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JUST ANOTHER VIEW: Mia’s poor fight record


GEORGE PILGRIM

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The most recent machination that has drawn attention to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) revolves around the battle for the leadership of the party. The current Opposition Leader has been the chief cook and bottle washer on the issues that come to the public.
The columnist Hartley Henry, in another space, has offered the Opposition Leader some sound advice about her approach to Opposition politics and the selection of issues. He has intimated, on more than one occasion, that she has a poor track record of picking fights.
Her former boss, on the other hand, is more calculated in his determination of what constitutes an issue. One thing for sure is that he is not afraid to call a spade a spade when it comes to her capacity and leadership ability.
He has also had to distance himself from his leader’s perspective on more than one occasion publicly.
The most recent occasion was the tell-all meeting held opposite the bread vendor in Haggatt Hall where some apparent earth-shattering information regarding the National Housing Corporation was to have been made public.
The tell-all meeting ended with the former leader going off on his own message, leaving his leader to flounder on the topic of housing – an issue he knows that his administration grappled with from inception.
In this respect, the BLP leader sought to take up the rage of a former disgruntled chairman and question the performance record of the Minister of Housing Michael Lashley.
The daunting task of resuscitating housing was given to Minister Lashley upon his entry to Government.
There can be no doubt in the minds of Barbadians that hope has been delivered through Minister Lashley. But history will show that the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) record on housing did not start in 2008, but goes all the way back to even before its creation of the National Housing Corporation in 1973.
Amenities
As far back as 1969, the big thrust in housing started with a new design of terrace units at The Farm, Deacons. Wherever possible at the time, the DLP sought to include in its housing programme and estates, day care nurseries and shopping facilities, as was the case in Silver Hill and Eden Lodge. The record is clear.
Just as pellucid has been the failure of the Barbados Labour Party after three straight terms in office to mask its underperformance in the delivery of housing to the people of Barbados.
The Bees don’t want to tell the country in their publications and utterances that the total number of houses completed during the period September 1994 to January 2008 tallied 594.
This number alone was just shy of what the DLP produced in 1989 alone.
The housing sector was never given any serious attention by the Arthur administration. Four ministers, 802 lots, a waiting list of 28 042 later, they want to place the DLP on trial.
I would advise Minister Lashley to give full disclosure to Barbadians on all housing matters as it relates to the contractual arrangements of the NHC then and now.
The Government has nothing to be ashamed of in the area of housing other than that the minister has not taken the time to tell Barbadians of the vacuum that was created as a result of the inept polices of the former administration.
I want to appeal to Minister Lashley, when he takes a break from throwing up structures, to update us on some matters.
Matter No. 1. Minister Lashley, can you please give us some insight into the 99-year lease that was signed 11 days before the last election with the developers of the Sapphire project on the South Coast.
Matter No 2. Minister Lashley, can you please tell us about the abandoned construction of the Primary Home model house at the stage where the contractor had spent  around $38 000 when it was realized that the house could not be built for under $50 000 as previously advocated by the then minister.
It ended up costing taxpayers nearly $70 000.
Matter No 3. Why have you not told us about the housing programmes that were poorly conceived and in some instances with no houses ever constructed. For example, Dean Town, despite programme being launched.
The BLP would want to say to us that we should take the speck from our eye; but we know of the log and hardwood that is in theirs.
I am calling on the Minister of Housing to respond to these matters raised before I complete my list. The public is patiently awaiting your response.
We  saw land prices dramatically increase over the 1994 to 2007 period. The intervention by the Government then was to announce that land should reach its highest economic value.
The link can be shown between the exclusive focus of the Arthur administration on building condos, villas and homes for the wealthy and the surge in building costs to as high as between $400 and $600 per square foot on the West Coast. We simply cannot escape the fact that between 1996 and 2007 there were very few private housing developments aimed at the lower and middle-income group.  
This is the first time in years that we are seeing a plethora of housing projects aimed at the ordinary Barbadians.
This is the axis upon which the discussion needs to rotate. By September 31 the NHC had completed 515 housing solutions.  
The NHC and the minister deserve kudos for their efforts to date. Barbadians of all walks of life, whether they be BLP, DLP or apolitical, must admit that something is happening.
* George Pilgrim is a research student of Salises and general secretary of the Democratic Labour Party.

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