Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul has lambasted the “bureaucratic constipation” that has prevented the administration from making good on a promise to provide the agricultural sector with $2 million in assistance.
Speaking yesterday at an awards ceremony at Pine Hill Diary for two farmers who produced the best quality milk for the last quarter of 2015, a seemingly upset Paul described the delay as a “disgrace”, adding that it was “alarming” that the promise made “a few years back” had not been kept.
He accused the authorities of failing take agriculture seriously, suggesting that the unkept promise was a clear demonstration of the lack of interest in the sector.
“That two million dollars was supposed to assist in the development of another part of the agriculture sector. What is alarming is the extent to which, when it comes to the agricultural sector, there seems to be a state of bureaucratic intransigence [and] tardiness in order to deliver what has been promised. And it is a disgrace at this particular point in time, when our nation needs economic strategies that can help to grow the economy, that can help to provide employment and jobs . . . the things that were promised to the industry have not been delivered,” Paul said in his remarks.
“I really want to encourage you [to] let us pursue those things which were promised, to be delivered. The cess is critical and important. Why? It can grow the industry.”
The BAS head said the sector had seen growth in the past year but that it would continue to have problems “if we do not get the tools put in place”.
He challenged Government to facilitate its development and to stop procrastinating.
“Let us stop engaging in bureaucratic constipation and let us do it, because it is only if we put them in place at the times that they are needed that we can see the kind of responses we want to see in the industry.”
Paul contended that for much too long, farmers had been made to feel that the role they played was not significant and that they had not accomplished anything to celebrate.
He made reference to Governor of the Central Bank Dr DeLisle Worrell, who he alleged made a statement that seemed to minimize the importance of food security.
It was not immediately clear which statement he was alluding to, but the BAS head was adamant that it did not augur well for the sector.
“Because of the Central Bank’s Governor statements, we can therefore understand sometimes why it is said in some quarters that the agriculture sector has very low priority in the scheme of things. Because if a leading figure who is responsible to look after the development of the affairs of Barbados can make such a statement, what confidence therefore does that give to the farming sector in terms of the things that it does?” the CEO asked.
“I want to say to our leaders, many of the people who are involved in the agricultural sector are people like you and me, ordinary people, looking to make a living . . . . We are demotivating those persons who by their sweat, by their blood and sometimes by their tears, toil in the sun to produce goods that would prevent Barbados from having to look for foreign exchange in order to import.
“We need to stop that. We need to give each sector equal importance in the scheme of things. We need to say to those sectors, ‘we are willing to give you your due’ and in that respect, I think that we need to hear less of those comments and more encouraging comments coming from leaders within our community to encourage farmers to do well,” he stressed.