Governor General Dame Sandra Mason today outlined Government’s policies and programmes for the next three years, as she delivered the Throne Speech, for the opening of the Second Session of Parliament.
During a presentation at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, that lasted just over two hours, Dame Sandra said Government was proposing to stimulate the local economy by putting in place a number of provisions and initiatives to support Barbadians and ensure they weathered this period successfully.
The Governor General continued: “Despite the constraints, my Government is still giving generous stimulus packages of benefits and support to help every Barbadian keep their head above the turbulent social and economic seas in which we find ourselves. My Government will not let you drown.”
She explained that the proposed support would be across multiple sectors and was intended to create jobs; provide a social safety net for youth, seniors, and the vulnerable; stimulate social and economic activity; generate the movement of money within the local economy; keep citizens engaged in lawful activity; and provide much needed incomes for citizens until the country started earning foreign exchange again.
Some of the programmes and policies announced by Dame Sandra are:
- Barbados will take the next step toward full sovereignty and become a Republic by the time it celebrates its 55th Anniversary of Independence.
- Government has settled on a $40 million COVID Relief programme, which will run for the next year. It will be designed to ensure that people have work. These jobs will be provided by contracting persons for 12 months, to carry out a range of activities across Barbados that are required to improve the quality of life, environment and infrastructure. Examples of these activities include – the hiring of monitors in primary schools to help teachers care for young children and ensure they physical distanced; engaging persons to assist the workers of the National Assistance Board in supporting services for the elderly in communities, given their vulnerability; and completion of the “Where Am I?” project, that will see signs erected across all roads and communities.
- A Commission on the Reform of Parliament will be established under the chairmanship of Sir Richard Cheltenham, the immediate Past President of the Senate. It will have representation from political parties, the Social Partnership, and the Social Justice Committee.
- Legislation to address integrity in public life will again be pursued in the new parliamentary term.
- Government will appoint all civil servants who have been acting in established posts for three years or more, unless those civil servants have started a process of medical boarding; have received poor performance reports, or have criminal charges against them in the Courts.
- Government will implement a stimulus package for the productive sectors, known as BEST (Barbados Employment and Sustainable Transformation Plan). The BEST Programme will be a maximum of a $300 million scheme for hotels and tourism facilities as a response to COVID-19.
- Government will assist farmers in providing food and other essential items for citizens’ tables through a low-rate financing initiative (1.5% – 2.5% under special conditions) through the Co-operative Society Investment Fund. The package will target the growth and development of renewable energy; agribusiness; health and wellness; creative industries; tourism related businesses and manufacturing.
- To further provide relief to Barbadians in this COVID-19 environment and to ease the burden on households, Government will prepay to individuals all of the restructured bonds with values less than $5,000, by December 15, 2020.
- The legislation for medicinal cannabis is already in place and the Regulations will soon be finished.
- The laying of mains has commenced at Vineyard, in St. Philip, through to Mount Pleasant, also in St. Philip, to supply residents in St. John, St. Joseph, and St. Andrew, with a consistent supply of potable water. This project is expected to be completed by 2021.
- Negotiations have been initiated for the construction of two desalination plants, one at Ealing Park, Christ Church, and the other at Six Mens, St. Peter, to increase the supply of potable water to communities in the south and north of Barbados, respectively.
- Revision of the Liquor License Act, CAP. 182 to allow persons to process applications for liquor licences online. The process would be moved from the magistrates’ court to a civil jurisdiction which is the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.
- There will be increased monitoring and surveillance of retail shops and supermarkets to address any problem that may occur with price gouging, especially at this time of the pandemic.
- Home Ownership Providing Energy (HOPE) is a new housing programme in which 1000 affordable homes will be constructed. Lands of Todds Plantation near Four Roads and other lands near Chancery Lane have been identified as the location for the first 200 homes. It is intended that these homes will be first offered to police, nurses, teachers, and other civil servants earning $4,000 a month and under.
- The Belle, Ivy and Licorish Village will be sewered to protect public health and improve the quality of life of the residents of the areas, many of whom do not have pipe-borne water.
- The residents of Emmerton, Chapman Lane, and the Orleans, who live within sight of the Bridgetown Sewage Treatment Plant will now be given small grants to improve their properties, and will, at Government’s expense, be hooked up to the sewerage system to improve sanitary conditions and ensure environmental protection.
- Government intends to eliminate pit toilets from the landscape of Barbados.
- A Commission for Improving The Lives of People with Disabilities will be set up and chaired by Member of Parliament, Edmund Hinkson.
- Government to extend the list of National Heroes of Barbados.