During the campaign leading up to the May 24 general elections, there were several memorable quotes that emerged, but none resonated more than that of Prime Minister Mottley on the platform: “Give me the vote and watch muh!”
Barbadians have been watching since handing their first female Prime Minister all 30 seats, and from the comments circulating, especially on social media, Ms Mottley and her team have been enjoying a measure of commendation from the public.
Arguably, this may well be justified, when one considers that just days shy of one month in office, the administration has been visibly tackling vexing issues on the troubled south coast, the sargassum seaweed which has been inundating the island’s beaches, and the poor conditions at the Bridgetown Fish Market, as well as holding critical talks with the Social Partnership, the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank on the way forward for the ailing economy.
Yesterday’s tour of the beleaguered White Hill, St Andrew community led by the Minister of Transport, Works and Maintenance Dr William Duguid, Minister in the Ministry of Public Works Peter Phillips, and Minister of Housing, Lands and Rural Development and St Andrew Member of Parliament George Payne, along with other officials, was another step in the right direction.
Barbadians all would agree that the White Hill saga has been a sore and if ever an issue deserved attention, this one does.
It has been a long, tiring and painful process for the seemingly forgotten residents of the rural community whose pleas for help over the last few years apparently went all downhill.
It would be false to say that the dismissed Democratic Labour Party Government did nothing. It was just simply not enough.
White Hill has long been accustomed to land slippage. However, in 2014, heavy rains caused the main road to the community to collapse and a temporary road was constructed in December 2015, but that too disintegrated months later.
Then in November 2017, the then Government in a statement said that experts warned against settlement in the area and, as a result, it would move to compulsorily acquire the land, dismantle the properties and continue a relocation project to Farmers, St Thomas that started in 1999.
The residents are still waiting.
If we are to believe Dr Duguid, the residents should not have to wait much longer.
“White Hill is an absolutely essential priority that the Ministry of Public Works will be looking [at] to try to get that area rectified, and we will be working on that as a matter of urgency. There is a lot of work to be done here in the St Andrew Scotland District and the Ministry will be working full steam ahead,” he said.
Admittedly, there was no timeline given, and we urge them to remember that the public is indeed watching.
It was nevertheless heartening to learn that a White Hill subcommittee has already been set up, led by Mr Phillips, to work alongside the Soil Conservation Unit to prevent further disaster.
With relocation apparently off the cards, given that it could cost as much as $25 million, the committee is expected to provide options, including an alternative road, or the use of gabions – wire mesh baskets filled with rocks used to construct gravity retaining walls. Rehabilitative work is also set to take place in Bawdens, St Simons, Spring Vale, and Coggins Hill in St Andrew and Dark Hole, St Joseph.
At this stage, the problem needs the island’s top experts on board to determine the most practical and cost effective solution that will not take another decade or turn out to be a waste of valuable taxpayers’ dollars. Experts may also want to consider developing a wider comprehensive plan to tackle the inevitable land slippage that occurs in the Scotland District, to allow for better management of this area.
But when all is said and done, the people of White Hill deserve urgent relief to live normal lives. And just as they are waiting, Barbados is indeed watching.