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Don’t kick transport ‘down the road’ like education

Randy Batson

Don’t kick transport ‘down the road’ like education

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SO MANY issues, so little space. But here goes. First, Ralph Jemmott’s clear and straightforward article in MIDWEEK Nation, Grading Mr Jones, is recommended reading. It is in itself a direct response to another article written by Roy Morris in the Midweek Nation of September 2. Jemmott makes for thought-provoking reading and merits discussion in various forums.

Jemmott, in his article, points out that free (university level) education is not “sustainable in a small fragile economy as Barbados” and that “administrations (note the plural) kicked the proverbial can down the road, until the financial crisis after 2008 made this fact demonstrably clear”. That is a very telling statement and to one’s mind, eloquently captures a cultural behaviour that seems to be inherent in the local political system to a startling degree.

The phrase “kicked the can down the road” has become ubiquitous in American politics over the last few years. It refers to the practice of successive governments to delay a decision or issue with the hope that it will disappear, or someone else will deal with it, or to defer conclusive action with a short-term solution. Governments tend to do that whenever a particular course of action, sometimes regardless of how important or necessary it may be, is controversial and/or unpopular.

Education, according to Jemmott, is one such area where “kicking the can” occurred. Reform of the local public transport sector is definitely another. On the eve of talks between the Ministry of Transport and Public service vehicle owners and operators, one strongly suspects that more can kicking will take place. One is cynical enough to believe that the most that will emerge from this latest round of meetings will be short-term superficial solutions that will be poorly implemented, if at all, and that will be soon followed to a return to the status quo. That is how it has always been and there is nothing to suggest it will be any different going forward.

But to avoid being labelled being a naysayer before anything even takes place, here is a proposed wish list for positive outcomes.

1. From the concessionaires themselves, a serious practical proposal as to how they want to revamp the model under which their employees work to reduce or eliminate the “hustling” that is apparently necessary for those persons to make a “decent” salary/wage.

2. From the Government, how it would reorganise the various routes across the country so that that some routes are not overserved and PSVs then have to fight for commuters, as well as take away substantial numbers for the Government’s own service (and thus reducing its fiscal viability). This would entail a reassignment of permits so that some routes will be better serviced, whilst others would a more reasonable number that would facilitate the needs of the public whilst reducing the need for the operators to fight for the ridership.

3. From the concessionaires, how they will realistically and decisively police the behaviour of the operators (outside the proposed GPS thing). They cannot be complaining about stiff court penalties and stringent insurance requirements and demands, at a time when a young schoolchild lost an arm allegedly as a consequence of bad driving, an incident that led Government to spend money on installing speed bumps to reduce the likelihood of such occurring again.

– Randy Batson