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MY WIFE NOREEN AND I, from the United Kingdom and Ireland, are currently enjoying our first visit to this wonderful island.
We are now in our 70s and have visited much of this planet and most of the Caribbean island nations since our marriage around 50 years ago.
Without being sycophantic, I want to tell your readers that we appear to have kept the best wine ’til last. There is no need for us to describe what is great about this island. Your readers will know this. But nothing, no one and nowhere is perfect. And judging by the news in your daily pages, clearly there are a number of problems which citizens strongly feel are not properly being addressed by the Barbadian Government or by its appropriate agent public body.
There are the negative issues of crime, poverty, homelessness and the apparent wealth gap between the yacht/condominium owners and the guy I spoke to yesterday who spends his day, and possibly his nights, nestled in the shelter of an Oistins low-slung tree trunk. But that doesn’t distinguish Barbados in any way from countries that we have visited in all the other continents, or indeed in our own home countries.
Needs always appear to be infinite and resources finite, and I don’t envy the task of politicians to prioritise and address solutions to the myriad problems. In spite of my own nationalistic background and heritage (Irish republican), I would regard the current discussions on Nelson’s Statue in Bridgetown and a move towards a Barbados republic (reported in your newspaper), as very low down or trivial in the scheme of greater needs.
But what surely distinguishes Barbados from all the other countries we have visited is the inability of the appropriate public body to deal with the public health issue arising from the ongoing sewage failures on the South Coast.
I feel sure that most tourists affected can overlook the attendant inconveniences of the closed public toilets on the boardwalk; the avoidance of drinking tap water in favour of buying bottled water; the ban on using the infected hotel pool, and the noise of the sludge-gulper vehicle outside your hotel room in the early hours of the morning. Also, the inability to use the services of the affected and closed Worthing Post Office; the need to navigate a difficult detour walk around the odoriferous effluent that is pressure-pumped 24/7 from the nearby sewerage system under the main road.
But it will surely be deterrence in the consideration of repeat visits by tourists who will weigh St Lucia, Grenada, St Kitts, Aruba and so on in the alternative balance. But what of the local citizens who have to endure this seemingly endless public health problem? I would urge them to be more vocal in recourse to their political representatives, in the media and in any other forum in order to speed up the greater application of “elbow grease” to this major problem.
The Barbados Water Authority (BWA), the body “responsible for the efficient management of . . . safe potable water and satisfactory wastewater services”, describes itself as “fast-paced, high-energy, customer-focused and highly responsive to the needs of its employees and customers alike” [harumph]. It is currently advertising vacancies: 1. principal legal counsel, 2. senior legal counsel, 3. compliance officer, 4. social media officer, 5. GIS/CAD technician (whatever that is). I suggest that the BWA has a more urgent need for guys wearing overalls and rubber gloves and a hands-on experience of sewage systems, and of operating expensive excavation equipment.
I would urge all Barbadians who are affected by the ongoing sewage problem to include in their New Year resolutions a promise to email the general manager at www.barbadoswaterauthority.com. I feel that if Lady Macbeth were alive today, she might say: “All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little island of mine.”
– JOHN EGAN, a London newspaper correspondent seeking a reason not to report on a negative characteristic of a positive subject.