This article is 100 per cent inspired by a conversation which I had with Dr Sonia Browne earlier this week. In case you don’t already know, Dr Browne is the Barbados Labour Party candidate for the constituency of St Philip North. Whilst I have only known her for a very short time, every interaction has left a distinctly positive impression upon me.
During this particular conversation, Dr Browne asked what have we come to expect from our present government. She went on to say that we have come to expect neglect of our sewerage system infrastructure, and our supply of potable water. We have also come to expect insecurity about our children’s (tertiary) educational future.
We have now recently come to expect that the supposed guardians of our fates have increased their salaries, certainly guarding their own fates, with total disregard for my Barbadian brothers and sisters who have had to make out with no salary increases for almost a decade, no decrease in VAT as promised and ridiculous taxation measures.
We have come to expect shoddy up-keep of our roads. It hits home for Dr Browne when she reflected on the idea that the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Minister of Sports and Culture, Attorney General and, to make matters worse, the Minister of Transport, all traverse some of arguably the worst roads on this island to get to their respective homes in her beloved St Philip.
As she put it: “Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the few election patches that we got, but it was embarrassing to see the bright orange circles that marked the potholes so the workmen could find them more easily.” Having recognized that all it took was some orange paint in a circular shape to get a response from Government, Dr Browne went on further to tell me:
“We need to paint bright orange circles around the “house-lets” at Parish Land in St Philip. Lest they forget! We need to paint bright orange circles around the water situation in St. John and St Joseph. Lest they forget! We need to paint bright orange circles around the high-rise apartments at the Grotto and Valery. Lest they forget! We need to paint bright orange circles around the proposed Hyatt Hotel. Lest they forget! Bright orange circles need to be put around the rising crime situation. Lest they forget!”
By this time, I was completely sold on the concept of orange circles because it doesn’t matter how much people have complained about any issue in Barbados, the Government does not seem to care enough to respond. Yet for something so simple to spur the Government into action is astonishing. So I felt it was important to share Dr Browne’s perspective and now I add a little more of my own.
Given my article last week on Alternative Facts, it is quite evident that something is broken in Spry Street/Church Village –– from printing money to making huge financial losses, the first time in its history. A big bold orange circle needs to be drawn around the Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados for his disappointing management of the institution and the foreign reserves.
The Minister of Finance, poor fellow, just can’t seem to get anything right. So I am figuratively going to draw the orange circle around him myself and beg the Prime Minister that for the sake of the country, put us out of our misery and remove the Minister of Finance. As for the Prime Minister, the rest of Cabinet and DLP members of Parliament, the country needs to draw a big orange circle around all of them.
The Minister of Finance levied the Municipal Solid Waste Tax on Barbadians to pay Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre (SBRC). Despite the initial confusion about the rate to be levied, Barbadians stood in long lines to pay the tax. Yet when it was done, the owner of SBRC said they never received any monies. A solid orange circle needs to be drawn around that.
The Central Bank deregulated interest rates so that Government can benefit from lower financing costs of its deficit at the clear expense of average Barbadians. Commercial banks are literally laughing all the way to the bank (themselves), and are now reportedly offering 0.01 per cent on deposits from March 1, 2017. Another orange circle needs to be drawn around that.
Don’t get me started on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, National Insurance, CLICO, Barbados Revenue Authority, income tax and VAT refunds; the Sanitation Service Authority and garbage collection; the Barbados Water Authority and water supply; school infrastructure and environmental issues; payments to the private sector for goods and services provided to Government; the DLP denying the citizens of Barbados the right to own a lil piece of the Barbados National Terminal Co. Ltd and get a 15 per cent rate of return.
All these things and more require an orange circle painted around them urgently such that our Government would realize they need some attention. Who would have thought that all that was required to get a response from Government was a tin of orange spray paint. If that’s the case, I urge you all to get out there and start painting the whole place, town and country, in the brightest orange possible.
In response to last week’s article, someone commented that one should not hold one’s breath waiting on these fellows. Whilst that is absolutely true, there is hope yet. Under a BLP administration, Barbados will rise again.
Thanks, Dr Browne!
(Ryan Straughn is an UWI Cave Hill and Central Bank of Barbados-trained economist and the endorsed Barbados Labour Party candidate for Christ Church East Central. Email: [email protected])