BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – The main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) continued its criticism of the Freundel Stuart government as it urged supporters to ensure the defeat of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in the February 21 general election.
BLP leader, Owen Arthur, addressing a public meeting in the heart of the capital on Monday night, said that the island deserves better than the “failed government” now in power since it has failed the country in five years.
“It is clear this is a broken Government. This is a failed government. They should be giving account of what they have done. Barbadians are hurting. They want this government to say when the hurting will stop. But we will stop the hurting.
“Barbados is more than economy, it is a society,” Arthur said, noting that without a strong economy, the society cannot progress. He described the economy in its current state as “shrinking”.
“This notion that you can create a great society but don’t have a strong economy is a fallacy and a folly proven over and over again.
“ In order to build a good society, the country must be able to produce goods and services more and more…. Every year the Barbados economy has been getting smaller and smaller and smaller,” Arthur told supporters.
He said that DLP government has been responsible for the increasing cost of living as well as not being able to address wage issues.
“It is unconscionable that there has been no wage settlement in this country in the public service since 2008, while at the same time, people’s prices have risen by over 30 per cent. So if your income is frozen and prices rise by 30 per cent, you are 30 per cent worse off,” Arthur said, making references to several “promises” that would be released “in the coming days” in the party’s manifesto.
“As soon as practicable a Barbados Labour Party government has to negotiate a wage settlement with people who are in this dangerous situation… and you have to do it in such a way that you can give some tax relief to those in the middle class and give a bigger percentage to those at the bottom. We commit to doing that for you,” Arthur said.
Arthur has also indicated that a BLP government would address the collapse of the regional insurance giant, CLICO and its impact on locals.
“There are serious actions that have to ensure that a Labour Party government will make sure to bring justice to those who are suffering and justice to those who have done wrong,” Arthur said, with respect to the collapse of the Trinidad-based insurance company and the loss of billions of dollars for policy holders across the region.
Arthur said that under the existing insurance laws, a company has to put assets in a fund so that when policies fall due they can be paid.
He said the law also states that if the money in the fund is not equivalent to its liabilities, the Minister of Finance should not get involved, but that the Supervisor of Insurance should immediately apply to the court to put the company under judicial management. He said that this was not the case with CLICO.
“Many of the decisions that were made that have these people that can’t get back their money, were made when (the late prime minister) David Thompson was Minister of Finance, and I say that (because) the law states that if it is discovered, and it was discovered in 2008, that the assets set aside to give you back your money are not enough – you had to apply to the court, and that it was mandatory.
“What did David Thompson do? He sought not to let the law take its course,” Arthur said, adding that the sooner the CLICO issue is addressed, the sooner Barbados can get back on track.
“The people who have been affected by CLICO have been affected because the system failed them, and the system must not be allowed to fail them anymore…. There is a way we can fix this problem through a combination of cash, through a combination of investment instruments and giving some element of tax relief to those who don’t get cash – companies especially,” Arthur said.