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PEP COLUMN: Preserve welfare and tackle unemployment

rhondathompson, [email protected]

PEP COLUMN: Preserve welfare and tackle unemployment

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Our Rescue Plan to save Barbados from recession began with proposals for absolutely essential measures to re-establish the soundness of the finances of our Government and to restore the purchasing power of the Barbadian people.
But even while this foundation of financial reforms is being put in place, our Government must bestir itself and come to the assistance of citizens who are facing unemployment or are otherwise in poverty and distress!
To begin with, our Government must commit itself to preserving and maintaining all of our nation’s existing welfare services and programmes! And, of course, this is no mere academic matter. Our new Minister of Finance recently delivered his first Budget presentation, and we are publicly calling on him not to touch Government’s existing welfare programmes! If cuts are to be made to Government’s national programme, let them be made elsewhere!
We Barbadians must insist on Barbados being a “civilised” society. And in a civilised society, when economic conditions become difficult, the poor and destitute are not abandoned! In fact, it is precisely in such difficult times that Government must show its true worth as the principal defender of the general welfare of the people.
The services and programmes that we consider to be absolutely sacrosanct are as follows: the Welfare Department, National Assistance Board, National Disabilities Unit, Barbados Council for the Disabled, the Child Care Board, Poverty Alleviation Bureau, National Drug Service, the Geriatric and District Hospitals, National HIV/AIDS Commission, Children’s Development Centre and the School Meals Department. All together, these agencies and programmes account for approximately $180 million out of Government’s total estimated expenditure of $3.6 billion for fiscal year 2009-10, an extremely modest proportion indeed.
But preserving the funding of these essential welfare services is not all that is demanded of Mr Sinckler and the current Democratic Labour Party administration. They must also go on to establish a public works programme that will come to the rescue of the rising number of unemployed Barbadians!
The specific public works programme that we have in mind is an environmental programme directed towards dealing with such pressing environmental issues as flooding and soil and beach erosion. We envisage a number of labour intensive projects devoted to creating new drainage infrastructure, re-establishing critical suck wells and protective vegetation cover, as well as a variety of beach and reef protection measures. And, needless to say the persons to be employed in this public works programme would be drawn primarily from the ranks of the currently unemployed.
But where, you may ask, is the funding to come from? Well, we believe that the Barbados Government can access international grant funding for such an environmental protection project under the broad international “global warming and climate change agenda”.
Left to us, we would bring together the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Environment and Drainage and put them to work on accessing international funding for Barbados from such entities as the Global Environmental Fund established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Control.
• The PEP column represents the views of the People’s Empowerment Party. Email [email protected]

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