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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Time for answers

DR FRANCES CHANDLER, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Time for answers

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THIS MUST BE our most pompous Government ever. My mother would’ve called them “bombastic”. Have you noticed how many questions they’re asked but never answer?

Apart from those on the call-in programmes, there are others almost daily in the Nation newspaper. The last Sunday Sun is replete with questions requiring answers from our supposed leaders, yet no one is accepting responsibility.

But this disrespect for the electorate isn’t surprising considering the attitude of some of the anonymous online cowards (probably political yard fowls who helped to put us in the “pickle” we’re in).

According to them, when the Prime Minister is quoted as saying the Independence celebrations are within budget but is unable to give a breakdown, we’re to accept that “since it was budgeted”. When the banks are allowed to walk over us with their ever increasing charges and infinitesimal interest rates on savings, we must accept that. It’s “business”.

But those of us who care about Barbados know we must take an interest in public affairs. As Plato said “the cost of not showing an interest in public affairs is to be governed by people worse than oneself”. And as the Sunday Sun Editorial notes “a politically alert and active citizenry is the surest weapon to nip harmful political practices in the bud”.

We must continue asking questions. Like whether an import licence was issued for the chicken wings reportedly burned by authorities a while ago. If so, who authorised it and was it issued to BADMC or some other individual or company. If there was no licence, what is Customs’ explanation? Those agencies involved seem to be passing the buck in circles, maybe hoping that the matter will blow over.

But this issue isn’t just about chicken wings (we know that those in the agricultural sector are considered lesser mortals, so their concerns aren’t important) it’s a matter of principle extending to other issues. So we want straight answers, Minister Inniss. Avoidance of the issue does nothing for your credibility or as Albert Branford put it “secrecy spawns salacious speculation”.

I’ve questioned Government’s housing policy ad nauseum. It seems their main objective is to claim a record for the largest number of houses any Government ever built. Yet most remain unoccupied, while many people continue to live in terrible conditions. Minister Kellman occasionally makes some empty statements, but these are never supported by what we see on the ground.

We want to know who the target market is for these houses and are they to be rented or sold? The Auditor General’s special audit of the NHC confirms that the corporation’s policy objective is to provide housing for low-income persons in a cost-effective manner.

But based on the cost of many of them, they certainly aren’t for low-income groups, and I can’t see any middle-income person investing over $450 000 in a home in a district like the Grotto. And what about the parking for these units? It certainly seems far from adequate.

Many of us questioned to no avail, large payments made to contractors for these buildings. Now the audit reveals anomalies with both the Grotto and Valery, including NHC’s failure to go to tender and apparent questionable transfer from the Housing Credit Fund. Kellman’s response is lame to say the least.

After Butch Stewart was allowed to “tie up” some of Barbados’ prime land for so long, Four Seasons has been allowed to do the same. There seems to be no positive end in sight. It’s such a tangled web, I doubt anyone knows the real truth. Of course we have other unfinished projects defacing our landscape. Couldn’t Government insist that a certain number of units in these projects are sold before work starts and that proof of adequate funding is produced?

And what’s the real truth about Sam Lord’s Castle? What BTII is saying doesn’t seem to agree with what neighbours have observed. Is this to be another Four Seasons?

While I agree with the contracting of garbage collection, I don’t understand payment by the hour.

It’s well known that the change of payment at sugar factories from the ton to the hour was a big factor in the demise of that industry.

Finally, I ask again about the promised 6-month statement on Government’s actual expenditure vs that estimated.

• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator. Email: [email protected]