MInister Lowe noted that the budget covered environmental sustainability which is part of the mandate for his ministry. The Issue of renewable energy is what the government promised in restructuring the economy by giving rise to sustainable industries. The renewable energy sector is one of the most promising sectors in Barbados.
In referring to the reply to the budget offered by the Leader of the Opposition, the minister said that he sat in horror hearing the Leader of the Opposition trying to black eye the destroyed the Deltro project. She said it was another Cahill and will contaminate the water supply in Waterford.
To dismiss the fear and rumor mongering which was started by the opposition leader in connection to the project; The Minister of the Environment provided the house with details on the project.
The project is a proposal to built a 20 mw solar farm at Waterford. The area at Waterford which is over 200 acres was identified for a botanical garden on 50 acres. The solar farm would utilize some 60 acres of the available 200 acres. This he said dismissed the claim by the leader of the opposition that the solar farm would affect the planned botanical garden.
He further noted that a previous Barbados Labour Party minister of the environment had said that the Waterford land is an ideal area where renewable projects can be built. He noted that he was alarmed by the change in the position of the Barbados Labour Party now.
He also provided an explanation for why the farmer who had cows on the land was recited and stated that the ministry provided assistance and alternative land to the farmer.
The 60 acres for the Deltro project is just about a small portion of the total land available at Waterford. When the land is taken out for the solar project and the botanical gardens there will still be another 100 acres of land available.
The Minister further assured Barbadians that the project had been submitted to town and country planning for approval and to other regulatory agencies for the necessary approval.
Choosing to light a candle rather than curse the darkness independent member of parliament for Christ Church West stated that she had no fundamental issues with the 2016 Budgetary Proposals. She used her contribution to the 2016 budgetary proposals to highlight those measures which in her opinion benefited her and the people of Barbados as well as offering some worthy constructive criticisms and useful suggestions.
The member for Christ Church West stated that she hoped that as we turn the corner and we are on a path of prosperity that those persons who had fallen behind would be uplifted. “When you consider that there is a promise of almost 1 billion in investment pending I am hoping this will be equitably distributed” the former member of the BLP stated.
Dr. Agard told the house that the budgetary proposals was a projection of hope and promise. He reported progress with our home grown programme. He also reported short comings where they existed. As a person who operated a business, Dr. Agard supported the view that It is prudent, wise and required to return to policies and adjust depending on the conditions.
The MP for Christ Church west further highlighted the measures which impacted her favourably:
Small and medium size businesses: she welcomed and commended the provision of $50 million dollars for grants and soft loans for small businesses. Dr. Agard urged government to do a study of cottage industry in Barbados to get a sense of their contribution to the country.
Provision of duty free shopping zones for Barbadians and visitors: this would allow government to harness foreign exchange held by Barbadians. It also create further enterprise opportunities for entrepreneurs.
She also noted the increase in the non contributory pension which amounts to $590 dollars a year. She noted that it is commendable that in Barbados in spite of not contributing we can look to bring a level of dignity in the lives of our senior citizens.
The MP for CCW also lauded government for the move to appoint the temporary civil servants. Noting that many of them were unable to obtain loans and mortgages and with this security of tenure they will be able to move forward with their lives. She sees this as a benefit to her constituents and all Barbadians.
She urged the government to make a priority its intention to introduce a National Health Insurance fund. She alerted the government that consumers need to be protected from opportunistic merchants who would take advantage of the the 2% levy. Noting that the consumer will suffer if this is not properly monitored. We must be conscious of the fact that prices are sticky downward.
She also urged the government to be a little more particular in the way the money collected from the levy is distributed stating that the QEH should always be the priority. She urged government to put a cap on the amount which will go to other agencies. This was commended as being a good point by members of the government.
The Minister of Transport of works, The Hon. Michael Lashley, lauded the government for the $5 million dollars which will go towards the clean up campaign for Barbados. The programme which is initially intended to last for 5 months was presented by the Minister of Finance in his Budgetary Proposal in Barbados.
Over the last few months due to the financial constraints of the government the Sanitation Service Authority was unable to fulfill its mandate of Garbage collection.
He also reported that funds were expected soon from CAF which will go towards road repair projects. The amount for these projects is in the region of $10 million dollars.
The much needed road repair project along with the debushing and clean up campaign will generate employment in the country.
Minister of Industry and Commerce, The Hon. Donville Inniss, cautioned the Opposition on their constant efforts to undermine investment in the Barbados economy. He cried down the many attacks of the opposition on potential investors and their attempts to make it seem that Barbados is not a properly regulated business jurisdiction. He said this can run away potential investors, white, black, Indian, Chinese, local, from the region or international investors.
Minister Inniss took issue with the many attacks leveled by the Leader of the Opposition and other members of BLP opposition against the private sector Hyatt hotel project. This project which has as one of its major investors, Businessman Mark Maloney, came under heavy criticism by the opposition. They alleged that the project did not have town and country planning permission, and that it being a 15 story high rise hotel ran the risk of affecting the UNESCO Heritage inscription of the HIstoric Bridgetown and its Garrison.
However, Minister Inniss categorically rejected these misleading accusations as being without merit. He informed the House of Assembly in his contribution to the 2016 budget that the Hyatt project has undergone significant regulatory assessments including and assessment on its impact on the heritage inscription. Environmental impact assessments were also conducted and plans were submitted to town planning for approval to which conditional approval was given and the developers are responding to the terms of the conditional approval.
The minister of commerce and industry warned that these attempts by the opposition to give the impression that Barbados is not a properly regulated business jurisdiction will harm the reputation of the country. It is simply not true and the opposition should stop practicing their scorch earth politics.
Investments such as the Hyatt Hotel can provide close to 500 jobs to people of Barbados. it is not only an opportunity for the investor but for small businesses which can also benefit from providing meals to workers during the construction period. The project will also bring life and other investment to the city.
Quoting from the reviews of the budgetary proposals published by accounting firms in Barbados , Minister John Boyce noted that in relation to the National Social Responsibility Levy that the reviews indicated that, “…while this measure is most likely to be unpopular its imposition may be justified to address certain important social objectives.” He further stated that this speaks to the success of the engagement of the people of Barbados on the question of financing of health care for Barbados which was carried out by the Ministry of Health. Minister Boyce stated that, “as we contemplate a permanent solution of a health insurance fund it (the levy) allows that extra injection of capital directly into the health care sector but into other social programmes such as sanitation and social care.”
The Minister noted that the opposition were invited to the discussion on healthcare financing which were organised by the Ministry of Health. With the exception of the MP for St. Thomas there was hardly any participation by the opposition in the discussions. It got even worse, he said, after they expelled the MP for Christ Church West. He scolded the opposition on their repeated calls for opportunities to be involved in decision makings however they do not participate when invited.
The Minister informed that Barbados is being lauded by the World Health Organisation for its ability to implement the tax on sweeten beverages. To the extent that Barbados has been invited to make a presentation to China on the implementation of the policy. This initiative was criticized by the member for the City who argued that the tax only served to make these beverages more expensive for persons who could only afford to use the these kind of beverages. However, the Minister further supported the tax as it will help Barbados to fight the battle with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension which affect the population and cost the healthcare millions of dollars annually.
In concluding his presentation Minister Boyce assured the people of Barbados that, “the Money which we expect from the levy will be carefully utilized to make sure that we keep the QEH in a condition that it can continue to deliver quality service to Barbados.”