestyle. I say that without fear,” he declared. (GBM)

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