It may seem as if I’m repeating myself with what has become a theme of mine of late. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I have a fixation with common sense. There is so much to talk about and so little time and space to adequately develop the points but I’ll try my best.
It is November and we’re getting ready for our 50th Independence anniversary celebrations but somehow it seems the current Government — from the Prime Minister back down — is only fixated on celebrating rather than governing. There are a few glaring examples which, to my mind, demonstrate a lack of seriousness about the task at hand.
Ministers are openly engaged in public spats with trade unions over what are fundamental workers’ rights but I will add my one cent a little later on that. Much has also been said by various private sector organizations, of which I am a part, about the current impasse (the go-slow at both ports of entry) and how it would affect tourism and the economy.
I would like to point out that industrial action, by its very nature, has to be disruptive; otherwise there is no point to it. The inconvenience is generally not welcome by those not immediately affected by the cause of the action and so there is always a debate about the greater good and all that.
There is not a country on this planet where unions exist and industrial action of some form is not exercised from time to time and the public feels the impact. To that extent, it is a globally accepted practice if not a norm. Therefore, tourists, wherever they come from, have either themselves engaged in some kind of industrial action, protests or felt the impact of such action throughout their lifetime.
Whilst it would be nice for them not to experience it whilst on vacation, I genuinely do not believe Barbados as a destination would lose out because, as I said, industrial action is a normal part of life.
What concerns me greatly is that we keep focusing on the wrong things and I believe the notion of industrial action hurting the economy definitely puts the focus in the wrong place. Any citizen, business person, or investor ought to be very concerned that there is sewage flowing on the streets of Barbados. Left unchecked, it has the potential to evolve into quite serious public health and environmental issues for this country.
There is no country that I’m aware of it, except Barbados, where the Government appears more concerned about industrial action than dealing with sewage flowing openly in the streets. This situation is by no stretch of the imagination normal; certainly not for citizens furthermore tourists.
I am not a gambling man but if I were, I would wager a Sir Grantley or two that for the average tourist, in deciding whether to return to Barbados or to recommend Barbados to their social network of family and friends, sewage flowing in the streets would be a major determinant whilst long airport lines might feature very low on
If it is possible, I would like the reader for a moment to ignore the fact that the reason for the current industrial action is because the president of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) was demoted from the post of Health Planning Officer. Let me try to tie everything together in a nice bow and zero in on the common sense part of all this.
If one were only just paying attention to the news over the past month or so, one should recall the issue of tainted water in St Peter, the infestation of bed bugs across the country, the River Bus Stand being declared a health hazard, sewage flowing on the south coast and, most recently, the health issues at Combermere School and its subsequent closure.
Against this backdrop, how does a Government not recognize that faced with a myriad of health related issues almost on a weekly basis, that this is not the time to be removing anyone from posts within the health management infrastructure?
Whilst doctors will be dealing with treating the symptoms of any health outbreaks, the health planners are the ones who must do the necessary work in order for Government to respond to the challenges as they are presented. If anything, the more prudent approach would be to bolster the ranks in order for our health system to be able to respond more effectively to the various challenges currently confronting us.
It is unfortunate, but I don’t expect anything I write or say to be taken to heart by Government because they believe it is partisan. I beg to differ. Two weeks ago when I started writing on this theme, I indicated that the Freundel Stuart administration was only interested if something was to be constructed.
On Monday, it was reported that some $240 million is now to be spent at the Grantley Adams International Airport. I have no problem with jet bridges and all the niceties but why spend money on those things when sewage is leaking in the streets where Barbadians live and tourist traverse every day.
Given the high instance of national health related issues, the common sense approach would be to appoint Mr Akanni McDowall to the health position so that instead of being embroiled in industrial action, he would be working to help manage some of these health crises across the country.
Fixing the south coast sewage problem should not be debatable; it is just common sense. Barbadians would be comfortable in their land and those we welcome would have a more than favourable impression of the country. Instead, our DLP Government wants to improve the airport to bring more tourists without realizing that if they don’t fix the sewage system, it could hurt our tourism and a consequence could be fewer visitors to walk along the jet bridges they intend to install.
A clear example of a breach of common sense.
(Ryan Straughn is a UWI Cave Hill and Central Bank of Barbados-trained economist and endorsed Barbados Labour Party (BLP) candidate for Christ Church East Central.