The financially burdened Barbados Water Authority (BWA) could be in line for some major changes as Government continues its examination of the various state entities.
While Prime Minister Mia Mottley did not say what plan exactly was in line for the utility, which built a new headquarters three years ago, she indicated that it was next in line for some critical review as her administration continues to “right the wrongs” under the previous administration.
Indicating that tough decisions will have to be made as the new administration grapples with high debt and deficit spending, the Prime Minister has indicated that the government also intends to abandon the development of a sixth berth at the Bridgetown Port and the construction of a new all-purpose central sugar factory at Andrews.
Amid an ongoing sewage crisis and drowning in debt, the water utility has for several years been highlighted by the Auditor General’s report as one of a number of state agencies crippled by millions of dollars in outstanding liabilities.
These include loans that are said to have ballooned in excess of $500 million which it is unable to service, and millions of dollars in payables and pension liabilities.
Directly addressing the minister for the BWA, Wilfred Abrahams, she declared: “You know the next place I am coming is the BWA because we do not have the money to be spending what the water authority is spending when the month come,” Mottley said as she addressed a St Michael South East constituency meeting on Sunday at the Parkinson Resource Centre, The Pine.
“If we let these things go on the country is going to turn into a mob and I am not going to let that happen in your country or my country,” she said.
Mottley explained that before the country could regain economic strength and sustainability there would have to be some bitter medicine that included some tough decisions.
“I say so because when people have left you with commitments that spend out the money before you can see it what can you do. That is why getting the parties to walk away from a US$144 million contract with Berth Six [at the Bridgetown Port] or Global Ports that we now have to work on, or the sugar factory which we just don’t have $500 million to do. That is why getting these people to walk away is so critical because the country does not have it,” insisted Mottley.
She said the current situation called for a lot of belt-tightening while her administration would continue to “talk people through the rest of the way”, adding that those who have would need to “help carry those who do not have”.
Adding that the restructuring would include retraining and retooling of public servants, Mottley, who has already indicated that there would be some job cuts but not on a large scale, said the restructuring would also be about creating opportunities.
Some 5,000 residents took part in the electronic survey, which was created as part of phase two of the consultation process of Government’s economic restructuring programme, she disclosed. That survey ended last week.
For phases two and three, Mottley is expected to announce what state-owned entities the Government would keep, privatize or enter into a private/public partnership.
Adding that she would be addressing the nation on those highly anticipated developments in about two weeks, Mottley explained that in the meantime the process of consultation and discussion with the social partnership would continue.
“There were three subcommittees that we set up with members of the Social Partnerships. I expect to take their reports on [Monday] and I expect to go to a full social partnership meeting on Wednesday, we are meeting with all of the finance officers, accounting officers and board chairman and CEOs on Tuesday afternoon,” said Mottley.
“We are doing that because we want to make sure that we are in a position for that first time ever, to have real time access to Government’s revenue and expenditure . . . So once I can get that and get that timely information we will be in a better position to manage your affairs. Once we finish the process of discussions with the social partnership I am then in a position to come to the country,” she explained.
Besides the survey, Mottley said there have been “a whole set of ideas” that have been put forward by Barbadians on what the next phase of the recovery plan should look like.
This kind of involvement, she said, was necessary as the country continued discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“[The IMF] is truly appreciative that this is not a Government acting alone but this is a Government that is carrying its people with it and having the thorough consultation such that they know that Barbados is speaking and not simply the Government of Barbados,” she said.
Mottley also announced on Sunday night that she expected her ministers to resume their branch meetings in an effort to keep residents abreast of developments and get their feedback. (MM)