FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Start with clean slate
LET’S START 2017 right by cleaning the slate and shedding 2016’s “baggage”.
The Minister of Finance can start by bringing forth the results of his promised and long overdue six-month review of Government’s spending according to the 2016/17 estimates laid in the House last March.
Maybe he’s forgotten that in his 2016 Financial Statement And Budgetary Proposals, he indicated that Government intended to trim its expenditure by $25 million “from all areas of discretionary expenditure”, while targeting an additional $25 million in spending adjustments, following a mid-term Estimates review of all Government ministries.
Mid-term has long passed and if I’m not mistaken, preparation of the 2017/18 estimates would be well on the way, but still no word on the review.
Then, of course, many of the “grey areas” of the national social responsibility levy are yet to be resolved, with taxpayers still in confusion about several issues. Added to that is the proposed expansion of the areas for special incentives for investments under the Tourism Development Act and the establishment of duty-free zones by Christmas.
Well, Christmas has come and gone and we haven’t heard a word. Likewise, the findings of the special committee to look at these initiatives (promised in three months from last August).
The solid waste tax has been abolished for some time and yet questions on illogical/unfair charges to agricultural lands are still unanswered despite promises to sort out the matter.
South Coast sewage issue
After the “bungling” of the South Coast sewage issue, with seemingly conflicting statements made by various Government agencies and politicians, we aren’t quite sure where we are, but trust the problems are behind us.
Of course, we thought the dry taps were behind us too, but over Christmas, there were complaints from areas other than those severely affected for the entire 2016. Public transport continues to be unsatisfactory as well as the nagging garbage collection issue.
Why are we still experiencing problems with paying for driver’s and vehicle licences? I recently waited three hours to pay Government $25 for my driver’s licence. There was one cashier.
An 80-year-old woman waited for about two hours only to be told that her insurance document wasn’t acceptable. Wouldn’t it make sense to have documents checked as you arrive? Then someone needing a “Highway Code” booklet was told to wait in a line of about 30 people. Is that reasonable? Of course, card machines are more often than not out of order.
I’ve started 2017 with a brand new set of vehicle tyres which hopefully will survive despite the never-ending potholes (or, more correctly, caverns) but this is probably wishful thinking since work on the Brighton road which I traverse on a regular basis and which is the ultimate in “potholery” seems to have come to an abrupt end after about two days. Is there an explanation?
On the other hand, thankfully the Andrews sugar factory project seems to have made no progress, since as far as I’m concerned it’s the most ill-conceived project I’ve ever encountered and certainly not the answer to the sugar cane industry’s problems.
As for our physical environment, we need to remove all the Independence and Christmas paraphernalia in public places promptly and not allow faded, damaged, water-soaked decorations to mar the landscape. Why can’t we remove banners and other signs advertising long-passed events instead of allowing them to become eyesores? By the way, has all the election bunting (2008 and 2013) ever been removed? I wonder.
Barbadians have some awful habits when it comes to environment cleanliness. How can we expect to run roadside vehicle and appliance repair businesses, with rusty and derelict equipment littering the landscape and impeding the free flow of traffic?
Whether or not we agree with tipping fees, how can we expect to dump appliances and other garbage by the roadside or in gullies and then complain when they cause flooding? Government must create the necessary legislation and, more importantly, enforce it.
Even without mandated garbage separation, how difficult is it to separate our garbage, composting the organic and recycling other waste?
While we must speak out on what we expect from our leadership, we, too, must stand up to our responsibilities – like paying taxes, not littering, not wasting resources, especially water, and generally being good citizens.
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator. Email: [email protected]