The historical record of Barbados shows that the country welcomes responsible development. To ensure that developments are built in an orderly manner, the Town and Country Development Planning office has published, and maintains a Physical Development Plan to guide developers.
Every developer who wants to build something in Barbados, whether a house or commercial building, must apply to the Planning office for permission. If the development is found to be within Planning’s guidelines, then it is normally approved.
Sometimes, a developer may wish to build something that is outside of the Planning guidelines. The developer may still submit an application, and the Planning office would inform them of any additional regulations for the application to be approved.
That is the normal method of obtaining approval to build. But our political leaders have allowed a special way of getting building approval – just go and see the Minister. At these meetings, our Ministers, who are normally woefully inexperienced in construction, are supposed to magically transform into development planning experts.
Tragically for us, the magic on which our politicians rely, does not appear to work very well – for us. Special developers tend to out-smart, or out-magic, our Ministers. It is quite mysterious.
Since the Government must still pay for public education, health, transportation and infrastructure, the taxes that the specials avoid paying, must be added to the taxes that the rest of us already pay. Sometimes those taxes are hidden in higher costs to obtain public services, like higher bus fares and water rates. However, a convenient way for the Government to make us pay their costs is to increase land taxes. Thanks specials.
Specials tend to rebuke the public if it dares question their Minister-approved developments. We tend to get rebuked for not seeing the blessings to Barbados from their developments. Perhaps in their rebukes, they can explain these benefits to Barbadians? I have tried to find the benefits, but I mostly find curses. Let me try to inform you.
There is the curse of discriminatory business practises, where you can build what you want because you are special, while we cannot. There is the curse of an unfair marketplace where you do not pay taxes that the rest of us must pay. You do not do this by legal tax avoidance, or illegal tax evasion. Rather, you do not pay these taxes just because you are special. There is the curse of a marketplace where Ministers apparently decide who wins and who loses in Barbados’ economy.
Perhaps the most damaging curse of all is that of mendicancy, where the next generation stops trying. They give up because they can easily see that a person’s effort in Barbados does not matter. They can see that prosperity in Barbados does not depend on the merit of your efforts, but on whether you are special. We have gone backwards as a nation.
The problem with the curses of the specials, is that the curse only falls on those who are not special.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at [email protected]