The controversial David Estwick economic alternative plan, designed to restore growth and stability to Barbados, came up for debate in the House of Assembly yesterday with the leader of business for the Opposition, Kerrie Symmonds, accusing Government of remaining mute on the matter.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones rose to Symmonds’ challenge, informing Parliament that there were some points in Estwick’s plan worthy of Cabinet’s consideration.
This after Symmonds noted that almost the entire Cabinet had spoken [before lunch] in the ongoing debate on the 2014-2015 Estimates Of Revenue And Expenditure, but that the most glaring omission in their speeches, related to the “very substantive anbd weighty opinion on the state of the recession we are in, our prospects to moving to stability and ultimately to growth, as posited by the honourable member for St Philip West, himself, a member of the Government”.
“It is an elephant in the room that has to be addressed because the Estimates conflict sharply with the opinion and the analysis enuniciated by the member for St Philip West. In that written opinion, that very public document, presented
in very public circumstances to the Cabinet of Barbados and about which the Cabinet of Barbados, up to this point, Sir,
continues to remain mute, as if struck by visitation of God,” the Opposition MP stated.
“That document, proferred by the Member of Parliament for St Philip West, is in itself, a repudiation of Government’s financial policy in the 2011 Budget; it is a repudiation of the Government’s financial policy in the 2012 Budget and also in the 2013 Budget, and by extension, it repudiates the Ministerial Statement, which is an addendum to the August 2013 Budget,” the St James Central parliamentary representative added.
It is his view, therefore, that this matter required and commanded a public response.
He argued that the Government had come to a point where, if it was to be taken seriously, it had to either dissociate itself from the Estimates or refuse to accept the position taken by Estwick, who is Minister of Agriculture and a former Minister of Economic Affairs.
However, Jones welcomed all ideas, pointing out that in a democracy they should be placed in “the pool”, rather than engaging in “bloodletting”.
“There are some words, made a document of the House from Recession To Stability And Growth, which was presented to the Cabinet of Barbados by our colleague and friend the representative for St Philip West . . . and to a man and woman, all of us sat . . . because ideas are not rejected in
the Democratic Labour Party Government. They are all placed there,” Jones declared.
The Minister of Education argued that there was nothing wrong with any member who has a different view or perspective, bringing it and discussing the strengths.
“But to a man, who has spoken, all of a sudden, the presentation, the words is like gospel,” Jones suggested.
“I will not throw away the document,” he gave the assurance. “I will not decry what is in it because there are some points in it, worth further consideration; and we have started that process.” The minister said the major point
in Estwick’s alternative plan was that the country has “an extremely” large debt, and the repayment of that debt.
“Mr Speaker, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture outlines very clearly, wages and salaries, $870.4 million. That’s significant. It’s quite large, within the context of the economy, within the context of the participation of Government in the operation of the business called Barbados,” Jones asserted.
“We know that we must go further. Does that involve restructuring of debt? Yes. Because in fact, if we are able to reduce our debt service payments in a significant way, it means then that we will be able to keep close to us, those persons who might have to go home,” asserted Jones.