“It’s the end of a decade, and another ten years gone.” – ABBA, Happy New Year, 1980.
As we say farewell to 2019 today, we also say goodbye to a decade that saw significant changes in Barbados and the rest of the world. Some of those changes took us by surprise, others were planned, while other measures seem to have been implemented without clear and rational thought beforehand, leading to lots of back-pedalling, filling in the blanks, and other complications that could have been avoided if things were done correctly in the first instance. Brexit, anyone?
This has become an issue in Barbados over the past year when new legislation has come before the Upper House in particular. Independent Senator Monique Taitt and Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn have taken the current administration to task on numerous occasions in that regard. They have often said that some of the legislation brought before them was not properly drafted, certain phrases were unclear in terms of their meanings, and they did not get enough time to go through the documents properly before the session.
Outside of the Parliamentary realm, another example manifested itself with the arrival of the long-awaited new garbage trucks to our shores over the holiday weekend.
As the trucks landed, the Sanitation Service Authority workers and their union representatives complained that the new vehicles were not configured in a way that complied with their normal working practices. Specifically, there were only two seats in the cab when, generally speaking, the trucks carry one driver and two loaders; and the platform where loaders stand was on the side rather than the back of the truck, as has been the custom for years. Yes, the trucks are being retrofitted to the correct specification, but when the much-trumpeted decision to purchase new trucks was being discussed a while ago, were the workers not consulted? Did the relevant authorities not look at the existing models and ask the coachbuilders to put together something similar? The cost of this retrofitting exercise may be negligible in the wider scheme of things, but let us hope that these flaws are corrected with the next batch of trucks before they land here.
So, we are on our way to resolving our garbage truck dilemma. Now, we are faced with the Transport Board venturing into previously uncharted waters with electric buses. A local firm recently put together a prototype electric bus based on an old unit the Transport Board once owned. It did a test run with the Prime Minister and other Government officials before making an appearance in the Independence Day parade.
Ideally, if it has not already started, this prototype should be on the road getting tested under different weather conditions and bus routes, with the opportunity for drivers to let the manufacturers know what they will need to change and so on. If a supplier has been identified for the other buses scheduled to be imported into the island, a demo bus should be on the island going through the paces as well.
We also ask, will the existing charging stations set up by Megapower work for these vehicles or will they need a more heavy-duty model? These stations will have to be strategically located in the bus terminals and depots, and be capable of charging a bus for a full day’s work. After all, a bus with a full load of passengers cannot pull into the parking lot of a shopping mall and sit for two hours to recharge its batteries!
Usually, when the established car dealers introduce new models, the manufacturers either send representatives to the island to train the mechanics, or mechanics go to the company’s regional training centres to familiarize themselves with the vehicles. Will the Transport Board do the same, and include the sub-contractors who might be called upon to repair these electric buses in the future? The Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology is planning to introduce courses dealing with electric and hybrid vehicles to its Auto Mechanics Division soon, and that should help, given that we plan to move to an all-electric fleet of state-owned vehicles by 2030.
We have, in principle, paved the way for the legalization of the medicinal and sacramental use of marijuana, but it still is not clear exactly how this will work. We approved a number of cannabinoids for the Barbados Drug Service formulary in July this year, but have doctors been approving them for their patients, and, if so, have they been flying off the shelves or only being used as a last resort as experts recommend?
On the other hand, Government must be commended for the approach it is taking to the People’s Assemblies local government proposal, in terms of putting their basic idea to the public in the form of town hall meetings and allowing Barbadians to share their thoughts and views on the matter. We pray that those ideas are given full consideration before a final decision is made if we indeed go that route.
There are many goals for Barbados to accomplish by 2030. Now is the time to start planning in earnest, getting the people it will affect the most involved in the planning process, and not bringing anything to fruition until all questions are answered in a satisfactory way and we have contingencies in place in case our well-laid plans do not work out. That Bajan proverb is very instructive: “Taking time ain’t laziness.”