After disappearing from the public spotlight since the start of June, it was pleasing to hear the Minister of the Environment and Drainage back in the news yesterday, even if it was only to clear the air on the operations of the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre (SBRC).
On that occasion, Dr Lowe did not hold a Press conference though. He chose instead to speak to the state-run Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in response to mounting concerns surrounding the arrangement with the Bizzy Williams-backed SBRC.
While praising the private company for doing a tremendous job and saving Government huge sums of money, Dr Lowe said SBRC was now diverting 70 per cent of waste from the landfill.
However, he sought to make it clear the Government’s recyclable material was not being sold at any profit.
Since we are not intimately aware of all the details, we would have to take Dr Lowe at his word on the SBRC arrangement at this stage. But we have a number of outstanding questions for the minister, as it relates to the overall operations of his ministry that leave more than a whiff of discomfort.
In particular, there is the vexed issue of layoffs at the National Conservation Commission about which the minister has promised he will have “a lot to say”, albeit not before the Employment Rights Tribunal rules on the matter.
But with the process now evidently stalled, and given that the fate of the 200 odd workers is indefinitely in limbo, with the tribunal yet to commence a single hearing (and we are quite doubtful at this stage that it ever will), it would be reassuring at least for the dismissed workers to hear from Dr Lowe, under whose portfolio the NCC falls.
Or maybe not! Perhaps, Dr Lowe is the last man the workers would want to hear from at this stage, given his direct, hands-on involvement in their retrenchment .
But whenever the minister is finally prepared to speak on this matter, we promise to do as he has requested of us: carry his statement “it in its original, authentic form”.
While we await Dr Lowe’s tell-all statement on the NCC, we would like him to weigh in on the current debate about the Municipal Solid Waste Tax. With the imposition of this rubbish tax measure, which is being levied on 80,000 plus taxpayers at a rate of 0.3 per cent on the improved value of their homes, it is only reasonable, we would say, for the public to expect a more dependable and reliable service from the Sanitation Service Authority. So what are the improvements we can look forward to in the SSA’s operations now that the public has been lining up to make their waste tax payments?
At the same time, will union leader Dennis Clarke’s concerns about the shortage of trucks and other equipment be finally put to bed and the SSA’s outsourcing programme brought under control? Indeed, does this mean firmer tenure for the workers at the SSA?
Also, what is the latest with Greenland? Is there anything that it can be used for that fits in with the Physical Development Plan for the Scotland District, after close to $100 million in investment?
Furthermore, what is the real arrangement with Cahill Energy? We have heard the recent assurances of the company’s chief executive officer Clare Cowan that the Government of Barbados does not have to lift a finger to research, design or build the multimillion-dollar waste to energy plant Cahill Energy has in mind, or to look after its operation and maintenance. It begs the question: what’s in it for this Canadian-based company?
Please shed some light, Minister. How will Cahill make its money. From the sale of electricity?
And will there be any synergy between the praiseworthy SBRC and Cahill? Will Cahill be paid a similar fee to that to SBRC? Taxpayers would like to know.
Also, what is this company’s track record? What technology will it be using and what environmental impact will the waste to energy plant have?
Are we seeing privatization of the SSA via the back door?
Our questions are many for our Minister of the Environment who has so far, much like his Government, been short on answers when it comes to this business of our solid waste disposal.
Indeed, there is a shortage of legislative solutions and enforcement on the whole.
We await Dr Lowe’s necessary intervention.