On May 24, 2018, Barbadians went to the polls and gave the Mottley-led Barbados Labour Party the biggest election victory in the history of Barbados. In doing so, they signalled that they were dissatisfied with the stewardship of the Dems and had confidence that the BLP would perform better.
Yet, a year later, every time a Government minister speaks, he/she prefaces his/her remarks with an attack on the past administration and blames it for every decision felt to be unpopular. Thus, bus fares had to be raised, buses or sanitation trucks cannot be provided, new taxes and levies had to be imposed all because of the “lost decade.” Is it not time for the Government to accept responsibility for the decisions it makes and get on with the business of running the country?
Even if the last Government did not buy new buses, it certainly cannot be blamed for a 75 per cent increase in bus fares! Commuters are justified in holding this administration accountable for increasing bus fares, especially given the transport horrors occasioned by an acute shortage of buses. The increase cannot erase the massive deficit of the Transport Board, so the public can be forgiven for believing that it rewards unruly behaviour exhibited by the Private Service Vehicles sector.
Public transport is too important for Government to delay acting decisively on what it is going to do to improve what is both a social and economic good. The proposal to integrate 40 PSVs with Transport Board buses will not solve the problem for there will still not be enough buses to serve commuters. And depending on other mini-buses and ZRs is a mistake since their owners and operators are too undisciplined to satisfactorily meet the needs of the travelling public.
I have suggested in another article that nothing short of a gradual takeover of public transport by the state, to be financed by a reasonable levy on income earners, will suffice. It is time to stop the blame game and act.
A second issue which the administration cannot escape some responsibility for is garbage collection. It moved swiftly to impose a sanitation levy, thereby increasing the water bill of every Tom, Dick and Harry with the pledge that sanitation services would be improved. What we have had so far is the bizarre spectacle of officials going to the Bridgetown Port after midnight to receive two trucks. My understanding is that three others have arrived without fanfare, but householders in many parts of the island are still complaining of not seeing a garbage truck for three and four weeks. Certainly, enough money should have been collected from the garbage tax to add significantly to the fleet of sanitation vehicles! Cut the “lot o’ long talk” and empty promises and act.
Minister Abrahams has done a reasonably good job in tackling the sewage problem, but one does not see the same urgency and energy in addressing the water woes of people in St. Thomas, St Joseph, St John and St Lucy. You cannot continue to ask consumers to pay sewage tax and high water bills for dry taps which can go on for two or three days.
Buckets to store water have become the norm for residents of these parishes who, often, get no notice of a water outage. I have a friend who has perfected the art of bathing with a pet bottle of water. Should the residents of these communities be limited in the use of their expensive waterborne facilities? Perhaps the Minister can persuade his cabinet colleagues to revisit the previously stated policy of constructing a couple more desalination plants. The satisfaction of Barbadians having a regular water supply will more than justify the initial outlay of funds.
With regard to health care, I would like to suggest that Lieutenant Colonel Bostic consider the use of drones to transport help for persons experiencing strokes or heart attacks. Time is of the essence when these emergencies strike, and it takes too long for an ambulance to go from the QEH to outlying parishes like St Lucy and St Philip.
Our country has the dubious distinction of being ranked as the fifth most unhealthy country in the world and we know that many of our people suffer from NCDs which predispose to strokes and heart attacks. We should, therefore, move with haste to get help to sufferers as quickly as possible.
Moving a country forward requires foresight and careful planning. The Government would do well to stop the blame game and expend energy in planning and implementing programmes for the development of our people.