Tropical Storm Kirk brought water, and lots of it, but ironically, Attorney General and Acting Prime Minister Dale Marshall still found himself in a ‘hot seat’ over the past two days.
With Prime Minister Mia Mottley out of the island, Marshall was left with the unenviable task of having to make the tough decision on whether or not a national shutdown should be issued due to the pending inclement weather.
And while there are several arguments that could be raised to both support or oppose a national shutdown, what caused most Barbadians to become quite incensed was the timing with which these decisions were made.
Certainly, we respect the decision of the powers that be who we believe were guided by sound, accurate information from the relevant experts.
What was of concern to most Barbadians, though, was the time given to get their houses in order before reporting for duty.
The effects of Kirk were initially expected to be felt on Thursday morning, leading to schools being closed.
However, as most Barbadians tuned in to their radios, televisions and social media sites awaiting news regarding the status of the country, the news of those closures only came at 5 a.m. on Thursday.
No national shutdown was announced, which meant that persons were still expected to go to work.
Now, while we understand that there are intricacies surrounding weather forecasting and the difficulties which may present themselves, in 2018 it was inconvenient for such a decision to be made a mere hours before some parents were expected at work.
Where were they expected to keep their children with schools closed at such short notice? Were they expected to put plans in place to have their children looked after as they were preparing to head off to work? Or were they supposed to take them to their respective jobs?
As expected, one Swan Street storeowner reported that up to 40 percent of his staff did not make it into work because they had no one to keep their children.
What recourse is there for those workers who have children, but are unable to find suitable care for them and are therefore unable to attend work?
Are they protected from losing their jobs if an angry employer decides to terminate their services?
And then, as if that were not bad enough, the same decision was made on Friday, albeit a bit earlier.
At least on this occasion, the opening of Government offices was extended to 12 noon – after being pushed back from 10 a.m. – giving parents some time to organize their affairs.
One of the reasons given for a national shutdown not being issued was the fact that it was Friday and workers were usually paid on that day and therefore needed to get to the bank.
There has been much talk about Barbados becoming a 24/7 society and maybe that time has come. But there are clear signs that we are far from ready.
Perhaps, Friday would have better served as a national clean-up day with the understanding that businesses – including banks – open on Saturday to allow persons to organize their affairs.
We all know the complicated job which the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), the Barbados Meteorological Services and the other disaster management agencies are asked to do whenever situations like these arise.
But there is room for improvement in not only how these decisions are made, but how they are communicated to the general public.
As Barbadians, we understand better than almost anyone else, now more so than ever, the importance of having a thriving economy and the need to be as productive as possible.
And while the decision not to issue a national shutdown was probably driven by Barbados’ ailing economy and the financial loss which could have arisen due to the closure of businesses, Government must at all times seek to ensure that it strikes the right balance.