I am writing this article on Friday morning after a hectic week and my state of mind, at present, is quite frankly not a good one.
It is Christmas — a time for reflection and some merriment — but it is difficult to do so when it appears that our country Barbados, once known as the Gem of the Caribbean, is literally falling apart at the seams.
You are well aware that I am a member of a political party, and so there is an automatic filter that is applied to anything I may say or do. However, I want to invite you to go on a short journey with me and not let that be too significant a factor.
I don’t think there is anyone in Barbados who thinks that basic sanitation ought to be a political issue. As a matter of fact, basic sanitation was something we took for granted because we paid attention to it since we understood how important it was to everything we do. I digress.
In 2000, member countries of the United Nations set the target of halving global poverty by 2015. To achieve this, they established eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and set targets to achieve each one. Goal 7 was to ensure environment sustainability under which Target 7.C was defined as “Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation”.
At that time, 16 per cent of Barbadian homes still had pit toilets which was reduced to six per cent in 2010 due to the construction of new homes across the island. So, as a country, we improved basic sanitation in this category.
With respect to water closets linked to sewer, in 2000, some 428 occupied dwellings were linked to a sewerage system all of which were in St Michael. By 2010, this number increased to 3,218 with nearly 2000 in St Michael (1,886) and 1332 in Christ Church. This shows clear progress made under this target in the first decade of the 21st century.
On the surface, one may be tempted to give ourselves a pat on the back for making such strides but recent events have demonstrated that we must get back to the basics. Simply put, water-borne toilets need a steady supply of water in order for the basic sanitation needs to be met.
When one upgrades from wells to sewerage systems, maintenance of such systems is essential to ensure basic sanitation needs are met. Residents in rural Barbados have expressed pure frustration over the past year and a half about having to pay water bills but yet not receiving water on a consistent basis.
Residents on the south coast have to pay for connection to the sewer systems only to have faeces floating on their properties. In both instances, the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) have failed the citizens of Barbados by not moving swiftly to alleviate their concerns.
It is a dereliction of duty on the part of the Government not to go to the affected residents and offer meaningful dialogue so that the affected persons can go about their business with some peace of mind.
It is a human right that people have access to clean water and basic sanitation and something that governments all over the world are required to provide for their citizens. What is worse is that our citizens are continuing to pay for these services and their situation seems to be getting progressively worse day by day.
Earlier this week, someone asked me why the Barbados Labour Party didn’t fix the problem with the sewerage plant on the south coast when there was money to do it. As we approach 2017 and closer to an election, I know we will start to hear all kinds of things from Government and about the BLP but that one nearly hit me for six.
Before I answered the question, I searched the person’s face to see whether they were being deliberately facetious. When I saw that they were quite serious, I had to remind them that the Democratic Labour Party has been in office for over eight years now and that the Barbados Labour Party has been in Opposition for the same number of years.
Furthermore, the south coast sewerage plant was experiencing challenges for the past three years which have not been addressed. Simple Mathematics and logic would suggest that the Barbados Labour Party could not possibly address a problem that was non-existent at the time it was in office.
The facial expression changed dramatically as the realization that attempting to blame the BLP does not make sense. The person excused themselves when I asked how long will it take for the Democratic Labour Party to take responsibility for managing the affairs of the country?
As we close out the rest of 2016 and start looking at the year in review, it is difficult not to conclude that the DLP side has successfully secured their political pensions. Our Government, though, led by Freundel Stuart, has demonstrated incompetence infused with indifference.
(Ryan Straughn is an UWI Cave Hill and Central Bank of Barbados trained economist and endorsed Barbados Labour Party candidate for Christ Church East Central. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)