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Sutherland chided for small business stance

Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley has accused Dwight Sutherland of abandoning his small business ministerial portfolio in favour of big business.

Responding to Sutherland’s presentation in the House of Assembly as the Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce led debate on amendments of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) Act and the Utilities Regulation Act, Atherley labelled Sutherland the “former minister of small business”.

But in a testy exchange between the two former Labour party colleagues, Sutherland complained to the Speaker of the House that he took offence to Atherley’s labelling, insisting he was still the Minister until he is removed by the Prime Minister.

But the People’s Party for Democracy and Development leader used the refrain frequently as he cited examples of what he contended were Sutherland’s bias towards big business. He accused him of resiling from his responsibility to small enterprises.

Atherley told the House: “When it comes to the matter of fair competition and adjustments, adjustments must always be made by those who are on the smaller side of the business rather than those who are on the bigger interest side of business. When adjustment are to be made it is easy to identify the smaller players, the smaller business people, the smaller enterprises to make those adjustments but the big players can have their way.

Bishop Joseph Atherley

“And when the forces that obtain in the market do not seem to serve the interests of bigger players they complain to the powers that be and seek for adjustments to be made so that those market dynamics can be stifled. That is the reality in Barbados that big players because of their influence and they do have the wherewithal… to influence power such that when adjustments have to be made, the hammer is made to fall on those who are the smaller players in the business.”

Speaking on a raft of coming investments in the renewable energy sector, Atherley, St Michael West MP, told the Chamber: “We hear of a $320 million renewable energy project.

“I suppose we need that level of investment but we need also to accommodate smaller businesspeople – non-traditional players in a new sector so we may continue the business of economic democracy in Barbados and not just talk about it.”

In this connection, Atherley called for transparency on the proposed Co-op Energy company. “The Minister said he and his honourable colleague responsible for energy had started some co-op in their ministry,” he said. “I don’t understand that. I do not understand that entirely and I hope for some further clarification.”

According to the Opposition Leader: “We can identify those benefits associated with the renewable energy sector. We can provide for legislation that would allow for us to fix the rates. We can provide the legislation that would accommodate… that emerging sector but we need to do more in practical terms to establish that sector by 2030.”