Prime Minister Mia Mottley has given the assurance that her new administration has no intention of sending home an estimated 4,000 workers as it gets ready for talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a bid to turn around the island’s ailing economy.
But, she says her government, which came to office following the May 24 general election, is trying to make sure that the consequences of any adjustment and transformation will be as minimal as possible.
Speaking during a question and answer session after delivering the feature address at the 77th Annual Delegates’ Conference of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) over the weekend, Mottley said “but even when you can’t avoid some losses, there has to be a unit that goes through the names and that first determines…whether this is really adhering to last in, first out…
“I give the country the assurance as we go forward…that there will always be a Household Mitigation Unit in the Prime Minister’s Office to make sure that we don’t only say that we care, but that we care enough to ensure that people are not treated in a way where the sole breadwinners are left on the side of the street; and secondly, that we [don’t] ignore the last in, first out…”
Mottley said that an IMF mission is due in the country this week to continue negotiations and acknowledged that her administration is faced with a “tall order” as it embarks on the plans on “how we are going to transform our government and transform our nation”.
During the session, Prime Minister Mottley also addressed questions relating to the high costs of goods and services even though the National Social Responsibility Levy was removed on July 1.
She said that the Ministry of Commerce had been tasked with tracking the prices and said that it is now seven weeks since the removal of the levy and that Barbadians should now start to experience a reduction in prices.
“So I would expect that from the beginning of September, the Ministry of Commerce would be doing the detailed monitoring because most stock in this country for supermarkets or hardware is about six to eight weeks supply,” she said.
Mottley said that the loan agreement with the IMF would give the country the cheapest access to money, with payback at one per cent and that the accord with the Washington-based financial institution would unlock opportunities for Barbados to receive funds from other entities.
She said that over the next four years, the government would clear all of the arrears to third parties, adding it would be done through negotiations, settlements and staggered payments.
“The people of Barbados must never have the reputation of having a Government again that does not pay its bills to them or to third parties outside of Barbados,” she said, noting that government owes BDS$480 million in income tax arrears.
She said her administration was not in a position to immediately pay off all of the debt.
“We will stick to a programme of paying people over a period of time. Our reckoning is that to clear those arrears will probably take us about two years. Every month, money will be put there to clear those arrears. I give you that assurance. And we will try to do it in a way that reaches as many people as possible up front, even if we have to stagger those to whom we owe large amounts,” she said.