From deep in the mouth of our AG
OUR?GOVERNMENT MINISTERS never fail to empty their guts in New York.
It may be the vastness of the place and its quick pace that open up mouths hitherto closed to the people they represent at home.
Or maybe there is safety in distance from the electorate. The irony is, word comes back to them anyhow. Still, in a way, we must acknowledge Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite’s honesty on his Government’s investment in Four Seasons and his confession about seeking to influence the Minister of Finance to restore the old tax-free allowances.
In the latter case, the Attorney General at a meeting in Brooklyn of the Friends of Barbados (DLP) Association told the faithful that he was minded to confess to demonstrate the Government took tough decisions “to run the country effectively”.
It may have slipped his mind that the retired tax commissioner Frank Forde had declared again and again that the allowance practice of Governments over the years was illegal, no matter how well intentioned. Still, Mr Brathwaite would be swayed in the “right” direction, when he acknowledged the Minister of Finance’s approach to his request as an example of national courage needed.
As he intimated, “not [making] decisions just to be re-elected and then [trying] to figure out how to fix it down the road” he had come to accept was not the way. This after expressing concern to the Minister of Finance of the Democratic Labour Party’s chances of re-election being damaged if these allowances were not returned.
Barbadians would have to settle for a revision of the tax bands, with the lowest rate of personal tax reduced from 20 per cent to 17.5 on income less than $30 000 annually as a make-good.
Far more surprising was the Attorney General’s take on the stalled Four Seasons project. He told party supporters that if he had his way, the Government would not have committed itself to the development. As far as he was concerned, it was a private venture, and its investors should have resolved their own financial challenges.
This is diametrically opposite to his Government’s stand; but then, when the decision was taken, he was not a member of Cabinet; and it is unlikely he would have influenced a different outcome. Which raises the question: why this personal declaration now?
Generally speaking, a Cabinet minister is a political appointee who broadly agrees with the policies of his or her party, and whose job it is to carry out the functions, tasks and policies decided upon by a majority. A minister, as we understand it, may be fired by the Prime Minister on failing to follow Cabinet policy.
But Mr Brathwaite suggests he is now committed; at least, he “would have to say” so.
What is it about the air in New York?