Toppin: No safety net for poor
OPPOSITION Member of Parliament Ronald Toppin has accused Government of not providing a safety net for the poorest and most vulnerable, even though it has cut the vote for almost every polyclinic, which will send more people to private doctors where they will have to pay.
The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) representative for St Michael North was speaking Tuesday in the House of Assembly during debate on the 2014 Estimates which he described as “deficient”, “fanciful” and “incomplete”, particularly since they did not include the savings to be realised from the 3 500 public workers retrenchment programme.
However, Minister of Health and Leader of the House, John Boyce, intervened to point out in response to the reduction in the vote for polyclinics, that there was a $500 000 provision for the operation of the St John polyclinic which would take up some of the patients from the Glebe, St George and St Philip catchment areas.
Toppin insisted too, that because of the incomplete nature of the document, Government’s projection for the overall deficit would also be inaccurate.
“It is baffling that the Government continues to state categorically that figures in [the document] are not final and that supplementaries are going to be brought during the year,” he added.
“So that [on Monday] when the Minister of Culture was confronted with the statement about the cut in the welfare vote, the minister quickly retorted that that was not true because, he said, ‘we on this side very well know that during the course of the financial year, a supplementary is going to be brought in relation to the welfare vote’.
“If ministers know, and are prepared to say, that during the course of the financial year supplementaries are going to be brought, then they know that what is before us cannot possibly be accurate. It is one thing to have to bring a supplementary during the course of the year, it’s another for the minister to say, from now, they know the figures they have put into the Estimates are wrong and that supplementaries will be brought during the course of the year.
“To add to the misinformation in this document, look at the projected revenues, and we’ll take one: in relation to VAT. Even as the situation stands now, although [the rate of] VAT was increased, the tax take from the increased VAT was less. To compound that, in the next few weeks, between 4 000 and 6 000 civil servants are going to be sent home.
“It means that these people are not going to be earning, they will have no money to spend – they might spend a bit of their savings, if they have any – but after that they are going to be evaporated from the economy and the economy is going to contract even further. So that any issue in relation to increased take from VAT will remain nothing more than a figment of the imagination of the Minister of Finance.”
Toppin suggested that what was perhaps the most deficient aspect of the Estimates was that at a time when the Government’s austerity programme was going to be at its most devastating, “the Government has provided no safety net whatsoever for the most vulnerable and the poorest elements of this society”. (AB)