Whatever the price tag –– be it $1/4 million, $1/2 million, or more –– today we are prepared to set aside, for the moment at least, the cost of the current trip by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and his delegation to the Southern Pacific island of Samoa.
We are not even going to quibble over the fact that of all the people whom our Prime Minister could have chosen to take with him, he opted to go on this trip with the embattled Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe in his delegation.
On second thought, we will! But not before making the point that Barbados, from the outset, has been at the forefront of the agenda for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and there we should remain, even if our present circumstances require us to be much more judicious in terms of our travel budget.
But lest we forget this whole international movement in support of the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States was started right here in Bridgetown with a view to getting the international community to focus on the peculiar vulnerabilities of SIDS. That was back in 1994.
Twenty years later, the Barbados Plan Of Action remains an important blueprint for south-south cooperation, as well as north-south cooperation on climate change and other issues affecting our sustainability.
Therefore, it is not a question of if Barbados should be represented at international fora such as these, even though on the occasion of Samoa we agree with those who say a smaller delegation –– minus Dr Lowe –– would have sufficed.
Yes, it is true that Dr Lowe’s ministry is the closest thing we have to one of sustainable development, and that the minister would been intimately involved in the preparatory meetings leading up to the APIA Conference, but with the myriad of problems in which the Ministry of the Environment is now wallowing, it seems indefensible for Dr Lowe to be going on what some see as a jaunt.
Ironically, while he is off sipping on kava and perhaps feasting on roast suckling pig, our Sanitation Service Authority remains in a quandry with an inadequate fleet of vehicles to meet the daily demands for regular garbage pickups across the island. As our garbage mounts, a stink has also been left at the National Conservation Commission which is still very much in abeyance after close to 200 workers were sent home earlier this year.
Knowing what we already do about the preceding circumstances, we cannot help but feel that the Prime Minister would have been better served to leave his bosom buddy at home to focus on cleaning up this rather sordid mess, or at the very least to create the impression that he is busy looking for answers to give us.
Instead, we have been left without either action or explanation.
This is why it was so amusing to hear the Prime Minister’s speech to the APIA Conference yesterday in which he issued a call to action to delegates.
“Man cannot live by acronyms and catch phrases alone,” said Mr Stuart.
“The call for implementation, echoed in every speech and indeed specified in Paragraphs 96 to 120 of the draft outcome document, is one of the defining features of this document. We must not, by our inaction allow SIDS to be seen as a brotherhood of the distressed, the disadvantaged and the deprived.
“If we do not actively shape the future, it will impose itself on us, in ways that are fundamentally at variance with our collective interests,” he warned.
Well said, Prime Minister! All that is left for you to do now is to return home and put your own words into action.
Maybe then, no one would even question where you go or how you choose to spend our taxpayers’ money.