Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has respectfully turned down a request by protesting waste haulers for a meeting with him to discuss Government’s newly-introduced and controversial tipping fee of $25 per ton of waste delivered for disposal.
Saying that he believed Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe was working hard to find a resolution to the impasse, Sinckler said he saw no reason why he should intervene at this time.
“I’m not quite sure where I fit in that at all. I think the appropriate person to deal with that is the Minister of the Environment,” he told Barbados TODAY while at Case Grande Hotel, where he was sponsoring a Fun Day for 11-plus students from his constituency.
“I respect the fact that they have asked for a meeting, but I’m not quite sure what value I can add to bringing a resolution. I think that both sides really should be able to sit down. I know that Minister Lowe is not opposed to meeting with the waste haulers, and I am confident such a meeting will take place, hopefully sooner rather than later,” Sinckler added.
However, the Finance Minister admitted that the current standoff – which has seen the waste haulers embark on a five-day strike – was a very tricky one. “Minister Lowe is dealing with an extremely difficult situation in having to deal with the spiraling cost of waste management, having limited options and having a situation where the volumes of waste that Barbadians produce is not going down. It is increasing exponentially on the sophistication of the society and the things that we do here,” Sinckler said.
“In that environment, it becomes extremely difficult for the agency charged with this responsibility, the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA), to be able to manage all of the costs associated,” Sinckler contended, revealing that the SSA spent in excess of $30 million annually dealing with waste management and the tipping fee was expected to recoup around $9 million of this amount.
The Finance Minister argued that due to that high cost, something had to be done to assist the SSA. “The SSA is saying that they need to recover a part of the costs, not all, but a small part. The tipping fee will account for about $9 million of the $30 million odd, so you can see it is not a huge amount,” he explained.
“Now, yes, this will have an impact, because some of these people have not been paying it before, and when you are faced with a new fee, then there obviously is going to be a reaction to it. But the basic international principle that has been accepted by all countries is that the polluter should pay. And if we are producing more waste as Barbadians, then all of us have to find a way to share the cost of the treatment and disposal of the waste,” Sinckler stated.
The finance minister said whether it was through taxation or cost-recovery by the SSA, or a combination of both, the reality was that a cost had to be attached. He maintained that the time had come for Barbadians to stop thinking that the current taxes which they paid were enough to sustain the country’s development.
“The regular taxes that we pay are not going to be sufficient to do everything that we want to do in Barbados with regards to education, healthcare, social welfare, social development, community development and then also pay for a spiraling waste cost. So we have to find a way to sit down and agree on how we are going to share the cost for dealing with it,” the minister noted.
The strike by the waste haulers continued today, with more truckers joining the protest in Warrens, St Michael. The Waste Haulers Group and the Waste Movers Group – the body which has been formed to represent the waste haulers – have scheduled a press conference for tomorrow at the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association.