Congrats, Minister Sealy

beachesCongrats, Minister Sealy

 

Looking around Barbados we can see that there has been a turnaround in the tourism sector. There is lots of activity at the airport, our beaches are filled with visitors, hotels reporting 100% occupancy, and restaurants are heavily booked. This week the representatives of the recently restructured Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. also confirmed that the tourism numbers are looking up.

 

The news is so good and astounding that it is worth repeating here for our column as we congratulate our Minister of Tourism, The Hon. Richard Sealy as well as the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner. Yet again, the work and the efforts of this DLP administration to strategically restructure and reorganise the economic sectors in Barbados are achieving the desired results.

 

In 2014 the tourism sector ended the year on a positive note. The sector registered a 2.2% increase in overall visitor arrivals. This is a commendable outcome for a sector which had initially projected a decline of 4% for the year. The performance in the sector for 2014 was amazing and should fill Barbadians with confidence that the economy is turning around and showing strong, positive growth.  In December 2014, 61, 128 visitors arrived in Barbados – this figure is the highest for any month since April 2007 when Barbados hosted the Cricket World Cup. So far, the trend of record breaking arrivals is continuing for 2015, with January’s visitor arrivals of 56,132 being the highest for 15 years.

 

Thanks to the dynamic work of the Minister of Tourism and his team, the tourism numbers are turning around. The efforts by this DLP administration to restructure the former Barbados Tourism Authority and refocus our marketing efforts are paying off.

 

From coming to office in 2008, Minister Sealy and his team guided the BTA to seek out new markets for the Barbados tourism product. As a result, a push was made for Barbados to enter the Brazil Market. In 2010 Barbados welcomed its first GOL Airlines flight from Brazil.   As a new market for Barbados, in 2014 the numbers were up by 18%. We have also seen increases from non-traditional European markets such as Germany, Netherland, Belgium and Italy. These markets have shown increases between seven to 17%.

 

Even though the BTMI is exploring new markets, we are still aggressively pursuing our traditional markets such as the UK, USA and Canada.   These markets ended 2014 with commendable numbers showing that resurgence was occurring. For 2015, the UK is up 15%; Canada is up 27%; and the USA is up 14%, the highest growth in that Market since 2011.

 

Clearly the change in the approach of the BTMI and the Ministry of Tourism is helping to strengthen the Barbados Tourism product. The creation of new events such as the “Food, Rum and Wine Festival” are not only responsible for bringing numbers to Barbados but also aids in valuable exposure in the markets. Utilising our international super star Rihanna to promote our tourism product has also contributed to this resurgence in our tourism sector.

 

This administration has also placed a lot of emphasis for having Barbados recognised as an ideal venue for sporting events such as yachting, motor racing, horse racing and this is certainly paying off.   When you consider that over 500 people came in for one sporting event – The Mount Gay Round the island race – that is significant.

 

We are quick to criticise our ministers when things are not going well, but now that they are going in the right direction congratulations are in order and well deserved.   Hard work and determination brings success.

 

“Get Your act together”

It appears that the Opposition Leader has incited her troops to rage war among themselves just to protect her own narrow self- interests.

Out of concern, we ask that the Opposition members get their act together and perhaps draw from the efforts of the Minister of Tourism and try to restructure the Barbados Labour Party.

This constant infighting and lawsuits among the Opposition is really not good for business.

What does the newly “voiced” Women’s league of the Barbados Labour Party have to say about the treatment of their female Member of Parliament, Dr. Maria Agard?

 

Well Done Freundel

Freundel Stuart for PMWell Done Freundel

Saturday, 21st February, will mark two years that the Democratic Labour Party, under the leadership of Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Freundel Stuart, Q.C., M.P, was re-elected to serve the people of Barbados. Every day over those two years we have kept our commitment to the people of Barbados to deliver on our promise to develop a Barbados which is: socially balanced, economically viable, environmentally sound and characterized by good governance.

Our Prime Minister, his Cabinet and members of the parliamentary team have shown that they are capable of managing the affairs of Barbados in the most challenging period that this country has ever gone through. We wish to commend our Prime Minister and party leader for his mature leadership style. He has handled every challenge faced with a fearless resilience and integrity.

Over the two years we have had to make some tough decisions to stabilize the economy of Barbados. The people of Barbados, recognising that this action was indeed necessary, kept the faith with our Prime Minister and the members of the Democratic Labour Party.
Now as we enter our third year in office we can see the signs of recovery on the horizon and we know that our labour was not in vain. The Barbados economy is on a growth path and this Democratic Labour Party administration is assiduously working to deliver on our commitments from the 2013 manifesto.

Last week the Freundel Stuart administration delivered two master strokes. The first was the announcement of the approval of $3 Million in study grants for UWI students. The Second was the announcement by the LIAT shareholder governments that Barbados will become a primary hub for the airline.

When the government asked students to carry a small portion of the cost to finance their education at the University of the West Indies, this DLP administration promised that we would make the bursaries available to students who needed a helping hand. Finally, the support offered by this government to students in need of assistance is available.
This DLP administration has always kept its commitment. The process may have taken longer than originally anticipated. However, we need to do things by the book. Those students who will receive the bursaries, I am sure will be grateful for the assistance even though it was delayed.

After the meeting of the shareholder governments of LIAT on Friday it was announced that LIAT will be taking some strategic steps to reduce its expenses and return the airline to profitability. Among these strategic steps was the decision to make Barbados the primary hub allowing the airline to capitalize on the lucrative southern market. The Caricom market is the third largest market for Barbados’ tourism. As the largest shareholder government the success of LIAT is important to Barbados. The strategic move to bring the employment numbers in line with the size of the fleet being operated as well as streamlining the fleet with one type of aircraft will help to reduce the overheads of the airline and place it on a growth path.

