Feeling the pain
Inniss steps around cement controversy
Embattled businessman Mark Maloney is not the only one who is totally frustrated with how certain Government departments in Barbados operate.
In fact, you can say that Maloney has found himself an ally in Minister of Industry and Small Business Development Donville Inniss, who though not prepared to step into the legal wrangling between Maloney and Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins, said enough to reporters last night to make it clear that he shared not only Maloney’s pain, but that of other business people who he said were being frustrated by “inefficient public officers and Government departments”.
Inniss’ comments came immediately on the heels of a warning issued by the Assistant Financial Controller of Preconco Limited Kirk Smith that hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in investment could be lost if the Town & Country Planning Department did not give the go-ahead for a number of projects submitted by the Maloney’s group of companies.
It also coincided with Tuesday’s launch of court proceedings in a suit brought by Cummins against Maloney for failing to obey a stop order issued in relation to the construction of a storage facility for Rock Hard Cement off Spring Garden Highway.
However, the matter was adjourned until June 24 without any arguments being heard yesterday, due to failure by a court marshal to serve Maloney with the necessary legal documents.
Though staying clear of mentioning Maloney’s still pending case, Inniss went on utter a position which was at variance with that issued by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart just over a week ago, when he took a hard line against Barbadians who appear bent on flouting the orders of the Chief Town Planner.
Warning then that his Government was prepared to go as far as to enact laws to ensure they comply, the Prime Minister, who has responsibility for the Chief Town Planner’s office, was adamant that the country’s development must be “ordered” and that the law had to be followed.
“This is a country that subscribes to the rule of law, not to the rule of fancy and personal preference and so on.
“I think the message has to go out, not with any intention of making anybody a target, but the message has to go out that the Chief Town Planner is not somebody not clothed in his right mind and the people in the Town Planning Department are not people preoccupied with making people’s lives miserable.
“The development of Barbados has to be ordered development and we can only have ordered development if people comply with instructions of the Chief Town Planner,” Stuart had insisted.
However, speaking to reporters last night, Inniss said while he did not want to be “accused of stepping on other people’s territory”, he was not prepared to bury his head in the sand and ignore the frustration faced by business officials who were trying to bring investment into the island and create jobs to help grow the economy.
“I am not getting involved in what Mark Maloney says and what the Town Planner says and what not,” the minister said.
However, he argued that “this economy can only go forward if the private sector is energized. And the role of the state is not to frustrate but to legitimately facilitate business development in Barbados.
“So while obviously there is a matter before the law courts, which I will not pronounce on, but there is a broader issue which we must not run away from.
“I am not going to bury my head in the sand. Some Government departments are not very efficient. They do everything to frustrate people from doing business in this country,” he added.
A visibly upset Inniss said whether or not he was a politician, his concern was that he had to live in Barbados and therefore he wanted to see investments being made and businesses thriving.
“I came into politics without friends and I will leave without friends if I have to. But what pains me is when I see opportunities for Barbadians to be fully engaged [and] to be fully employed, frustrated by public officers and Government departments who should know better.
“Wherever these matters end up I will stand on a matter of principle. It is the role of the Government to facilitate investment not to frustrate it and I am not going to be a part of any administration that will frustrate legitimate businesspeople in this country. Let me make that abundantly clear,” he emphasized.
Inniss, who is the Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, also took issue with the police’s removal of vendors from the Duncan O’Neal Bridge in The City almost two weeks ago, saying it was a matter that concerned him.
Inniss said while he wanted the vendors to uphold the law and follow the necessary procedures, he believed authorities should act in a manner that did not prevent the vendors from making an honest living.
“My grandmother was a hawker. I am where I am today because of [hawking] in Bridgetown. So whilst we have to follow the law, the state must also ensure that it is not deliberately frustrating individuals from earning a living in this country, because the alternative my friends is much worse,” Inniss warned.