Tale of trips
FREUNDEL STUART, whose current trip to Australia has created something of a furore, has actually travelled less frequently as Prime Minister than Owen Arthur did when the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) took office in 1994.
However, a closer examination of the recent itineraries of Government ministers suggests that the same cannot be said for other key members of the Stuart-led Cabinet, who have racked up significant frequent flier miles over the past nine months.
The SUNDAY SUN undertook a detailed analysis of travel by ministers in both the present and former administrations after former Opposition Leader Mia Mottley raised a red flag last weekend, accusing the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government of engaging in “excessive travelling”.
Mottley said while she understood the need for ministers of Government to be in and out of the country, she felt they needed to be more circumspect given the current economic climate.
This drew an angry retort from Minister of Health Donville Inniss who said members of the BLP should be the last ones to speak since, in his estimation, they had done far more travel during their tenure in office.
In an effort to get to the bottom of the matter, the SUNDAY SUN turned to the Official Gazette for the published records of the temporary assignment of responsibility of ministers.
And so as not to compare apples with oranges, we decided to look at ministerial travel between
January and September of this year for the DLP, which is now well into Year 4 of its first term, and contrast it with the activity of the BLP during the first nine months of 1998.
Back then, the Arthur regime was also into Year 4 of its first term in office, which puts it at the same point of reference as the current DLP Government.
We also checked to make sure that ministers were not away on account of sickness, as was the case earlier this year with Denis Lowe.
It was discovered that Inniss’ assertion is actually inaccurate, since members of the DLP Cabinet were away for 86 occasions between January and September 2011, compared to 70 during the first nine months of 1998.
Our analysis also shows that Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Maxine McClean is by far the most travelled minister in this current administration; but back when the BLP was in office, Prime Minister Arthur, who also carried the portfolios of Minister of Finance, Economic Affairs and the Civil Service, was more travelled than any other member of his team.
Both and he McClean were away on 16 occasions, while Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs David Simmons followed closely behind Arthur’s trail, being out 15 times in total.
Despite recent criticisms of his travel Down Under, Stuart has actually only travelled on nine occasions this year, mostly for summits and other high level engagements.
Interestingly, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy has only been out on five occasions this year, compared to 11 times for Billie Miller when she doubled as both Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism.
More surprisingly though is that both Minister of Health Donville Inniss and Minister of Education Ronald Jones have more accumulated travel than the Minister of Tourism or even Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite for that matter.
Inniss, who was due to leave island again this weekend, was away for nine occasions between January and September 2011, leaving Irene Sandiford-Garner to act for him most of the time, while Jones has been away nine times since the start of the year.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler was also out of office seven times.
Apart from Simmons, Arthur and Miller, much of the travel by the last Government was split between then Minister of International Trade Phillip Goddard; the former Minister of Education, Youth Affairs and Culture Mia Mottley; former Minister of Industry, Commerce and Business Development Reginald Farley; and former Minister of Labour, Community Development and Sport Rudolph “Cappy” Greenidge.