These two initiatives show that the Barbados government is moving strategically to bring about crucial changes which will have a lasting impact locally and regionally. Team DLP is on the job and continues to deliver positive results 2 years after our 2013 election victory. Compare this to the idle members of the opposition Barbados Labour party, who are into their second year of consistently trying to retard the progress of development in this country. A callous and idle opposition into its 40th day of being paid for doing absolutely nothing.

Pop Quiz – Trip down memory lane

The 2007 Auditor General report provided a review of the construction of the Police Station at Crab Hill St. Lucy. The following conclusion was provided:
The construction cost of this project has been rising steadily as a result of the discovery of additional defects, and the current estimated cost is $3 million. When this is added to what has been paid to the previous contractor the total cost of the project will exceed $4 million and this is over $2.6 million more than the original contract.
The Project Manager in a report dated 28th February 2006 noted the following: “This contract suffered for two reasons: lack of competent construction personnel, and finance. In short, a company which is not a construction company is trying to operate in a field alien to its capabilities.”
The payment to the contractor for poor construction work constitutes a waste of Government’s funds, which could probably have been avoided had more care and attention been given to the company’s track record in this field of work, and a more pro-active approach adopted by the Ministry to monitor the work of the contractor. (Source: Auditor General’s Report, 2007, page 72.)

1. We ask the Barbados Labour Party to name the incompetent contractor who was awarded the contract?
2. Provide the name or names of the “sanctimonious hypocrites” who presided over this fiasco?

Labour Minister’s Statement On Unemployment Fund

Labour Minister’s Statement On Unemployment Fund

Published on January 8, 2015 by Ministry of Labour
Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Senator Dr. Esther Byer. (FP)Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Senator Dr. Esther Byer. (FP)

The Barbados National Insurance Scheme (NIS) currently covers all employed and self-employed persons in Barbados and offers five main types of social security benefits from three separate funds.

The National Insurance Fund covers short-term benefits, long-term benefits or pensions and employment injury benefits, while the Unemployment Fund and Severance Fund cover unemployment benefits and severance payments, respectively.

As a result of the weak performance of the Barbados economy in recent years, contribution income for the various funds has declined, while benefit expenditures have increased. Despite this, the National Insurance Fund and the Severance Fund continue to perform extremely well and are generating major surpluses.

Over the 2009 to 2013 period, the National Insurance Fund generated a combined surplus of over $1.15 billion, and the Severance Fund a combined surplus of over $105 million (See Tables 1 & 2 for annual performancefrom 2009 to 2013, and up to the end of October 2014).

At the recently concluded 14th Actuarial Review, the consultant actuary was of the view that no adjustments were needed to these funds. As is to be expected, the Unemployment Fund has felt the brunt of the recession.

As the unemployment rate has increased, contribution income to the Unemployment Fund has declined, unemployment benefit expenditures have increased, and as a result, the fund has experienced deficits (see Table 3). This happens whenever there is a prolonged period of low employment.

The Unemployment Fund was also impacted in an accounting sense by the transfer of $10 million to the Re-Training Fund. These funds had never belonged to the Unemployment Fund but had been lodged there over many years until the legal and other work for the Re-Training Fund was completed.

The nature of an Unemployment Fund is such that during periods of strong economic growth and low unemployment, the fund should generate surpluses which are then invested to provide a cushion for the inevitable recessions, with high unemployment and deficits on the fund.

Therefore, despite the deficits being experienced, the Unemployment Fund has been able to fully meet its commitments by drawing down on the investment assets that have been built up for that purpose.

At the recently concluded 14th Actuarial Review, the consultant actuary noted that while the NIS has two funds to deal with periods of increasing unemployment, one of the funds, the Unemployment Fund, was experiencing deficits, while the other, the Severance Fund, continued to generate surpluses.

It was, therefore, recommended that in order to reduce the draw-down of the investment assets of the Unemployment Fund and shore up the fund, a sum of money be transferred to it from the Severance Fund. The NIS Board sought an opinion from the Solicitor-General as to the legality of such a transfer, and it was indicated that such a transfer should not be undertaken.

As an alternative, the Board recommended to Cabinet that employers’ contributions to the Severance Fund be suspended for a period of two years and instead the contributions by employers to the Unemployment Fund be increased by the same amount for the two-year period.

This was viewed as a better option than increasing contributions by employees and employers to the Unemployment Fund, especially at this difficult time. I want to assure Barbadians that Government is committed to the preservation and continued success of the Unemployment Fund and has already made two decisions that will shore up the Fund.

Firstly, Cabinet has accepted the Board’s recommendation just described for the suspension of contributions to the Severance Fund and a concomitant increase in employers’ contributions to the Unemployment Fund for a two-year period.

The relevant legislative changes will be made in Parliament shortly and the policy implemented. Secondly, Cabinet has agreed to provide a further cash injection of $12.5 million to the Unemployment Fund. These measures will shore up the Fund and ensure that all Barbadians who have contributed and qualify for unemployment benefits will have protection during periods of unemployment.

The other four types of security benefits (short-term, including sickness and maternity; long-term or pensions, employment injury and severance) are not affected. Additionally, the investment portfolio is also sound as investments internationally, regionally and locally are performing satisfactorily.

While some may have an interest in putting a political spin on matters relating to the NIS and seek to create panic among the population, I am presenting you with the plain facts and the decisions that have been taken to ensure that the NIS remains your lifeline.

Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development

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