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EDITORIAL: Take it easy, Mr Minister


EDITORIAL: Take it easy, Mr Minister

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ON SUNDAY EVENING Minister with responsibility for the management of the island’s water resources, Dr David Estwick, addressed his constituency branch, speaking to a handful of faithful party supporters on an issue that has been the source of tremendous concern and inconvenience for Barbadians across a large portion of the island.

We could ask, again, why Cabinet ministers [and it did not start with the current Government] so often choose to address important national issues from political platforms and then accuse the Opposition and anyone else who would dare to question them, of being politically motivated. But we will not.

In a tone that could only have been influenced by the nature of the forum and the need to pander to his political supporters, Minister Estwick showed more than a little annoyance with those who question the pace at which solutions to the national water crisis are being implemented.

For instance, Dr Estwick, after noting that two promised packaged desalination plants were at sea on the way to Barbados, sarcastically remarked that you can’t expect someone to put them on a plane and ship them here. But Mr Minister, when promises are offered in a time frame of “soon”, “in a few weeks”, only comforts the politically blind.

After thousands of Barbadians endured months of hardship, including having no water over the Christmas holidays, and begging for an explanation, Minister Estwick finally held a Press conference on January 13 and outlined how he planned to tackle the problem, including the purchase of the two desalination plants. He later revealed that two temporary plants would be imported in the interim.

Well, Mr Minister, you also promised at that same Press conference that the Barbados Water Authority would import eight new water tankers as an emergency measure and they would be here in two months. It’s well beyond three months and, as far as we are aware they have not arrived.

Our point to you and your Cabinet colleagues, Mr Minister, is that it is not unreasonable for Barbadians to seek an update when they recognise gaps, real or perceived, between Government’s word and its achievements. It is not political and does not require overly robust language and tone – just calm, respectful updates.

Reasonable people recognise that just as there are gaps, there have been closures, or you are pretty near. The St Philip Water Augmentation Project is completed and function, the process of pushing water from the Sweet Vale well to St Joseph is being tested, and it would be hard to deny there has not been tremendous progress with the mains replacement programme.

If reasonable people can accept the achievements then you, Mr Minister, must be reasonable enough to accept that when they see gaps it can’t be unreasonable to ask a question.

The same applies to the maintenance of our road network. We have had lots of promises but very little action and it can’t be unreasonable to ask Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley to tell us what’s happening. We are sure motorists remember his promises every time they hit a pothole or burst a shock absorber.

By the same token, it can’t be political to ask Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite why a $1 million upgrade to the Arch Hall Fire Station that should have been delivered at the start of 2015, is still ongoing.