After six months leave on account of an undisclosed illness, Member of Parliament for Christ Church West Dr Maria Agard made her return to the House of Assembly today and immediately threw her support behind a $4.6 million supplementary for the Ministry of Health.
However, while agreeing to the near $5 million national debushing exercise, Dr Agard called on Minister of Health John Boyce to give a full account of its financing, which was to have been raised from the National Social Responsibility Levy.
While stating that it was “completely unfair” for taxpayers to foot the bill to clean up the properties of offending landowners, she chided Government for being one of the chief offenders.
Dr Agard also called for a higher penalty of $1 per square foot to be imposed on delinquent landowners who allowed their properties to become overrun with bush, while agreeing with Boyce that the current fine of 18 cents per square foot was not proving to be a deterrent.
On the contentious issue of electioneering, the dentist warned that public health could not be treated in such a way, given all that has occurred in the region in recent weeks in terms of the destruction caused by hurricanes in several Caribbean countries.
Dr Agard also expressed concern that it only took “a drizzle” for places like Holetown, St James and parts of the Bridgetown to flood. She argued that much of this had to do with the indiscriminate disposal of garbage.
In this regard, she called on all Barbadians to commit to keeping the island clean. She also pushed for the establishment of programmes in all schools to encourage children to recycle and to separate their garbage.
Also contributing to the debate was Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe who admitted that the Drainage Unit required more manpower, but said it was still carrying out its functions to reduce the level of flooding by keeping drains cleared.
And while not giving details, Lowe suggested that the time might soon come when the state-run Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) would ask businesses to pay for the collection of their commercial waste.
He also rejected suggestions from Dr Agard that the country was flood-prone because of illegal dumping.
At the same time, he praised the SSA for “doing a fantastic job under very trying circumstances”.