Barbados needs better governance
Readers, I am the first one to laud the use of renewable energy and anything that will reduce costs and positively impact the environment of Barbados. That is why I wrote so strongly against Cahill in 2015.
At that time, I was among a number of people who were asking why we were trying to go with an untried gasification system instead of a solar farm or some sort of renewable energy. To my recollection, at that time, nothing was ever mentioned about a company called Deltro or the Government never said that they were looking at a solar farm proposal.
In fact, several companies came out and said that they had asked permission to do similar projects and they had not been given the green light. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw that this company had been given permission to set up a manufacturing plant and create a 70-acre solar farm.
Don’t get me wrong. I would be happy to see 200 new jobs created and Barbados using solar energy to produce electricity on a larger scale. My concern is why we only hear of these deals when they are almost a “done deal”.
Only this week, the company announced that it had received permission to construct the manufacturing plant (paperwork stamped by Town and Country) and they were expected to commence work on the 70-acre farm in Waterford soon. The Chief Town Planner, however, said that no permission had been given for that as yet.
The Leader of the Opposition is protesting the use of land at Waterford, saying that it was designated to be a national botanical garden. I don’t happen to agree that a botanical garden is as important as a solar farm, but that is obviously not the biggest issue. My issue is with the information that we get at the last hour.
The CEO says that his manufacturing line was in the port since August 2015. Isn’t that the same time we were battling Cahill? And hadn’t Barbadian companies and other potential investors been turned down to establish solar farms before that? How could equipment be imported before Town Planning permission was officially given? I could go on.
Back in July of 2015, I wrote an article on Governance and I want to include the definition that I shared in it again: “In ethics and governance, accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving. In governance, accountability has expanded beyond the basic definition of “being called to account for one’s actions”.
It is frequently described as an account-giving relationship between individuals, e.g. ‘ A (The Government of Barbados) is accountable to B (the public of Barbados) when A (The Government) is obliged to inform B (the public) about The Government’s (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct.’”
I find that there are just too many instances where there has been no information from Government to the public about its actions and decisions until after the fact and no justification of those actions and decisions. Cahill and Deltro are just two of many. I could also bring up the Grotto project and ask the Government to justify the money they spent on the units and to explain to the public why they are still unoccupied.
I am glad to see that some of our organizations are beginning to ask questions as well. For example, I have read that the Barbados Bar Association (BBA) is concerned about the amendment to the Barbados Revenue Authority Act which is seeking, by way of an amendment, to legislate that persons wishing to convey property must first get a tax clearance certificate.
So, to bring it down to basics, if you have a piece of land that you want to sell (maybe to liquidate your assets and pay off debts), you cannot do so if you owe NIS, PAYE, Land Tax or VAT. Mind you, you may be trying to sell the land to pay some of these same debts. This is obviously a strategy to get money into the Government’s coffers, but it may end up killing the property market if it is passed.
One of the arguments offered by the BBA was that “Other than the Land Tax Act, taxes due and payable under the other Acts were not charges on land and ought not to be treated as such”. There are so many other considerations that obviously have not been taken into account in rushing to amend this legislation.
I admire the Government for trying to find creative ways to earn revenue and force people to pay money due to the various agencies, but, what recourse do companies and individuals have to get Government to pay what is owed to them? I sincerely hope that this amendment does not pass because it has a distinctly “Big Brotherish” controlling feel to it. You can’t freely sell your property because you may owe NIS or VAT?
While I’m not advocating not paying our obligations, the Government is somewhat in the position of “Who is without sin cast the first stone”. Barbadians, we do not have to eat up everything that is being dished out.
We need more of our organizations and individuals to challenge Government before laws are passed that will affect us for generations.
And we need Government ministers to have the guts to vote against their party where they do not agree with acts and amendments that are before the House. It is time to demand better Governance in Barbados before we become a 1984 country, where we can’t challenge anything and we are expected to simply take whatever the Government metes out.
(Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She is also the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014 – 2016), the Barbados Facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Programme.Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Website www.donnaevery.com. www.facebook.com/DonnaEvery1)