DECLINING “foreign reserves cover” is not a new phenomenon in Barbados.

However, unlike previous governments of the day, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government is not looking to borrow large sums of money to prop up the reserves, nor is it currently seeking to implement credit controls.

This is according to Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Freundel Stuart, who was addressing a DLP St. Michael South branch meeting at the Bay Primary School on Sunday night.

Instead, the Prime Minister stated, “We take the position that you have to pay your way in the world, earn your way and the stage has to be reached that we recognise the need to live within our means and stop financing lifestyles that the country cannot realistically afford and tune our budgets to fit the things we need rather than to finance the things that we just want.”

The Prime Minister said this is an issue that will require educating the people of Barbados about the impact of their spending habits, which go back many years. “Errol Barrow warned about them in 1970. In fact, he used to always say that the problem in Barbados isn’t the high cost of living, it is the cost of high living. That a lot of us want to live too high and therefore live beyond our means and we had to control that.”

He explained that the country has been importing much more than it has been exporting in recent times which led to a dip in the foreign reserves, which according to international standards should be enough for 12 weeks of cover.

The Prime Minister also touched on the topic of devaluation, which he recently discussed at the monthly meeting of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He reiterated that devaluation is off the table.

“Why do countries devalue their currencies? The answer is very simple. If a country is suffering from a chronic balance of payments problem, that is another way of saying if a country is importing more than it is exporting and therefore spending more on imports than it is earning from its exports, and therefore is not able to pay comfortably for its imports, one way of dealing with that challenge is to adjust the exchange rate.

“The reason you adjust the exchange rate is that you want to make it more difficult for people to buy foreign currency to import goods into the country. I want to encourage people to concentrate more on exporting, so that the country can earn more foreign exchange rather than to spend the country’s money on other people’s goods and services.

“The two countries in the Caribbean that have devalued currencies over the years are Guyana and Jamaica, and nobody has ever satisfied that those devaluations have worked any miracles in those two countries. In fact, I think the opposite may be the case.

“So devaluation is not a solution. What ultimately is a solution is our people taking the decision to live within their means and to rely less on what they want, and more on what they need.”

He further explained that credit controls, while used in the past until the danger period passed, are also not an option currently being explored. “We have not done that recently and there are no immediate plans to do it, but a job of serious public education has to take place if we are going to steer clear of these challenges,” he stressed. (JH)

The Democratic Labour Party Mid-Year Conference

Title: The Democratic Labour Party Mid-Year Conference
Location: The Queen’s College School, Husbands, St. James
Description: You are invited to The Democratic Labour Party Mid-Year Conference

On Saturday, 4th March, 2017 From 9:30 AM- 4:00 PM

At The Queen’s College School, Husbands, St. James

Come hear Reports from
Minister of Tourism and International Transport
Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation
Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs
Minister Housing, Lands and Rural Development
Minister of Industry, International Business Commerce and Small Business Development
Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth
Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment & Community Development
Attorney General, Minister of Home Affairs
Minister of Health

The conference is a members’ activity and will be governed by the party’s constitution.

Start Time: 9:30
Date: 2017-03-04
End Time: 16:00

Jones: Hints Of Sabotage At Combermere

Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones.

Education officials are paying attention to “what appears as a deliberate attempt to sabotage the work” which Government, along with its partners, carried out at Combermere School, over the last several months.

Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, disclosed this on Tuesday in the House of Assembly as he delivered a Ministerial Statement on Issues Affecting the Combermere School and Initiatives Taken To Return the School to Full Operation.

Citing incidents which occurred last month, he said: “On Thursday, 26th January, 2017, hand towels and children’s book leaves were found to be blocking drainage pipes in a toilet in the area where some complaints had originated. This act would have allowed sewage gases to have been released into those spaces if they were not identified and corrected by an external plumber and artisan at the school.

“On Monday, the 31st January, a similar incident occurred, which would have had the same effect.  I’m sad, Sir, to report that last week we found after closure of one of the labs, where natural gas is present, that on return of the teacher to that lab, it was found – and that was some 45 minutes after her exit – that two of those natural gas pipes were turned on and left on in that lab. Vigilance has ensured that its impact on the school was nullified.”

The Education Minister gave the assurance that the situation at the school was still being closely monitored.  He told his Parliamentary colleagues that with satisfactory progress having been made in rectifying the problems, Combermere had resumed operations with the return of the 1,130 students and the staff at the opening of this last school term.  And, he also expressed confidence that there would be no further “untamed mysteries compromising operations at the school”.

