At a recent press conference given by our current prime minister, I was once more appalled by his contribution. He indicated that the money spent on roads should have been invested in agriculture. The former administration responded to those concerns on a number of occasions, yet these silly remarks keep cropping up.
The number of minibuses on island is in the vicinity of some two thousand if we are not mistaken and these individuals risk their collateral and purchase these vans in excess of $150,000 per unit, then comes the bank payments, insurance, maintenance, parts, tyres and a profit margin for their families. Addressing the maintenance of roads is a priority for and on behalf of those bus operators. They not only provide a daily service to commuters, but they play an integral part within the tourism industry by way of tours and taxis on a very large scale.
By extension, truckers and bus owners remain crucial to the farming industry by transporting their produce and their workers to and from the various sites. Transportation is extremely important in all walks of life, consequently, roads cannot be neglected. Agriculture is very important, but agriculture alone cannot provide the significant contribution like tourism and we now give a perfect example. The former administration invested millions into the banana industry and as production commenced eighty percent was wiped out by a mini storm. All the roads constructed withstood the elements and tourism picked up the slack. More importantly, most of the roads under construction were financed by the contractors over a two-and-a-half-year programme which would have been settled after final construction from the $1.50 gas tax placed in a lock box. This was a clever way of financing this operation as the funds were not drawn out of the compromised consolidated fund associated with Covid.
Today I listened patiently to an interesting contribution by Mia Motley, the Barbados Prime Minister, who made some very telling remarks. She sent a clear message to the financial institutions in Barbados stating clearly that the millions of dollars sitting in their care are unacceptable. She declared that if she required a caretaker for those funds, she would hire a security company. She has now instructed those institutions to get busy and search for investments to put their cash to work as lending is an institution which has prevailed for years and will continue ad infinitum.
The importance in doing so is to get a return on one’s investment and simultaneously put the citizens to work. This contribution by Mottley brings to light the NIC investment to Cabot where the nation’s funds were put to work at three times the interest earned at a former institution and we all recall the unfair criticism booted out by the Opposition and their supporters in respect to this investment.
The current prime minister has again gone on TV indicating that he is seriously thinking of resurrecting the abandoned GFL Charles School at Ciceron to conserve the name George Charles. The school was abandoned for two reasons: firstly, the school was wrongly located and serious social issues were encountered and continued on an ongoing basis associated with burglaries, and secondly based on poor student attendance as a result of the significant drop in child birth over the years. Consequently, the hard core of students prefer attending school in safer environments.
There are far more lucrative areas available to keep the name of George Charles at the forefront without investing millions within an unsuitable location as the funds could be better invested elsewhere. On another hand, it is ironic that our current prime minister is so concerned about the name George Charles today when it was deceased Sir John Compton who secured a home for Sir George Charles after being cast aside by the SLP.
The gesture of four million dollars to wipe off all existing arrears on the CDC buildings should be open to discussion as there are gray arears within the leases which must be addressed. Our understanding, is that a number of tenants are actually renting from a second party and who knows whether the occupants have actually paid their lessors and the funds never reached national housing authority.
The prime minister should seriously consider forming a committee of respected persons to oversee the entire arrangement and not left to one politician to do as he sees fit. The four million dollars expected to be paid from taxpayers’ money to the national housing corporation is indeed a large sum which needs to be carefully monitored. We are not casting any aspersions at the moment, but politicians have a very myopic vision as to how things should be done hence our advice to the prime minister is to bring a level of transparency to all taxpayers in this country.