Address the issue!
As anticipated, the issue of the privatisation of state enterprises has become a hot topic on the general elections platform. And as has become the norm with such fora, what is spewing from the mouths of contenders from both parties is of little value to any voter.
We accept that a political platform, particular of the nature we have cultivated in this part of the world, is not necessarily the best place for reasoned debate on such critical matters, not when we can excite a crowd with revelations of which male member of the opposing party sleeps in a dress.
But we expect that between the cursing and boasting about the obvious, something of such importance as privatisation will start to factor into the points of elaboration.
It is one thing for the Democratic Labour Party’s speakers to whip up fears about how many thousands would be sent home from the Transport Board, Barbados Water Authority — when commonsense would tell any thinking person that taken against the whole, the numbers just don’t add up.
It is equal folly for the Barbados Labour Party, from its platform to say, in essence: “It was Chris who started de talk!” If it was him we all ought to be glad about it, and say thanks to him too, because it is a discussion the country needs to have.
The problem we have is that if both sides, as is now emerging, appear reluctant to raise the subject as worthy of meaningful discussion, then they should at least be bold enough, and honest enough, to tell the country what are the sensible and viable alternatives.
Let’s leave the Grantley Adams International Airport and the Bridgetown Port Inc. out of the discussion for the time being. On the face of it they are considered to be benefitting from efficient management and are taking care of their bills.
We need to have national discussion on whether we can continue to pump upwards of $30 million into the Transport
Board every year, regardless of if it is transporting old people and school children for “free”. Can we sustain it in its present form?
We do not believe there is a Barbadian alive, or dead for that matter, who would consider the operations of the Barbados Water Authority as efficient. Of course it has served Barbados well, and the quality and reliability of its product and service, must be the envy of every other entity of its sort in the Caribbean. But at what cost are we doing it? And how much longer can we sustain it?
Last election or the two or three before it, these were not pressing issues for most Barbadians because our economic circumstances did not compel us to look at wastage. Today, however, to ignore it is akin to committing suicide.
Can it be so offensive for our two major parties to level with the people and have a frank discussion about the merits or demerits of having some private sector interest in the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, the BWA, Transport Board and even the Sanitation Service Authority?
In an environment where the National Housing Corporation engages the private sector on more housing projects than it actually builds with its own staff and equipment, what could be wrong with a discussion of privatisation? Does privatising an agency like NHC tie Government’s hands?
Perhaps the agency that evokes the greatest fear when its name is juxtaposed against the word “privatisation” is the Sanitation Service Authority — and we can understand why that would be so.
But again, why does it have to be a political football if the country was to debate the benefits or lack thereof of directing the tens of millions that now go into sanitation services toward a private entity under such terms that guarantee improved efficiency at lower costs?
Our politicians on both sides of the fence are doing us all a disservice by the platform rhetoric that is designed to scare the population into voting one way or the other, when they all know that, like it or not, these matters are going to have to be addressed.
Why set out to deliberately fool the people?