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IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Enough confusion, Dr Lowe

ROY R. MORRIS, [email protected]

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Enough confusion, Dr Lowe

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EVERY SO OFTEN, politicians, who are supposedly intelligent people, do things that make you wonder about their thought process – then when you have to comment they want to label you as political.

For a considerable period the country was ready to draw and quarter Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe and the management of the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) for the agency’s pronounced failure to collect garbage that was piling up at the side of the road all over the country.

Bajans were justifiably upset. Those responsible had failed for years to provide the SSA with the resources, particularly compactor trucks, it needed to do the job and when people complained Lowe and company, in particular, waffled on and on. The SSA needed three dozen working trucks daily, but struggled most days to muster a dozen, and the Government could not make up its mind, apparently, about how it would deal with the matter.

Then out of the blue the country was told that the assistance of private waste haulers would be hired to supplement the SSA’s efforts. Clearly, in implementing this change the SSA, as is the norm, did it badly and ended up defending what in my view was a perfectly sensible decision in difficult circumstances.

No objections

In arriving at a solution, as far as I was concerned it did not matter as much how we arrived at the problem, but how we were going to get out of it. Waiting until next year for the arrival of new trucks was not an option, even though there is nothing wrong with citizens questioning how Government arrived at its payment model for the private contractors.

So Government announced it would implement this scheme to pick up garbage in St Lucy, St Peter, St John and St Philip using private haulers, and I do not recall a single suffering poor householder who publicly objected to their use.

But then along came Minister Lowe this week and confused the whole matter. After starting a project on October 10 with the announcement that it would last six months, Lowe tells the country on October 31 it has been extended for two weeks and would now end at the end of this week – and since they have been working Monday to Friday, I take that to mean November 4.

I readily admit that I was never good at maths, but this thing is just not adding up. If it ends on November 4, which was an extension of two weeks, that means the project was originally due to end on October 21. That would also mean that the project was only intended to last 11 days.

Does that make any sense? What about the multimillion-dollar vote that Parliament passed to fund this project? Was all that money to cover 11 days of private garbage collection?

Here’s what the minister said, in his own words: “We decided it needed to be extended for another two weeks because there was not sufficient qualitative nor quantitative data that would suggest the basis upon which we could evaluate the success or failure of the programme.

“It was mooted as a six-month programme, but we wanted to introduce it first on a trial basis so we could see where it’s working and where it’s not working.”

Really, Dr Lowe? Do you understand why Barbadians don’t have a lot of regard for the words of politicians?

I want to make a suggestion to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart. If Dr Lowe is able to sell that explanation to the country, then you should do a Cabinet reshuffle. Make him minister of tourism, because with that level of salesmanship instead of achieving 600 000 tourist arrivals by the end of the year, we are sure to hit the one million mark.

Sensible decision

But since a Cabinet reshuffle by the Prime Minister is less likely than snow falling on Mount Hillaby this Christmas, let me help Dr Lowe confuse the country some more. I still think the use of the private haulers was a sensible decision, even if the contractual mechanism was not very sound. Ease up on the waffling and clean up the country.

Here’s a letter from a visitor to help you along. Do your part and stop the waffle, please:

“I will keep this as short as possible. I have been coming to Barbados as a visitor twice a year for the last 15 years and I am sorry to say that the island is going down the pan rapidly. Rubbish everywhere, rusty cars, people have no respect for their island and no respect for each other. Just yesterday I witnessed on two separate occasions grown men urinating on the side of the road in full view of traffic. With regards to the traffic the drivers are the worst I have come across.

Will be visiting other islands in future.”

– Maggie Robson