Bajans ‘too comfortable’ – Minister

(Barbados Nation) A member of Cabinet is warning that Barbadians may have become too comfortable and it could be the basis of the country’s “destruction”.

The assessment has come from Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Maxine McClean, as she led debate in the Upper Chamber yesterday on the 2014-2015 Appropriation Bill which includes Government’s Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the new financial year.

McClean, who is also Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, used the occasion to call on people working in the public and private sectors to commit to be more efficient, effective and productive, “and to go home being comfortable in the knowledge that we have made a contribution to the organisation to achieving its goals”.

At the same time, she noted that as a country “we have grown comfortable because of many of the social investments we have made over the years and continue to make”.

She added: “It is in that comfort that I believe that the seeds of destruction are sown if we do not believe that we have to work hard to maintain our own comfort and to contribute to the comfort of others.”

During the pre-lunch session that followed a week of debate in the Lower House where the Appropriation Bill was passed, McClean said when examining the Estimates, one should not just look at what cuts had been made in allocations to the various ministries.

She conceded that the budgets of the various ministries had been reduced. However, she warned that people should bear in mind that “expenditures must bear some relationship with revenues” as the administration tried to bring its finances in line.

McClean said the fall in Government revenues was due in part to deficiencies in the tax collection agencies and their processes, but it was also linked to the number of commitments Barbados had made to multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organisation.

Those commitments included the removal or lowering of tariffs on imported goods to allow for free trade between countries.

The minister also highlighted the fact that Government had taken the decision to forgo revenue in an effort to assist the private sector.

In this connection, she made reference to the millions of dollars in direct financial assistance that the Freundel Stuart administration had given to hoteliers and other tourism players following the sharp decline in tourist arrivals and spending as a result of the global financial crisis.

“What we have to do now is to create new bases of revenue generation and as a people we have to work more efficiently,” she told the Senate.

Highlighting her ministry, McClean said allocations there had fallen from $64 million in 2009 to Bds$53 million in 2014.

She stressed that a reduced budget did not automatically translate to reduced services or quality output by the department or ministry.

“My colleagues in the ministry have made an increased commitment to deliver on the resources provided. We have done so against the background of new missions in China, Cuba and Brazil. We now have a total of 13 missions,” McClean explained, despite reduced resources.

 

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