Local and international newsfeeds have understandably been choked with Covid-19 news in recent weeks. It is not surprising that an important debate which took place during the 65th Sitting of the House of Assembly 2018-2023 Estimates has gone largely unnoticed by the general public.
Those of us who follow the politics of the country took note of the debate late on Friday night seen from 2hrs 00min on the video.
Leader of the Opposition Joe Atherley was unusually critical of the government for allocating a $150,000 subvention designed to assist political parties in parliament to itself (Barbados Labour Party). It seems to the blogmaster Prime Minister Mia Mottley followed through on a promised made at the last BLP Annual Conference that the PDP – political party led by Bishop Atherley – would not benefit from the subvention.
The blogmaster understands but disagrees with the technical argument offered by Minister Ryan Straughn to defend government’s decision. Given the unprecedented result of the 2018 general election that resulted in the BLP winning all 30 seats in parliament, Prime Minister Mottley possessed the discretion to change the criteria how the subvention could have been allocated.
A government interested in supporting a quality democracy given the current state should have had no difficulty amending the criteria for qualification of the subvention. A precedent when it amended the Constitution of Barbados!
The blogmaster agrees with the leader of the Opposition that the intent of the subvention must have been to give fledgling political parties in opposition assistance in the interest of safeguarding a fragile democracy. We operate in an imperfect system therefore the government should not allow myopic parochial considerations to influence an important decision.
There are no substantive regulations on political party financing in Barbados. However, under the Parliament (Administration) Act 1989 (CAP. 10), parliament provides an annual subvention of BD$ 300,000 (US$ 148515), which is shared among the political parties that have a parliamentary presence. In addition, each constituency is entitled to an office and a stipend of BD $750 (US$ 370) as well as the provision of a constituency assistant accorded to each MP under Section 10 of the Parliamentary (Administration) Act.