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Let’s talk first, Arthur advises

marciadottin, [email protected]

Let’s talk first, Arthur advises

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Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur is warning the Freundel Stuart administration not to engage in privatisation of Government-owned entities by “stealth”.
Instead, the Member of Parliament for St Peter and former Opposition Leader has cautioned Government to have public discourse on any privatisation that it may have on the cards.
“Bring it to the table and let us discuss it and get it right,” he told yesterday’s sitting of the House during his contribution to debate on the 2014-15 Appropriations Bill.
The previous banter between MPs across the floor virtually ceased, as parliamentarians paid rapt attention to the presentation of the veteran MP.
The man who himself had been heavily criticised for selling state-owned corporations such as the former Barbados National Bank (BNB) while he was Prime Minister, defended that action, and argued that in the face of the current “worrisome high deficit”, at some stage the country had to engage in “intelligent” discussion on the issue of investment and privatisation.
It was an issue which he said must be addressed because he believed privatisation was necessary with Barbados’ debt currently standing at $1.4 billion and a debt service burden that was taking up 60 per cent of the island’s $2.2 billion in revenue.
“Asset rich and cash-strapped” was the current position in which Barbados found itself and this was where privatisation became necessary, Arthur insisted.
Defending his own decision to divest assets such as the BNB, he told the House: “I felt then as I feel now that a government should not do things that a private sector should do. There is no reason why a government should own banks and insurance companies.”
BNB was sold to interests in Trinidad and Tobago. Arthur explained: “We had a small bank owned by the Government that was always making losses. We brought in a strategic partner and now the bank is worth twice as much.”
He said in light of “hearing talk” that the Government was about to privatise, he did not intend to go to the House seeking to “repudiate” something he “fundamentally believed in”.
Arthur contended the Estimates before the House did not “purport to reduce” Government’s expenditures. “Somebody must . . . tell the people of this country that we have to do things not because we don’t want them to be happy . . . but because we want to do things in your best interest.” (GC)