The Parliamentary Representative for Barbuda, Trevor Walker; in his usually flamboyant style of debate, has told the House of Assembly that the only way to oust the ABLP government from office is through prayers
Walker likened the government leadership style to the children of Israel who were asked by Pharoah to make bricks without straws.
“Moses said how on earth are we going to make bricks without straws and he had to pray to almighty God for deliverance. This is what we have to do with this government, pray to God for deliverance” he said
Walker was trying to make the point that tightening up concessions for businesses could only cause local entrepreneurs to go under. He argued that some of these businesses are barely making a profit.
In his 1.8 billion dollar budget, Finance Minister Gaston Browne said duty fee concessions will be limited, to allow the government to collect much-needed revenue.
“Mr. Speaker, this government owes contractors hundreds of millions of dollars,… and small businesses’ cash flow has dried up because when they go, there is no money at the Treasury. Some of them get, bamboozled at the ministries… The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, small businesses are hurting in that they have issues in paying payroll taxes, some of them owe Social Security, hundreds of thousands, Medical Benefits, Education Levy because they just cannot get remunerated for services given to government,” Walker said.
The very outspoken Barbuda MP said parts of the budget, especially the sections that deal with the government’s handling of businesses in Antigua and Barbuda, perhaps weren’t thought through properly.
“So instead of helping Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and member for City West came to this parliament and tightened the noose… come with your money, come with your cash. Notwithstanding, we owe you hundreds of thousands of dollars. And you want to tell me that that’s a caring government, that you’re promoting small businesses, that you want businesses to prosper in this country?”, Walker said
Meanwhile, Walker said the $145 million extra in savings that Prime Minister Browne spoke about in his budget does not represent the ordinary people or even the middle class.
“Mr. Speaker, when you look at the situation in Antigua and Barbuda, notwithstanding what was said, walk around this country, take a drive in Saint John’s, go down the road, Market Street, and so on, and an average day and you tell me with the GDP growth that is mentioned in this budget, whether or not the ordinary people in Antigua and Barbuda have felt it, whether or not they’re satisfied. Tell me whether or not they’re satisfied,” Walker said.
Adding, “tell me whether or not they can tell you that they’re saving more. They can pay their bills earlier than they do now. Whether or not they’re paying their school fees, whether or not they’re meeting their mortgages regularly and on time”.
Walker said even the economic growth mentioned in the budget was exaggerated.
“Can you say honestly that you felt that 8.2% growth or whatever was mentioned in this budget? Are you better off? Have you seen any improvements in your standard of living? I’m quite sure, Mr. Speaker, the answer will be a resounding no. So yes, people are saving and people are putting money in the banks. But who are these people?” he added.
He also criticized sections of the budget that talked about an increase in spending on wages and salaries from $394,000,000 in 2021 to $423,000,000in 2022 which was due to the implementation of salary upgrades to certain categories of public workers.
“The operative word is certain. This is due to salary upgrades for certain categories of public workers. Mr. Speaker, all public service and public sector workers deserve an increase. Certain public sector workers, Mr. Speaker, some of them are more important than others. Mr. Speaker, this government ought to be chastised for not being able to deliver for the people of Antigua and Barbuda when it comes to wage increases,” he said.
He also talked about incomplete salary negotiations between the government and several bargaining agents.