Folks who live in the most northern parish of the country got their chance to speak on Monday night when the Government continued its series of public engagement forums.
The cries of the good people ranged from challenges with farmlands, lack of housing, poor water quality, no water at all, pothole-filled roads, and poor bus service, to absolutely no bus service in some instances.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley led the session. She was accompanied by MP for St Lucy Peter Phillips, Minister of Energy and Business Development Kerrie Symmonds, Acting Minister of Transport, Works and Water Resources Dr Rommel Springer, Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams, and key public officers.
At the end of the three-and-a-half-hour session, the St Lucy residents who spoke laid bare all the challenges and frustrations that made life tougher than it should be for them.
While the session was titled St Lucy Speaks and held at Daryll Jordan Secondary School, in many ways it mirrored the August 2022 St Andrew Speaks at Alleyne School in Belleplaine.
It appears as though those two parishes which many Bajans scoff at and ridicule for being “behind God’s back” have had the same fate: years of neglect by successive governments.
The Transport Board came under fire for poor bus service. In some instances, a single bus must service multiple locations in the parish. This means that a commuter could leave Bridgetown at 11 p.m. after a gruelling day at work and get home close to two hours later. The same obtains for the early morning when workers must rise as early as 3 a.m. in order to ready themselves and commute to jobs on the other side of the island.
One resident said she had to give up a job because of the poor service.
“We only have the quarter to six bus, St Lucy Church bus. I had to give up a job. When I called the man at Transport Board and asked for the bus, he laughed and told me there is only the quarter to six from town that evening…. Right now, you need to address the St Lucy Church bus. We need it urgently,” she lamented.
Transport Board general manager Fabian Wharton said that along with the agency’s limited resources to service routes, repairs to the Bawden’s and Thompson bridges in St Andrew have resulted in changes to the bus schedule.
“We have a situation at the Transport Board where the northern parts – St Lucy, St Andrew and those rural districts which are only serviced by the Transport Board primarily – we have a limited amount of resources. At this moment, we are looking at seeing how we can address it.”
He added: “Because we had to use additional resources as a result of what is happening to the bridges in St Andrew, we are now deploying way more buses into that St Andrew corridor than we would have normally deployed.
“We are at the stage where there is going to be some relief, hopefully soon, as it relates to that routing. There is some work that is being done where that road is going to be soon addressed. We are then going to move back those resources to allocate for the St Lucy Church bus.”
Residents pointed out that there were public service vehicle operators issued routes by the Licensing Authority who do not complete those routes but stop short in Speightstown, leaving people from Checker Hall, Josey Hill and other places high and dry.
Many residents also lamented the brown water coming from their taps.
Water Quality Specialist at the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) Alex Ifill said a build-up of silt and the highly-aged water infrastructure were responsible for that brown colour.
“There are some significant problems in St Lucy as it relates to brown water. It is a two-fold problem; we have a very aged network, it breaks constantly and causes disruptions in the service and, therefore, causes brown water.
“At Allendale over the past few years, we have noticed siltation. Siltation is a natural process but usually, it takes 30, 40 years for a significant amount of silt to accumulate. In the past few years, with the constant change [in rainfall], these things have acted to accelerate the siltation at Allendale,” Ifill added.
Each time Prime Minister Mottley said the problems were decades old and therefore quick fixes were impossible, it reinforced the severity of the issues that plague these tax-paying citizens in the north.
That, along with Ifill’s admission that the brown water was caused by decades of build-up in the pipelines, paints a picture of years of neglect.
Ironically, both St Lucy and St Andrew have remained dedicated to a single political party for close to 30 years. St Lucy stuck with the Democratic Labour Party in 1999 when the party only secured two seats in Parliament. Likewise, St Andrew remains faithful to the Barbados Labour Party. So, what then is the reason for these decades of neglect? If these folks continually repose confidence in a particular party, how is it when that party forms the Government that they do not make the parish’s infrastructure, upkeep and well-being a priority?
We are certainly not advocating favouritism; however, we believe that these parishes were hard done by those whom they continually supported and placed their faith in.
St Lucy folk are no less important than those living in other parishes. It is high time that St Lucy residents get better; they deserve it.