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EDITORIAL – Not a lot to sell anyone on

marciadottin, [email protected]

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MINISTER DONVILLE INNISS never fails to arrest you with his clarity of intent and gravity of tone – a quality package all Ministers of Health should possess really.
When it comes to health and our environment, we do not need to have our national managers taking refuge in obfuscation. Only being upfront will do.
So, we are with Mr Inniss and his stated and evident war against the deadly Aedes aegypti mosquito. We are with the minister when he keeps insisting that all Barbadians must get aboard the bus on the route toward protecting the population from dengue and other debilitating and dangerous diseases.
We are with Mr Inniss yet when he laments that Barbadians are not taking the threat of dengue more seriously, and that they need to start acting more responsibly by not dumping illegally and indiscriminately, and by clearing their open lots of overgrown bush and clambering vine.
The point cannot be underscored heavily enough that we must not accommodate or create breeding grounds for the dengue-bearing Aedes aegypti mosquito – for any potential health crisis at all.
And thus we understand Mr Inniss’ annoyance at property owners not clearing their open lots. The minister is right; it cannot be any less than “reprehensible that Barbadians at home and abroad, and state departments, could sit back and watch land that they own become a public hazard and then adopt an attitude that the Ministry of Health could come and clean it up”.
After all, the Ministry of Health was thoughtful and kind enough to clear these offending lots – for the good of the country – with the understanding property owners would reimburse the ministry. Regrettably, too many of these lot owners have refused to pay for the cleanup of their properties – an expenditure to the Government of $800 000.
Far less than $100 000 of this debt to the Ministry of Health has been collected for Mr Inniss’ three-month debushing project. This cannot be right; and Mr Inniss’ chagrin is understandable.
What doesn’t seem right though is the minister’s threat to sell off these lots whose cleanup bills remain unpaid.
Mr Inniss says his moral persuasion has not been working; that the selling off of some of these places will do the trick. He thinks the time is right for him to make full use of the Health Services Act that gives the Minister of Health the authority to dispose of liable property to recover cost.
We hold no brief whatever for the delinquent lot owners; but there must be other less extreme ways of forcing recompense. What of the publishing of the delinquent who’s who? What about annual tax penalties; community service by the courts? The options are several.
By all means the minister must deal with the unreasonable lot owners. But he doesn’t need a cudgel to kill a single one of these ants.