Politics, politics, politics! Unbelievable things are happening both in Barbadian and American politics.
The Government of Barbados has finally levelled with us about the reasons behind the water outages in some sections of the island and Donald Trump has again managed to shock the world.
Let us beat home drums first before we consider the American spectacle.
The Minister of Water Resource Management held a press conference last Friday during which he told Barbados a number of things. The information is worth a bit of scrutiny.
Firstly, the Minister indicated that there are at least four major water wells on the island which are empty or close to empty. He also outlined that a significant part of Barbados’ problem was that rainfall levels had dropped over the years.
A few months ago, at another press conference, the Minister had indicated two wells were to be dug. Why would we have invested money in digging wells if rainfall is the major problem? Even if there is an aquifer which can make a well viable, how long will this solution last and at what front loaded cost? Is it a sensible course of action?
Secondly, the Minister announced that there was going to be a $5 million fund set up to facilitate the construction of water tanks for affected households. If reduced rainfall is the issue, how are we proposing to fill the tanks built?
Coming out of the proposals and discussions, I was left with more questions than answers.
One final issue which the Minister raised was that there were thousands of gallons of water stored in built water tanks across the Island. This water, however, was not being put into service because the plumbing and electrical connections were usually not made by householders.
Perhaps a fund could be set up through the credit unions of Barbados to allow more homeowners with existing tanks to complete the electrical and plumbing work. Once this is done, water rationing could be more of a viable option as we seek to make sure each Barbadian household can have running water at least three to four days a week.
The press conference also revealed that we are still losing a significant amount of water to leakages along our delivery infrastructure. This admission by the Minister perhaps cuts most at the real issue that has led to the water woes in Barbados.
We have not had, and still do not have, a systematic plan for water management on the island. We are approaching both the infrastructure and the planning of the water resource as ‘well, go along!’ There seems to be no concerted effort to create an overall strategy. The problems continue to spread from community to community without a hope of resolution in sight.
The $5 million we are spending to provide tanks for households, may be better spent bringing a water boat to Barbados. This could be used to facilitate families who have livestock and businesses, even if Barbadians are not immediately comfortable using the water as a potable source.
I also believe that the issue of water management is one which the country should engage CARICOM and the relevant international agencies on. Access to a reliable supply of running potable water is a universal human right.
Through resolution 64/292, the United Nations recognized access to water as a right which must be in place for all other human rights to be realized. So not only is access to water a human right, it can also be perceived as a primary human right.
Indeed, this scenario of householders not getting water escalated in parishes such as St Joseph, around December of 2015. At that time, the world was culminating the United Nations’ Water for Life Decade which started in 2005. There may be residual technical support or other assistance which Barbados can tap into as we grapple with the issue of managing our water resource.
Meanwhile, things seemed to hit a crescendo in the campaign of the Republican candidate for the 2016 American presidential election last weekend. The world learnt that Donald Trump had boasted that he could fondle women’s vaginas because he was rich and a celebrity.
There has been much discussion, both here in Barbados and in America, about the audacity of Trump and what should be his just punishment. Some of the outrage in America is genuine; none of the outrage in Barbados is. While many men of stature have been called to account for their indiscretions both in word and deed toward women in America, Barbados simply does not have the same track record.
Let me hasten to acknowledge that the system in America is not perfect, and the perpetrators of abuse against women can escape based on factors such as race and class. The point, though, is that the system in America works. I am less convinced that we have had the same benefit of systemic and cultural change as Barbadian women.
A politician who makes disparaging comments about women in Barbados is not at stake of losing his career. In fact, this behaviour is largely acceptable and contributes to making a politico being seen as some kind of colossus. My long term memory does not reveal any case where an official in this country has lost his job over harassment or assault of a woman.
Further, my short term memory does not contain any example of a man who has been chastised by his peer group or even professional group for sexual misconduct, spoken or perpetrated. All this has led me to believe that it is only faux indignation making rounds on Barbadian social media with respect to Trump’s behaviour.
We like it so in Barbados and we are culturally disposed to accept the objectification and assault of women as a part of Barbadian female existence. Women themselves have invested in the protection of male models of behaviour which are sexist.
Perhaps, though, the reaction of the world to Trump’s behaviour can be some kind of point of reflection for what we see as acceptable and unacceptable in Barbados. I wait and hope but I shan’t hold my breath, for obvious reasons.
With respect to the American reaction to the latest Trump saga, I believe it is more a case of having a tangible example of what has been in motion for all the time that he has been involved in the race. Trump has told America and the world, time and time over, what and who he is. I cannot now understand how everyone purports to be shocked beyond comprehension.
If there is a political question to ask, it has to be how the Clinton imagery as president is still so muffled to the American voter that Trump continues to seemingly wiggle his way through clear instances that he should be soundly prosecuted for. So, I ask myself the question: Are we paying attention to the things we should as American and Barbadian voters?
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies. Email [email protected])