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Campaign over, back to work

Published: 
Saturday, May 26, 2018
Mottley sworn in, starts talks on economy
Barbados’ first female Prime Minister Mia Mottley takes a selfie with Jamaican Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips following the Barbados Labour Party’s victory in Thursday’s election.

“The campaign is over we need to get back to work.”

Mia Amor Mottley, 52, made the call yesterday after taking the oath as the eighth Prime Minister of Barbados, less than 24 hours after she the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to a clean sweep in the May 24th election, joining a small group of Caribbean women who have led governments in their countries. And the new Prime Minister got down to work immediately, as she held discussions with officials on the state of the economy.

Mottley wore a canary yellow suit, offset by a multi-coloured but predominantly blue shawl for the swearing-in ceremony at Government House, witnessed by Governor General Dame Sandra Mason, her parents Elliott Deighton Mottley, a barrister who sat in the House of Assembly for a relatively short time, her mother Santa Amor, other relatives, friends and party supporters.

Mottley took the oath with the Bible and swore “true allegiance to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, her heirs and successors.” She also swore to give my counsel and advice to the Governor General “for the good management of the public affairs of Barbados.”

“In all things,” she pledged “I will be a true and faithful Prime Minister.”

Attorney Dale Marshall also took a similar oath as Attorney General.

Speaking to the media afterwards, Mottley said the remaining Cabinet members would be sworn in tomorrow and while she wants the ceremonial opening of Parliament to be held in two weeks there is a logistical challenge to work out as “the Parliament was not built to accommodate 30 seats on one side.”

But she wanted to “get on with the business of setting the country right.”

Immediately after the swearing-in yesterday, Mottley was due to “take briefings on the economy.” Over the course of next week, she said “I hope to put in place a financial discovery team to get a true state of the government finances, we cannot fly blindly.”

She said Barbados “needs consensus to move forward,” and intends to keep Barbadians informed to this end by holding post-Cabinet meetings with the media at least twice a month because “in the absence of an official opposition we have a greater duty to keep the public informed at all times.”

“Deeply humbled,” by the mandate of the population, she said, “We have a responsibility to ensure that all voices will contend in this country, we will ensure the systems will reflect that. My mantra will continue to be many hands make light work.”

The Prime Minister said she had also reached out to social partners to meet on Monday “to set the framework by which we go forward.”

Those meetings with the private sector, unions, churches and non-governmental organisations will be held “twice a month particularly during this period of getting the mission critical right.”

Her priorities are: to stabilise the economy, payment of the foreign debt, stabilising the foreign reserves, addressing issues of transportation, garbage collection and the south coast sewage project.

The Prime Minister is also concerned about the backlog of criminal cases which she said is more than 10,000 at this time. It’s a mandate for newly sworn in Attorney General Dale Marshall, whom she said also has the task of “presiding over the legislative agenda and advising on a number of contracts that have to be reviewed because of the liabilities to which the government is exposed.”

One of the first pieces of legislation to be laid in parliament will be the Integrity Bill.

Asked about the oil sector, she said the country intended to have “emphasis on the maritime jurisdiction.” She recalled that when she was AG “we did arbitration with Trinidad and Tobago and secured 99 per cent of what we had been arguing for years.”

Mottley also made it clear Barbados will remain in the Caribbean Court of Justice.

“We were the government that worked to establish the CCJ,” she said, adding it “represents one of the best examples of independence in a court across the entire globe.”

Her message to regional heads is that Barbados is serious about Caricom, adding the country will attend the heads of government meeting next month in Jamaica. There are two issues Mottley said are priority for Barbados under her leadership, the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and LIAT.

Barbados is the largest owner of LIAT and Mottley said “there are issues there relating to LIAT that have to be confronted in the next few weeks.”

Mottley has admitted the road ahead will not be easy. The country has a huge national debt and has experienced a decline in tourism, a major source of the country’s gross domestic product.

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