Government minister Donville Inniss today took aim at coconut vendors who operate on the country’s roadways, warning them “to get their act together”.
Contributing to today’s parliamentary debate on a $3.1 million supplementary to support the annual de-bushing exercise, Inniss accused the coconut vendors of acting “irresponsibly” and of engaging in risky disposal practices.
“I certainly wish that the coconut vendors who ply their business on the highway, get their act together, because you know you are going to hear about the small black man making a dollar and all sorts of things. That small black man with his level of irresponsibility is also contributing to some high public health risk in this country,” said Inniss.
He also complained that “many of them don’t pay any National Insurance or taxes either,” adding that the situation needed to be addressed.
However, Opposition Member of Parliament for St James Central Kerrie Symmonds urged Government not to “beat up on vendors”, although agreeing that they needed to better dispose of their garbage.
He called for specific zones along the highways to be assigned for vending.
“We can’t just beat up on the vendors. These are people too and they are working too. I feel Government should facilitate these issues. I too feel there are too many coconut shells about the place left in some places where coconuts are sold and they are potential for attracting insects and rats. Why do we not, as others do, have zones along the highway?” suggested Symmonds.
The $3.1 million supplementary was tabled by Minister of Health John Boyce who explained that the de-bushing programme would focus mainly on “unused and disused properties” and would be led by workers contracted by the Ministry of Health.
While welcoming the development, Inniss also lauded the organizers of the Adopt-A-KM programme, which focuses on the cleanliness and maintenance of the highways. However, he recalled that it had come in for criticism from the Opposition Barbados Labour Party when it first started.
“Now you see signs on the highway and I am sure there is revenue being earned by the private entrepreneurs in that respect. But the highway looks clean, generally speaking, and it is well maintained. And perhaps that is a method we can approach for some public spaces around the country,” the Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development said.
“If the state does not have the resources or if it is costing the state $10 per unit to provide that service but private enterprise can provide it for $7 per unit, well, let private enterprise do it. They are still going to employ people, but the bottom line is that the job gets done and it costs the Government less, and is done in a very sustainable manner,” he stressed.