Days after a testy defense of a recent increase in travel allowances for Cabinet ministers and their spouses, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday that he would never be irresponsible with public funds.
“I would have heard while I was off and upon my return, that this government, especially I, do not understand the suffering of the poor,” Minnis said in the House of Assembly.
“But, I want all to know that I know what it’s like to be 25 cents short. I know what it’s like to be 50 cents short or one dollar short. I know what $10 means to a poor man. I know what $50 means to a poor man.
“After all, my mother was a lunch vendor at Columbus Primary.”
He added, “We have made a commitment to elevate the poor and the underprivileged.
“We have made a commitment to protect the account and the finances of the people.
“We would never ever make a decision that is not transparent and is not in the best interest of the people.
“We would never be irresponsible and spend the people’s money wildly.”
Upon his return from Barbados last week, Minnis fired off at reporters who asked him about the recent increase.
He noted that during a recent trip to Brussels, he was put in an embarrassing situation where “they did not accept cash” or a “swipe card”.
“And you worrying about $100? Next question,” he said.
Last month, it was revealed that a new travel policy for ministers — that was implemented by Cabinet last year — increases the number of annual trips for the ministers’ spouses and affords them a $100 per diem.
The $100 per diem for spouses is equivalent to the per diem paid to technical officers in the public service.
The policy also increases ministers’ per diem by 25 percent for domestic travel and 67 percent for international travel.
While in opposition, the Free National Movement criticized the Christie administration’s frequent travel and lack of transparency on how much was spent for said travel.
Although Minnis agreed in 2017, when he took office, to release a detailed breakdown of the travel expenses of all Cabinet ministers, the administration has not followed through on his pledge.