COLUMN – Old colonial system that is choking!
As we approach Barbados’ 50th year of Independence, I am calling on all patriotic Barbadians to join together and make a determined effort to uproot and eradicate the destructive remnants of the “old colonial system” that still exists in our supposedly Independent nation.
And one particularly odious remnant is that aspect that traditionally permitted the social and business elite of Barbados to have compliant members of the political directorate grant them outrageously preferential business and commercial arrangements that allowed them to feed on the substance of the Barbadian state and on the mass of predominantly black labourers, consumers, and –– in more recent times –– taxpayers!
Just take a cursory look at Barbados’ history, and you will see exactly what I mean. From the earliest colonial days, the planter/merchant elite utilized a compliant House of Assembly to, inter alia, supply themselves with cheap labour by legislating the enslavement of Blacks; grant themselves legal title to the lands they had occupied; give themselves a commercial advantage by prohibiting free Blacks and Coloureds from being able to give evidence in court against them; control black labour by enacting a post-Emancipation Masters And Servants Act; prohibit the migration of black labourers from Barbados; transfer the burden of falling international sugar prices on to the backs of the large black labouring class; use legislation and the court system to ensure that the lands of bankrupt plantations did not fall into the hands of Blacks; use grant money from the British government exclusively for the elite sugar planter class; and the list goes on and on.
In more recent “Independence times”, this old colonial phenomenon has been manifesting itself in the practice of predominantly black parliamentarians and ministers of Government granting amazingly preferential taxpayer-funded or guaranteed contracts to elite white Barbadian and foreign business people –– contracts that they would never dream of conferring upon black Barbadian business people!
One such contract is the so-called take or pay contract the current Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration granted to Sustainable (Barbados) Recycling Centre Inc. (SBRC) in June, 2009. Under that contract, we, the taxpayers of Barbados, are obliged to underwrite a guaranteed minimum payment of $22.6 million a year over a 20-year period to SBRC for the processing or managing of so-called municipal solid waste, whether or not the company is actually called upon to carry out work of the requisite quantity.
Thus, under this contract alone, we taxpayers are saddled with a minimum payment of $45 million over the 20-year period.
Another such contract is the April, 2013 so-called storage tank lease contract entered into by our Government with Storage Solutions Limited –– company No. 36264 in the Register Of Companies at the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office, situate at Baobab Tower, Warrens, St Michael!
Under this contract, our Government-owned (and taxpayer-funded) Barbados Agricultural Management Co. Ltd (BAMC) is obligated to pay Storage Solutions Limited the sum of $2,150,000 plus VAT every year for 20 years for the privilege of using three molasses storage tanks at the Bridgetown Port. Thus, under this contract, our Government (and ultimately the taxpayers of Barbados) are saddled with a payment of some $50 million over the 20-year period!
Yet another such contract is the so-called housing construction contract entered into between this current DLP administration and the corporate entity known as Housing Concepts SRL.
Under this contract, Housing Concepts SRL was leased a massive parcel of Government land at Coverley, Christ Church, at peppercorn rent for the purpose of constructing houses for sale to the Barbadian people at prices ranging between $289,000 and $396,000. But what makes this contract truly remarkable is that our taxpayer-funded Government has entered into a legally binding contractual obligation to purchase from Housing Concepts SRL any house that the company is unable to sell to members of the public. Thus, once again, we taxpayers are left holding the bag!
And –– truth be told –– I could go on and on detailing similarly outrageously preferential contracts that our compliant political directorate has conferred on a small group of elite white Barbadian business people. It is no wonder therefore that our country now possesses a national debt that is virtually as large as our entire gross national product!
I wish to conclude, however, with one example of a similarly outrageously privileged Government contract that has been conferred upon a foreign company incorporated in one of the Channel Islands off the coast of England –– the so-called “waste to energy” contract that has been granted to Cahill Energy Limited and its subsidiary Cahill Energy Barbados Limited.
We Barbadians should really thank Opposition Leader Mia Mottley for exposing the alarming details of this old colonial-type contractual arrangement. Subsequent to Ms Mottley’s revelations I was able to read the 37-page document put out by Cahill Energy and Jacob Securities Inc. about the project, and discovered that our Government has committed itself to do the following:
1. Purchase 15 acres of land at Vaucluse and “donate” it to Cahill;
2. Purchase any additional land that Cahill will require for drilling wells and creating a lagoon, and “donate” said land to Cahill;
3. Supply free of cost to Cahill the pipelines and other water infrastructure to the Cahill plant;
4. Pay for the cost of integrating Cahill’s plant into the electricity grid and into the public water supply system;
5. Waive all taxes and tariffs on Cahill’s imports, exports, income, profits, dividends and transfers of shares;
6. Provide guaranteed taxpayer-funded payments to Cahill for the processing of waste over a 30-year period;
7. Provide guaranteed taxpayer-funded payments to Cahill for the purchase of electricity over a 30-year period; and
8. Provide Cahill with guaranteed taxpayer funded payments totalling close to $2.5 billion over a 30-year period.
Fellow Barbadians, this is not right! The “old colonial system” continues to choke us and to subvert the positive advances we have made as a nation over the past 49 years.
The purpose of this article is to expose the continued existence of these aspects of the “old colonial system” and to urge all well-meaning and patriotic Barbadians –– of all races, classes and creeds –– to demand their total abolition. Let us all operate on a level playing field, and let the public purse not be treated as anybody’s cash cow!
(David Comissiong, an attorney-at-law, is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)