Parliament today debated a resolution in support of a near $5 million national debushing exercise, with the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) raising concern that it might be a cover for the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) to undertake electioneering activity.
“I hope that this $4.6 million is not used for feathering the nest of the Government,” said Barbados Labour Party St George South representative Dwight Sutherland during his contribution to the debate, in which he pointed out that in total, more than $12 million had been voted for over the past year for debushing purposes.
The Opposition spokesman further charged that this was the “silly season” with elections around the corner; therefore he said MPs had to be vigilant.
Earlier, Leader of Government Business John Boyce, in leading off the debate, said the sum of $4 639 775 from the Consolidated Fund would be used to clean up overgrown properties, including those owned by persons living overseas. Boyce said the initial target would be residential areas with 170 general workers expected to find jobs under the programme which is to be led by two coordinators and 12 supervisors.
He told the House today that abatement notices had been issued by the Environmental Health Department to the offending property owners. However, Boyce, who is Minister of Health, admitted that abatement notices were largely ignored because the fine for offending landowners was a minuscule 18 cents per square foot.
Boyce further acknowledged that Government was one of the chief offenders when it came to overgrown properties which pose health risks by encouraging illegal dumping, rodents and mosquitoes. They are also sometimes used as hiding places for criminals.
While supporting the measure, Sutherland questioned the usefulness of Government’s decision to send home workers from state institutions such as the National Conservation Commission, the Drainage Unit and the Beautify Barbados while trying to clean up waysides and lots in an ad hoc manner.
Sutherland also called for the re-employment of the displaced workers from these institutions in the new debushing campaigns.
“They should be the first to be employed under the programme,” the Opposition MP contended.
However, in his contribution to the debate, Member of Parliament for St Lucy Denis Kellman rejected Sutherland’s claims of electioneering and currying favour with the electorate. He said debushing projects were routine exercises carried out by both administrations over the years.