If Prime Minister Mia Mottley has her way, there will be no pit toilets in Barbados by 2027.
During today’s session of Parliament, she sought approval for funds to tackle the issue, as she asked, “how does a country reach 54 years and still have 4 000-odd pit toilets on its landscape?”
“I say to you that the time has come for us to treat this as a special project,” Mottley told the House, to loud thumps of approval from MPs.
She disclosed that her administration was seeking to get a special loan to fund the project, but that has not yet been approved. However, Mottley said, the Government could no longer wait.
“I hope that in seven years from now, we can say that the only reason anybody has a pit toilet is because they went and [dug] one the week before and that, in truth and in fact, we become a country that literally works with persons to ensure that this is not part and parcel of the legacy that an independent Barbados gives them to move into the next generation,” she declared.
The issue of pit toilets was recently a hot topic during the St George North by-election campaign.
According to Mottley, the majority of pit toilets appeared to be on the urban corridor, but she expressed concern that rural communities were increasingly being plagued by the problem.
“And, in many instances, what has been disturbing to me is that the progress made in the past has literally been reversed in the last decade. We know it happens in every constituency, but I have seen far more of them this time around in Government than I have ever seen the last time we were there,” she lamented.
“The last time we were there, most of the pit toilets related to houses that had them for decades. What we are now seeing is pit toilets that have come about in the last decade or so, and that is what is disturbing and that is what has caused me to know that this Government cannot ignore it, because if we ignore it what we are going to see is a continued increase rather than a reduction in numbers.”
The Prime Minister stressed that despite having to undertake the project during an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, it was a critical move intended to improve the quality of life of Barbadians.
“So, let’s deal with it, get it out the way. It is going to take five, six, seven years, depending on the fiscal space that we have, in order to put this behind us, but it must now be seen as a priority for the Ministry of Finance to provide these funds,” she said.
Mottley stressed that the project would also provide much needed opportunities for small tradesmen and contractors.
The Minister of Finance asked the House to approve $5 million for the Rural Development Commission and $7.5 million for the Urban Development Commission to spearhead the initiative.
She also used the occasion to inform the Lower Chamber that the integration of the two commissions into the National Development Commission would be completed by the start of the next fiscal year.
“We can consolidate the two departments as one and still leave them with their mandates, in terms of rural Barbados and urban Barbados, so that there is not that lack of appreciation for the difference between the two entities,” Mottley told Parliament.