Government has not shut the door on privatization, but some services will remain under the control of the State no matter what, Barbadians have been assured.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler stated during an interview with Barbados TODAY that even though the Freundel Stuart administration had left the door ajar, the option would only be considered in areas where it was viable to do so.
Sinckler said it was not unusual for Governments here to work with the private sector to share the mantle of social service whenever it was financially prudent to do so.
“The Democratic Labour Party Government has never accepted privatization in its entirety. In instances where privatization could work and be viable, we have done so. We privatized the Arawak cement plant, which was done first as a public sector enterprise, [and] the Almond, which was previously Harewood. We also did so with our telecommunications . . . and the Barbados National Bank, which happened under the last Government,” the minister stated.
“So it is not a case where we have not done so, but it has to be in an area that is predominantly commercial but also non-commercial in areas where it makes sense to do so.”
His position echoed those of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, who recently said the ruling DLP and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) had no reason to quarrel with each other over divestment of state enterprises, since history would show both political parties had practised it in the past.
Despite suspicions by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and Government critics that the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) was being privatized, Sinckler was adamant that waste collection was among the essential services best carried out by the state.
“These services we believe are better served from a public sector platform than a private sector platform. Things like public health, certain parts of education, sanitation, water and those types of services,” he explained. Concerns over the possible privatization of the SSA arose after Government opted to outsource of some aspects of the SSA’s waste collection services to private garbage haulers.
The NUPW warned then that it could only lead to divestment of the waste collection agency, resulting not only in the massive retrenchment, but also higher garbage disposal levies for Barbadians. This position was backed by the Barbados Workers Union.