EDITORIAL: Too close to the brink to dither
THE YEAR 2016 opened with an unprecedented water crisis across much of the country. Just five days short of the close of the year, running water returned to the last of the suffering districts of St Peter, but with no assurance there will not be a recurrence.
The year opened with major concern about Government’s housing programme, and in particular the Grotto high-rise housing development, which at the time had been completed almost a year and was still not occupied.
As we approach the final days of 2016, the units are still unoccupied with no indication from Government that it has arrived at a workable or sensible solution.
When the year started, the state of the criminal justice system, and particularly the slow pace at which trials were taking place, the large number of prisoners on remand at HMP Dodds with no indication of when their matters would be heard, and the granting of bail to murder accused because of this sorry state of affairs, were a major talking point.
One year later, except for the extra push from some individual judicial officers, there is nothing to suggest that some systematic change has been implemented that has resulted in a meaningful improvement.
The year also opened with the prediction that Barbados would record its poorest sugar harvest in living memory, and by the middle of the year this was realised. What’s particularly disheartening as we approach the end of the year, however, is that for all the platitudes from the Government about a new sugar cane industry, a state-of-the-art co-generation facility at Andrew’s, St Joseph, and so on, we finish 2016 with nothing to suggest that there will be any appreciable improvement in output in 2017 that results from some initiative by the Government.
Now we can add to that some major issues that popped up during the year, including the near catastrophic failure of the South Coast Sewerage System and its impact on residents, tourists and business operators; the absolutely horrendous impact a failed transport system is having on our schoolchildren and national productivity; and a woefully inadequate garbage collection system that has long been in need of overhaul, among others.
And why do we chronicle these 2016 failures at this time when it is traditional to see the start of the new year as a period of hope? Simple; doing nothing seldom brings positive or desired change — and 2016 has been characterised by a lot of doing nothing.
In fact, it would appear that except for a few key persons in the Freundel Stuart Government, even talking to the population has been relegated to the back seat. Except for their speeches at official functions, no doubt written by others, and the noisy disturbances on radio that emanate from the floor of Parliament, the engagement of some minister and MPs, including the Prime Minister, for the entire year can be counted on the proverbial one hand.
A few days ago, however, Prime Minister Stuart spoke to the country via his annual Christmas message about the need for citizens to face our challenges by giving more — rather than taking more.
The message is appreciated, but as we approach the new year, he needs to speak with passion about national leadership and how he will inspire those around him to do more rather than offer more of the “same old, same old” platitudes.
The country has been on the brink for too long, and it has only remained there because those charged with leading are failing in their duty. What Barbados needs going into 2017 is decisive, inspiring leadership; persons who will take bold and decisive steps to combat the issues that confront us, even if some of those actions are unpopular; and leadership that will engage key stakeholders and not see every difference of opinion as a personal attack demanding retribution – even if subtle.
Our challenges are not beyond our capacity to solve, but we have to act and inspire the population to feel obligated to get on board. A failure to do this will be akin to failing to protect a body already decimated by serious illness — with life-threatening consequences.