Government has failed to adequately fund the Ministry of Transport and Works and the whole country will be worse off in the coming months because of it.
That’s the view of St. George South MP, Dwight Sutherland, who called the Estimates allocation for departments in that ministry “gross under budgeting”, and urged the current Administration to purchase new buses for the Transport Board as part of efforts to control that company’s operational costs.
In his maiden speech in the House of Assembly this morning as the Estimates Debate continued, the Barbados Labour Party Shadow Minister of Transport and Public Works said several important areas in that portfolio would receive less financial support in the upcoming 2013-2014 financial year.
“Highway maintenance and the construction is down from $50 million to $46 million and you are then telling me that you have a number of works … to execute with respect to the highway,” he said.
“You have allocated $1 million for bridges, repairs and strengthening of the culverts throughout this island and when we look at it this $1 million, based on the notes, has been allocated to St. Joseph and St. Andrew. Can this $1 million do this job of repairing bridges in St. Andrew and St. Joseph?
“That is why I am saying that we have grossly under budgeted these Estimates and we need to come to the people of this country to let them know that this government has no money and what they are putting here we will see the slow pace of road works that we have seen within the last five years. Two roundabouts took four years, the road at Halton is still an issue and these are some of the things you need to tell the people of this country,” he added.
Sutherland, an engineer by profession, said while Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler was asking the BLP to tell him what areas of expenditure he should cut, it was clear the minister was already cutting, something that would restrict the ability of road works to be carried out and the Transport Board to operate efficiently.
He also advised Government to purchase new buses for the Transport Board, something it had not done in the first term in office between January 2008 and this year.
Sutherland said rather than getting parliamentary approval for millions of dollars in supplementary sums simply to clear the company’s debts, Government needed to “curtail the running cost at Transport Board”.
“As a result of the inefficiencies with the buses you have had to extend the routes and based on that you have people now getting to work late, spend two and three hours on the road… You have to provide an efficient bus service and I am calling on the Government to purchase some buses…,” he said.
“We need to get our act together, purchase some buses that can make sure that our people get to and fro from St. Lucy to the airport in a safe manner and that’s the role of the Transport Board.” (SC)