On the heels of his Barbados Labour Party (BLP) colleague hinting that it was time for the state-run Transport Board to be sold, Member of Parliament for The City Jeffrey Bostic is seeking to distance himself and the main Opposition party from talk of divestment of the loss-making entity.
Delivering the Eighth Tom Adams Memorial lecture last Tuesday, the BLP’s Christ Church East Central candidate Ryan Straughn suggested that privatization of the Transport Board was the way to go and that Government should leave ownership of public transportation in the hands of the private sector.
“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 economist asked before the gathering of largely BLP supporters at the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) headquarters.
Harking back to the Tom Adams era, Straughn also argued that much had changed since that period when licences were given out to individuals to operate public transportation alongside the Government-run service to meet the travelling needs of Barbadians.
“Today there are more than 100,000 private vehicles in Barbados and such accessibility is no longer an issue as it was in 1976,” said Straughn, who also suggested that fly overs, bridges and tunnels may now be necessary and “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”.
However, speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of his branch meeting at the BLP’s Roebuck Street headquarters on Sunday, Bostic made it clear that Straughn’s position on privatization of the Transport Board was his and his alone.
“I am a member of the parliamentary group of the Barbados Labour Party. . . . Those kinds of policy decisions are taken at the parliamentary group level, and at no time at all has that matter been discussed, and certainly that decision has never been taken by the parliamentary group of the Barbados Labour Party,” the lieutenant colonel said.
On Sunday, the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) also reacted to Straughn’s presentation.
In a prepared statement it said Straughn’s statements showed clear philosophical divide between Government and the Opposition.
“The guest speaker, who is a key person in the Barbados Labour Party economic team, sought to link the amount of cars on the road to a reduced need for access to public transportation,” the DLP said, adding that “the logic of the statement is that because more Barbadians now own cars, it is legitimate to privatize public transportation and put hundreds of hard working public sector workers on the breadline”.
The DLP also took issue with the fact that the BWU, which is bargaining agent for workers at the Transport Board, allowed Straughn to issue such a “threat” to employment of workers at the Transport Board on its grounds.
“The DLP is pilloried by special interest groups for keeping the International Monetary Fund at bay, we are balked at for keeping jobs and marched against for spreading the responsibility of taxes. However, without telling Barbadians how funds are going to be raised, a key Opposition spokesman is rolling out a suite of major expenditures, while hinting at a toll tax,” the DLP also cautioned in its statement while warning Barbadians not to allow the Opposition to erode the gains already made.
“The Democratic Labour Party is committed to maintaining public sector jobs, and to finding financially responsible ways to ensure those who can’t afford a car, or choose not to have a car have access to decent and affordable public transport. The divide and the choice is clear. We shall continue to preserve your jobs,” the ruling party added.