Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson last night defended the size of the Cabinet, declaring that the raft of 26 ministers is stretched thin with work as it wages “war” against the ravages of the last administration.
“Yes, there are 26 ministries in addition to the Prime Minister’s Office, and that is much more than what we had before. But we are essentially a war cabinet,” the St James North MP told a constituency meeting at the Gordon Greenidge Primary School on Sunday night.
“We have confronted a war which we have to defeat. Even though there might be 26 ministers plus the Prime Minister, all of us are stretched out.”
Not only are Cabinet members pressed hard with repair and rehabilitation work on Government structures, but they are also challenged to introduce other innovations in governance, he said.
He sought to assure constituents that despite hurdles, progress was being made and a number of developments were in the works with short deadlines set for achievement.
“The Prime Minister has been criticized from some of those who don’t know better, about all the ministries she has created,” Hinkson said, adding, “The ministerial workload is so heavy, Hinkson claimed, that weekly Cabinet meetings typically go late into the night. Last week’s meeting ran for 12-and-a-half hours, he said.
“Cabinet under the Dems, I hear, it is two o’-clock it wrap-up. The fellows go and eat some food,” he said of cabinet meetings of the Democratic Labour Party administration.
Hinkson pointed to the state of the Transport Board’s bus fellow as an example of a dysfunctional, below-par state of affairs the Barbados Labour Party found on coming to Government.
When the BLP demitted office in the January 2008 general election, it left behind close to 200 functioning buses, he said. Now, only 70 of these vehicles were found to be road-worthy when the Mia Mottley administration came to power in May, he said.
“Within four months, 110 buses were put on the road ready for the start of the school term,” Hinkson declared.
Conceding that garbage collection was still “a problem” the BLP Government “haven’t been able to solve” yet, he nonetheless assured constituents the Government “have committed to in November bringing some garbage trucks. We would have to pay a bit more for them because normally it takes about six months to order a garbage truck for it to be commissioned and brought in. We have a short space of time”.
The Minister did not give figures but his statement of added cost suggested that the Government exceeded the $15 million set aside in the mini-budget for the vehicle purchase.
He justified the apparent additional spending by describing the purchase as “mission critical”, saying “garbage has a direct impact on the health of a nation, which is the wealth of a nation”.
On the question of filling pot-holed public highways and byways, Hinkson said the Government “have committed that we will repair one major road to start in each constituency”.
He told constituents of at least one road in his suburban and rural riding, Rock Dundo Road, has been earmarked for complete re-paving.
The road was chosen for overhaul, he suggested, not only because it is among those in worst condition but “that is a critical juncture between the coast and the top (Highway 2A). There are many other roads [in need of repair]. We will do the others as finances come in”, he added.
The Home Affairs Minister also stated that much work has taken place in disaster preparedness and “to make the housing stock of Barbados more resilient,” announcing that roof repair programme is to return, with “a few houses in each constituency”.
“We are preparing ourselves in my ministry for any natural disaster. We found Barbados in a complete state of unreadiness for any disaster. We therefore voted money for repairing the shelters in Barbados. A lot of them are schools, some are churches.”
The Home Affairs Ministry has already placed more than half of a planned number of emergency supply storage containers in parishes across the island, he said, “so that if a hurricane were to come and any part [of the country were to be cut off] there would be food, water, medicine, and equipment in a storage bin that is placed at police stations”.
Some of these containers are also to be placed at fire stations and community centres, he added.