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Arthur: No need to hurt poor

rhondathompson, [email protected]

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Opposition Leader Owen Arthur has asked Government to set up a special commission to help it fix economic problems without hurting the poor and vulnerable groups, including university students.
The former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance made the call on Sunday evening while addressing the St Peter constituency branch of the Barbados Labour Party at the Alma Parris School in Speightstown.
He said the commission, which should be drawn “from the best minds in Barbados”, would deal with the kinds of issues highlighted in the 2010-11 national Budget, including how to narrow the wide gap between Government’s spending and its revenue.
It would explore options available to Government other than drastically cutting services in order to reduce its spending, Arthur explained.
He complained that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s recent Budget presentation was more focused on getting the mathematics right and on cutting, with the result that university students and poor people seeking free access to medicines were hurt.
 “The vulnerable in Barbados, the poor must continue to enjoy access without costs to the critical services that make a difference to their life, no matter what is the financial problem
facing the Government of Barbados,” Arthur told the gathering.
“We must start with that as a non-negotiable position. The very poorest of the poor must continue to enjoy access to education and to health care. There must not be so much a cutting as a reform and innovation.”
Arthur argued that in exploring the options, Government might well get the same, or even better and more cost-effective delivery “without having to expend even more sums of money”.
He warned that unless there was a shift in how Government tackled the fiscal deficit “the vulnerable and the poor will have to fend for themselves” and “the basis upon which Barbados has risen to the top among developing countries, as the country with the highest quality of life, will go under”.
Arthur said Government needed to explore options such as “selling something” if it has “a revenue problem and it’s only temporary”. (TY)