If local business magnate Ralph Bizzy Williams has his way, he will control the country’s entire garbage collection service.
Williams today offered to take over the operations of the troubled Sanitation Services Authority (SSA) for the approximately $60 million which Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler said it was costing Government to operate the waste collection agency.
“You say that the garbage thing is costing about [$60] million a year. Now, you know you own 25 per cent of Williams Industries because you charge me [$25 per tonne tipping fee plus Value Added Tax],” Williams said to Sinckler while contributing to discussions at today’s Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry business luncheon at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
“So give me the [$60 million], let me run it. David [Staples, Director of Williams Industries Inc] and I will deal with it. You [won’t] have any core responsibility, you [won’t] have people giving orders with dumping garbage all over the place, but I got to have some influence over the police as well, because we gine lock up a few people,” he said to loud applause.
Barbados TODAY reported last night that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had recently issued a directive to the SSA to meet with private haulers and to come up with a plan to improve the island’s waste collection, and, following that directive, a meeting was held yesterday at which the SSA agreed to outsource some of its garbage collection services to the private truckers.
Williams’offer today came at a time of renewed talk of privatizing some of the services offered by the state-run SSA, including divestment of the mechanical workshop, which has been plagued in recent months with broken down trucks that have rendered the state agency incapable of adequately meeting the island’s waste disposal requirements.
Opposition Barbados Labour Party Senator Wilfred Abrahams has also alleged that 15 new compactor garbage trucks had recently been imported into the island as part of plans to divest aspects of the SSA’s business.
Williams’ bid received popular support from those attending today’s luncheon, with one member of the audience, who did not want to be identified, aptly capturing the mood when he suggested that Government should “sell the assets to the private sector, give them a contract for $30 million.
“I think [Williams’ offer] is a good start but $30 million would be reasonable, and privatize the sanitation,” he said.
However, Sinckler, while not dismissing the offer altogether, said a key reason for the shortcomings at the SSA was an arrangement that Government had entered into back in 2007 with the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre (SBRC), a waste treatment operation owned by the Williams Group of Companies.
He said the arrangement had doubled Government’s waste management bill to roughly $60 million.
“Somebody came up with the brilliant idea to have a waste treatment facility because Barbadians were producing volumes and volumes, tonnes and tonnes of waste, and there was no landfill space to accommodate that waste at the rate at which we were producing it. So we added $30 million to the waste treatment management process,” Sinckler charged, adding that this money could have gone into purchasing trucks, parts and equipment for the SSA.
Earlier in the discussion, the minister had repeated his previously stated position that he was not opposed to privatization of some Government entities, but it had to take place “in the context where it makes sense”.
In any event, he said, should Government privatize the SSA he was not certain who would foot the $50 million to $60 million bill to treat, sort and send waste to the landfill, since it would appear the Barbadian public did not want to shoulder some of the cost.
Sinckler also contended that even if the operation was placed in the hands of the private sector, “eventually somebody is going to come back to Government and ask Government to subsidize that amount because the culture is not there yet in this society for persons to take full responsibility of their waste”.
The Minister of Finance also confirmed the Barbados TODAY report that a plan had been agreed between the SSA and private haulers for garbage collection, disclosing that the operation would likely begin in two weeks.
He told the luncheon the plan would go before Cabinet on Thursday for approval so garbage collection could take place “for the next six months or however long it takes them [SSA] to get the [financial] resources . . . so that we are able to purchase the trucks to replenish the fleet of the SSA”.
Sources with intimate details of the plan told Barbados TODAY last night that the haulers had agreed in principle to service four parishes – St Philip, St Peter, St Lucy and St John – and be paid a fee of $411 per hour for eight hours a day, three days a week, at a cost of approximately $1 million to the SSA.