A Government Senator says the introduction of the Planning and Development Bill 2019 which went before the Upper House today, will assist Government with improving its status on the ease of doing business in Barbados.
Speaking in Senate as he debated the Planning and Development Bill 2019 on Wednesday, Senator Damien Sands said that Barbados dropped to a ranking of 132 in the World Bank Report in their ease of doing business which he attributed to the long wait for approval from Town and Country Planning.
“That is a slippage of 15 positions from where we were in the previous report and one of the major factors for that slippage circled back to the delay in getting a response to an application laid at the Town and Country Planning,” he said. He noted that the report indicated that it takes approximately 15 months to receive a response from the Town and Country Planning.
Sands believes that the country’s slippage in the ease of doing business ratings suggested that the laws governing the Town and Country Planning Act were outdated.
“These few observations suggest to me that the existing legislation is outdated. It is inefficient in the process, it lacks transparency as the Chief Town Planner is responsible for decisions. There is a clear impediment to economic activity, economic growth and investment,” Sands said, adding that the current system leads to persons feeling disenfranchised.
“We have a system were persons feel that the goal post is constantly shifting. They feel as though when they apply their wait is in vain. Fifteen months is way too long in any given application process. That simply cannot be good enough in a 21st century Barbados. This Bill seeks to address these concerns by implementing timelines,” he said.
Sands who is a lawyer by profession said the Planning and Development Bill 2019 is a part of Government’s transformation process as it seeks to increase accountability, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in the Town and Country Planning Department.
“The teeth have now been placed with this Bill whereby if a person is found guilty of being directly or indirectly influenced to make a decision for financial reward or otherwise; if they fail to declare a conflict of interest they may find themselves imprisoned, fined or both,” he said, adding that the penalties for a breach of the act range from $100,000 to $250,000 thus serving as a deterrent and restoring Barbadians’ faith in functionality of the Town and Country Planning Department, he added.