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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Devaluing Barbadians

DR FRANCES CHANDLER, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Devaluing Barbadians

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YOU DON’T KNOW what to believe nowadays. On Thursday the NATION newspaper sought Ralph “Bizzy” Williams’ reaction to “yesterday’s news the Canadian-based Deltro group had been given approval from the Town and Country Planning Department to  operate a solar panel manufacturing facility . . . and a 70-acre solar farm . . .”

In the same edition, Deltro’s Dean DelMastro is reported as announcing  that the company had been given permission for both the manufacturing plant and the solar farm.

Lo and behold, on Saturday, another media house reported the Chief Town Planner as saying during an interview that permission had only been given for the manufacturing facility and that “the application that was made for the solar farm . . . to my best knowledge . . . there is no record that planning permission has been granted for that.”

But interestingly, he continued “a decision on the initiative could come as early as next week.” All that seems like semantics to me. You can ever bet the permission will soon be confirmed.

If that does happen, Government would’ve demonstrated once more that it isn’t only leading us to the brink of devaluing our currency. It’s continuing to devalue our people and glorify anything or anyone from “over and away”. Bizzy’s solar farm application has been languishing in Town Planning for nearly three years, with no response forthcoming.

How can Town Planning justify this difference in the handling of the two applications? An official is reported as saying that “such applications for non-residential approval usually take a while and solar farming is also a relatively new domain so before the process can be completed a number of consultations with outside agencies have to take place, so it’s not surprising that it’s still at this stage”.

How then can the seemingly quick response to the Canadian’s application be explained when not only is that application “non-residential” but was also made by a non-resident?

Of course, we can only conclude that Deltro had long since been given fairly firm assurances of the permission since they shipped equipment to Barbados as far back as August 2015. Now they’re waiting for a “tariff waiver” to get it out of the port. I assume this is different from port charges which everyone else has to pay if cargo remains in the port for an extended period. We shall wait and see if these charges are waived as well.

The other issue regarding the Deltro farm is that the proposed site had been deemed a green area including a botanical garden. Not to mention that Patrick Bethell hasn’t yet been paid for the land. Can Government explain? And what does the Barbados Light & Power Company have to say? Wasn’t it opposed to larger megawatt farms?

Maybe Government’s desperation for foreign exchange overrides all other considerations, although nowadays we aren’t even sure the foreign exchange will reach us or if it will sit in the head office of some bank elsewhere in the Caribbean. Added to that, we don’t know how much of the earnings will actually stay in Barbados. In contrast, as the Williams Industries manager noted, their project would be locally owned and all dividends and returns from the investment would stay in the country.

Has Government given Bizzy a reason why his application is proceeding so slowly, especially since he plans to combine it with an agricultural operation to optimise the use of the land? He also has a proven track record, having already invested over $6m in other local solar projects.

It may be a coincidence, but on the same page of the NATION newspaper as the solar farm issue is a report of violent demonstrations against the government in Dominica. But I suppose our government knows we’re a peaceful people and feels confident it can treat us “any old how” without consequences.

Bizzy Williams is a true entrepreneur of whom Barbados should be proud. His development of Williams Industries into a diversified Caribbean corporation controlling 13 wholly owned and 17 joint venture companies in Barbados, St Lucia, and other Caribbean Islands has resulted in significant foreign exchange earnings and the creation of numerous jobs for Barbadians over many years.

People who’ve contributed less have even been knighted. Why is his contribution being rewarded with a kick in his rear end?

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

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