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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Some observations

Dr Frances Chandler, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Some observations

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FIRST I’LL share a few comments on my last two columns. I had noted some negatives about the Hyatt hotel proposed for Bay Street, mainly from the point of view of its possible non-compliance with UNESCO World Heritage Site conditions and its design being totally out of character with Caribbean architecture.

However, someone also noted quite rightly that the plan didn’t seem to take into consideration rising sea levels. After all, it’s to be built almost on the beach. I seem to recall some concerns about the effects rising sea level could have on our hospital, but apparently those concerns don’t apply here.

Then, in response to my comment about the penchant of journalists to report verbatim the bad grammar of those they interviewed, another reader expressed disgust at their insensitivity when visiting scenes of accidents, and crimes, pushing a microphone in the face of the relative of the victim and in some cases the victim, asking how he/she is feeling. Maybe reporters should rethink their approach.

Last week I listened (whenever I had a little time on my hands) to the House of Assembly debate on the Estimates for this financial year. I found it amusing, amazing, annoying and disturbing, with a sprinkling of encouragement, especially from Minister Inniss who seems to have an inkling of understanding about the time wastage brought upon us by Government agencies. Still, we won’t hold our breath while we wait for the problem to be rectified.

I believe I heard it asked at some point in the debate “What expenditure can we possibly cut any further?” I would start by cutting the time spent on the debate both in the Upper and Lower Houses – a total of about eight days I seem to recall. Do you realise how many three course meals, spirits and hors d’oeuvres are consumed in that time? The caterers must look forward to March like how hotels look forward to the tourist season.

The problem is that, in spite of all that time and expense, there is far from acceptable defence of the Estimates of revenue/expenditure under the various heads. Instead of every member riding their particular hobby horse ad nauseum, why not have the Government spokesman for each Ministry defend the estimates of his/her head in a concise way, followed by a similarly concise response from the Opposition’s shadow member? Leave out all the distractions like that of the Attorney General regarding the Opposition’s advertisement of its meeting last weekend. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

After we’ve got the format right, then we need to have mandatory courses in precis (do they still teach this in school?) for all 51 parliamentarians. Is it necessary to repeat every sentence three times and make a statement in three different ways? Furthermore “ahm . . .” should be banned, and the use of the phrase “Mister Speaker Sir” limited to twice during a presentation ?– one at the start and one at the end. This alone would reduce the time required by at least half.

Then of course there’s the massive wastage of paper. When I was in the Senate, I commented on the fact that sometimes I received three copies of a Bill. When you multiply that by 51, it’s quite considerable. Even now, three years after I’m out of the senate, I still receive these bulky rolls of paper which I promptly place in the recycling bin. In this electronic age we should be able to find what we need on the net or in the Parliament’s library.

Then there’s the continued insistence of parliamentarians that they must not only see the world during their tenure, but see it first class and accompanied by an entourage. However, when one raises any of these issues, they’re said to be of little significance, but they do add up.

The Barbados Water Authority also sings this “insignificance tune” every time someone suggests trapping water from our many springs before it goes into the sea or damming gullies to conserve water. Added to this is the negative attitude towards food security where we leave our land in bush and import everything.

What may be considered “little things” mean a lot. Like for instance our Prime Minister pulling over the litterbug recently. As far as I’m concerned this was one of his most significant achievements – leadership by example.