With the economy as it stands, an Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) spokesman last night returned to the vexed issue of privatization, while suggesting that the state-run Transport Board should be sold.
Delivering the Eighth Tom Adams Memorial Lecture at the Barbados Workers’ Union headquarters last night, the BLP’s Christ Church East Central candidate Ryan Straughn warned that the island’s social and economic conditions had changed significantly since 1976 when Adams, as prime minister, had paired licensing of individually owned public transportation service with the existing state-run bus service.
“Today there are more than 100,000 private vehicles in Barbados and such accessibility is no longer an issue as it was in 1976,” the economist said, while emphasizing the need for divestment of the loss-making national bus service.
“I ask Barbados when will we recognize that the Government of Barbados does not have to own a bus to deliver subsidized fares for any of its citizens?” the former Central Bank economist asked, while suggesting that in a 21st century Barbados, Government’s role should be that of a strong regulator and not owner of public transportation.
It was the clearest statement from the BLP on the issue of privatization since it campaigned heavily on the issue back in 2013 and lost against the incumbent Democratic Labour Party which has so far been shying away from any serious divestment discussions.
However, while suggesting that the economy was at its lowest ebb and that the Transport Board was currently operating as a burden to the state, Straughn, who is currently a private financial consultant, contended that divestment “would provide much higher value for money for you the taxpayer, than if we continue with the current system as is”.
“Our transportation system is in desperate need of an upgrade, and if we’re to move to a 24-hour economy we must tackle this head on,” he stressed.
During the lecture, Straughn was full of praise for the late BLP leader Adams, saying his introduction of the ABC highway had opened Barbados to much more rapid social and economic development, “notwithstanding the current condition of our highways with craters and potholes competing for space, temporary inconveniences in some circles”.
While taking an obvious jab at Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, he suggested that it was time to build on Adams’ vision for Barbados.
“If physical infrastructural improvements are required, whether fly overs, bridges, tunnels, let us get them done and move on to the next problem.
“If we must toll the infrastructure to finance their cost or for maintenance then let’s do it so that taxpayers can commute to and from work, leisure or business with confidence,” he added.