The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is throwing its support behind yesterday’s decision by the troubled Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) to outsource some of its garbage collection to private waste haulers.
In addition, the BLP is giving conditional support to an offer by businessman Ralph Bizzy Williams to take over the SSA’s operations at a cost of $60 million.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler today confirmed a Barbados TODAY report last night that the state waste collection agency and private haulers had agreed a plan to improve the island’s waste collection.
Sinckler told the monthly business luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, the scheme would go before Cabinet on Thursday for approval and would likely begin in two weeks.
In response, Shadow Minister of the Environment Wilfred Abrahams told Barbados TODAY he was not opposed to the SSA sub-contracting its garbage collection.
“If a calmer and more sensible head has prevailed and the Government is prepared to sub-contract to get what needs to be done, then I can have no fault with that,” the Opposition Senator said, insisting it was more important to have a clean Barbados than playing politics with waste collection.
“I am glad that somebody is finally doing something that benefits Barbados than pursuing purely selfish ends. For months, I have been saying that if the Sanitation Service Authority is not in a position to acquire the trucks, then sub-contract that work so Barbados is kept clean. The health of the citizens and those who live in Barbados [is] far more important than scoring cheap political points,” he said.
In relation to Williams’ offer, which attracted much support from those at the BCCI event, Abrahams said he was not “fundamentally opposed” to anyone taking over the operations of the SSA.
However, he emphasized the need for structures to be put in place to guarantee the security of tenure of workers and the sustainability of the waste management programme.
“It is not simply a matter of just taking over the SSA. We need to know what will happen to the people [workers]; we need to know the nature of the takeover and what arrangements are being made to preserve the employment of the people who are already there. We need also to know what it is going to cost the taxpayers.
“If Bizzy takes over the operations of the SSA for $60 million, what is the net expense to the taxpayers? How much more will we have to pay? Where is it going to come from? Can it be done without further taxation to Barbados? Our lives matter, the lives of the people in the SSA and their job security matter. I am not fundamentally opposed to it, but it has to be part of a larger system. We concentrate too much on garbage collection in Barbados as opposed to the whole concept of waste management . . . minimizing what goes into the landfill,” the Shadow Minister of the Environment said.
Abrahams insisted that any agreement reached with the private sector must not be a “loose, ad hoc” refuse collection arrangement, but must include a comprehensive waste management policy with the attendant legislation.
He repeated earlier allegations that the SSA was being set up to fail, arguing that “everyone knows what is required to make it function properly”.
“The Government has conceded the fleet is wholly and totally inadequate. The ideal situation would be that the hard-working people of Sanitation Service Authority get the requisite amount of equipment and resources that they need to do the job. But in the interim, as Barbados is the most stinking country in the Caribbean . . . let’s not play. There are people in Barbados who do private waste hauling,” the Opposition spokesman on the environment said.
“[Instead] of this haphazard thing that has been happening recently with the loose, ad hoc private contracts and a garbage collection system that involves Bobcat and a truck and people . . . I do not even know who thought of that, when there are people here with compactor trucks. If you can’t buy them, rent them or make some arrangement,” he added.
Abrahams also told Barbados TODAY the island needed a sustained and sustainable approach to waste management, including recycling and separation of the refuse at source.
It was Abrahams who recently 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.