The top story of this week was the lucky escape for Barbados, yet another time, from a hurricane as menacing and deadly Maria passed to the north of the island as a category one system.
Though Barbados was largely untouched, our neighbours in Dominica weren’t so lucky. In fact, by the time Maria reached, it was at top category five strength and left the island in ruins from which it will take many years to recover.
Locally, there were two stories which generated considerable discussion among our readers this past week. Both involved statements from two government ministers that did not go well with some Barbadians. We focus, first, however, on Dominica.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit broke down in tears Thursday as he shared with the region the extent of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. In an interview with state-owned ABS Television in Antigua, Skerrit lost his composure at times as he reported that many affected residents did not have a place to sleep, following Maria’s passage on Monday night.
Skerrit, who travelled via helicopter to St John’s to give his first interview since the storm, revealed that 15 people were confirmed dead up to that time and another 20 missing and presumed dead.
“Our main preoccupation now is search and rescue, to determine how many are dead, how many are missing, who we need to rescue, providing relief to many parts of the country,” he said.
“We do not have the total count because we have not been to some communities. So far, we would have buried in excess of 15 people. In one village, there are 13 people missing, in another village, five people are missing, another community two and we can say they are [dead] because their homes are no longer standing. They’ve been washed away by the rivers,” he added.
Barbadians have responded overwhelming to the Dominica relief effort, dispatching large quantities of water, foodstuff and household items via the Barbados Coast Guard to assist displaced residents.
Meanwhile, back here in Barbados, Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett suggested that a baby who died mysteriously last week at a day care centre, might have been too young to be accepted at such a facility.
However, Blackett told Barbados TODAY he would first familiarize himself with the stipulation regarding the age at which a child is allowed to enter such facilities before arriving at a final conclusion.
He said Government would take a closer look at the requirements for the admission of children to day care facilities here, with a view to ensuring that proper protocols were followed, in light of the death of the one-month-old boy.
This was the biggest local story for the week. Many readers criticized the minister for his choice of words.
“I would suggest that he not speak further until he gets the facts; his present comments are not helping the situation as is the case with most government ministers,” one commenter said.
Another said: “So as the “minister of social care” what is the regulation on the age that an infant can enter into day care? How many infants to caretakers? Like you judging this mother that just lost her child. Seems to me the questions should be directed at the facility. Get the facts, then comment not speculate!”
“Why would you make such as asinine comment?” asked yet another commenter.
Finally, Barbadians are being warned that should the country fall victim to a major natural disaster such as the hurricanes that devastated some Caribbean neighbours over the past two weeks, few international agencies would come to the island’s aid.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler said Barbados was being “punished” for being successful, as it no longer qualified for assistance for disaster relief from some international agencies because it was considered a middle-income country.
This was why, he said, Barbadians had a lot to be thankful for, not because God is a Bajan, but because they did not have to suffer the “sheer misery” other countries were experiencing as a result of the storms.
“We sometimes can get punished . . . for our success, because the better off you are and the more successful you are, the less likely people are to give you development aid. So it comes all back down to us Barbadians contributing to the development of our country through the taxes we pay,” he said.
However, as with his colleague Blackett, Sinckler’s comments did not sit well with online readers. “The pot calling the kettle black. Mr. Minister, you are not paying govt bills! You owe people income tax for two and sometimes three years straight! You really got a nerve! Calling out people to pay taxes when you owe them!”
Another reader suggested that Government take a different approach. “This minister wants to tax his way out of the awful economic mess they have created. The Government does not seem to look at the option to be more frugal in expenditures. They have already reached the point where they will actually collect less revenue from taxes than before the latest tax increases were announced. The black market in foreign exchange has already begun. Prices are steadily rising. Even if they wanted to, many do not have the money to support all these taxes. So they simply will not pay.”