Addressing the cost of the work, Mr. Jones said the first closure of the school, in 2015, saw approximately $400,000 being spent on testing, guttering, general repairs, examination and cleaning of septic tanks and various manholes, as well as the overall cleaning of the school. Furthermore, he added that to address these matters and challenges that emerged last term, Government made provision for a further $450,000 to be allocated.

According to the Education Minister, some $40,000 was spent on offsite storage and the professional removal of old chemicals; additional toilets for female students to accommodate the large female population at the cost of $40,000; $105,000 for new composite countertops for four of the science labs; and $42,000 for repairs to one prefab for additional teaching space.  It was also noted that $80,000 was spent on cleaning the school plant, internally and externally, inclusive of mould remediation for specific rooms.

However, Mr. Jones pointed out that there are still areas on the school plant requiring attention, including the installation of roof guttering to control flooding north of the Science Block.  And, he added that the undersized existing grease trap in the kitchen needed to be replaced and they were looking to relocate the extractor fans to improve and rectify the ventilation of the school’s sick bay and the secretary/treasurer’s office.

Commending the private professionals who worked on the school “entirely free and without compensation”, Mr. Jones made mention of the voluntary work of Engineer, Grenville Phillips, and the Independent Team of Brian Reece, Greg Parris, Dr. Leah Garner-O’Neal and Ian Weekes.

Two Ministry personnel – Senior Draughtsman of the Education Project Implementation Unit, Andrew Parris; and Combermere’s artisan, Rukti Parris – were also commended for “their unswerving dedication to getting the job done and putting in extended personal time and effort at every stage”.

Combermere was confronted with a series of environmental issues impacting users due to various factors, from May 2014 to December 2016.

To read the full statement on Combermere from Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, please click: Education-Ministers-Statement-on-Combermere-Feb-7 (1)

Waste Hauler Programme Successful

The Waste Hauler programme, introduced by the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) last year, has been declared a success so far.

Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe, expressed his satisfaction with the six-month programme during a recent interview with the Barbados Government Information Service.

Noting that the programme was introduced to assist with waste collection and disposal given the SSA’s aging fleet, Dr. Lowe said the Authority was now able to sustain between 20 to 24 trucks on the road daily.

“Once that level is maintained at the end of the six months, it can be anticipated that some adjustments will be made to the Waste Haulers programme with the private sector,” he indicated.

However, the Minister also signalled that he was in agreement with the call made by the Ministry of Finance for an immediate review of the programme in preparation for the end of the six-month trial period, so as to determine the way forward.

“I have called for a review of the hourly $411 rate and the introduction of a minimum rate requirement, the details of which are still being worked out,” he stated.

Dr. Lowe added that his Ministry also intended to introduce a number of SSA-operated skips to reduce the number currently being rented and operated by the private sector.

“Though there are some areas of concern, I must hasten to point out that this arrangement has made a contribution to the Authority being able to effectively manage the collection and disposal of waste throughout the island,” he stressed.

The programme presently continues to service the parishes of St. Lucy, St. Peter, St. Philip and St. John. However, the Minister indicated that there were adjustments to the St. John route, resulting in the private sector waste haulers assigned there being dispatched to another location, and the SSA’s trucks assigned to St. John to carry out the services required.

“The Authority has been around for many, many years, and we are now seeking to have some re-organisation of the system with a view to addressing some of its operational needs,” Dr. Lowe explained.

Despite the challenges, the Minister commended the SSA’s staff for continuing to deliver “yeomen service to the country”.

250 Families To Benefit From Project

Minister of Social Care, Steve Blackett, chatting with IDB representative in Barbados, Juan Carlos De La Hoz Vinas at the launch of the new social development project at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre

A US$10 million dollar IDB funded project will benefit two hundred and fifty poverty-stricken Barbadian families.

The project, entitled, Strengthening Human and Social Development in Barbados, aims to contribute towards the reduction of extreme poverty and unemployment across the island.

During the launch of the initiative last Friday, Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Steve Blackett, explained that the programme consists of three components:

  1. It aims to reduce poverty through the expansion of the Identification, Stabilization, Enablement and Empowerment (ISEE) BridgeProgramme;
  2. It seeks to reduce unemploymentthrough improved employment agency-related services and demand-driven technical training, and
  3. It will seek to build a stronger network,and where applicable, increase connectivity with the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, and other related institutions on certain programmes.

Minister Blackett stated: “Many of those living in poverty are already feeling their own personal stigma, believing that claiming benefits is embarrassing. We therefore have a duty to try to reduce this feeling and most importantly to ensure that we do not institutionalise that stigma but rather open the doors for progress and opportunity.”

The project, which will be implemented over a five-year period, will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development and will be financed through loan resources from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).