Bert bites

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The Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme is flourishing, but the people of Barbados are suffering.

This was the assessment of Democratic Labour Party spokesman Andre Worrell in response to positive reports from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Barbados economic progress under the Fund’s Extended Fund Facility (EFF).

During a Sunday evening meeting of the DLP’s St Michael Central branch, Worrell told a packed classroom at the Combermere School that Barbados’ progress in the economic reform programme has come at the expense of an excessive amount of public sector jobs and services.

“Right now the Government is in a position where they have to meet their target of a six per cent surplus by the end of the financial year in March next year. In order to meet that surplus, we are feeling it because we have had to pay more taxes,” he told party faithful.

“They have put on additional money on the water bill, the garbage and sewage collection which we were paying for over a year and Barbadians are still getting problems with garbage collection. So where is that money going? We have flies and rats all over the place and people are jumping for joy when they see a garbage truck, so we don’t see the benefit of that. We see the increase in bus fares, so we know how they are meeting their surplus because the poor people are paying this increase from $2.00 to $3.50 and we have not seen much of an improvement in the bus service from Transport Board.”

Earlier this month, a delegation headed by IMF head of mission to Barbados, Bert Van Selm reported that all of Government’s targets under the EFF were met. In addition, the team reported the primary surplus was met with a wide margin, with Government running a primary surplus of 2.5 per cent of annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2019-2020 financial year.

Furthermore, the BERT Monitoring Committee, the independent overseer, which includes labour, and business representatives tasked with closely monitoring the process, expressed confidence in the Mia Mottley administration’s ability to follow the plan to its conclusion.

The DLP spokesperson charged local trade unions to be more vocal in opposition to Government’s policies that affect workers.

Worrell said: “The general secretary of the [Barbados] Workers’ Union may have been the best spokesperson for the committee at that time. We all know BERT has come down hardest on the workers in Barbados.

“We believe there are additional persons to go home and some of the workers who have gone home are still without outstanding payments. So when you say that BERT is reaching its target, BERT may be reaching its targets on paper in terms of the taxes that we the people of Barbados have no choice but to pay.

“The people of Barbados are suffering. A lot of persons are still unemployed and retrenched and the union people are now crying, because they thought that after the people were sent home, they would find new jobs.  When they say that BERT is doing well, the people are Barbados are suffering and when BERT does well, the people of Barbados suffer,” Worrell concluded.
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