The government of Barbados has planned a lease and awarding of a $300M contract to an unknown company to run the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) in Barbados for up to 30 years. The winner of the $300 M contract to lease the airport would be granted a concession or lease to expand, operate and maintain the airport until the end of the contractual period of 30 years. Up until release of this article the company’s identity remains unknown to date June 8th 2023,
There should be nothing to hide when handling an important government asset such as the airport, however the government of Barbados keeps falling down on transparency and the fight against corruption. I relied on international sources to get information on this contract and that is unacceptable. The Barbados government can be cited as withholding information as no updates on the status of the tendering process can be obtained locally.
In February 2021 GAIA project coordinator, Gale Yearwood speaking in an interview with BNamericas confirmed a delay to the airport’s planned privatization. Yearwood reported that, “the government of Barbados, GAIA Inc. and its advisers took the decision to review the transaction to ensure that it meets the needs of and remains attractive to the shortlisted bidders, government, GAIA Inc”. International media reports indicate and can be quoted as saying that the Barbados government has not since July 2021 updated the status of its tendering process in regards to the leasing of the GAIA airport. Greater accountability is required on the $300M airport contract.
A mountaineer named Tenzi recently shared his disgust at finding hundreds of pounds of garbage at the summit of Mount Everest after a reported ninth climb. It is difficult for sane persons to imagine why human beings would violate basic laws of the environment on the highest mountain in the world, reaching 29,032 feet. Surely humankind has lost its way – see link to story in the New York Post.
Reading the story for whatever reason reminded the blogmaster about the promise by David Simmons and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in the 80s, that Mount Stinkeroo as it has been labelled would be ‘decommissioned’. Nearly 40 years later the putrid odor continues to assail the high end environs of the West Coast, especially at this time of the year with the start of the rainy season. The same feeling of disappointment can be applied to the insuperable PSV problem, inability to enact transparency legislation, reform education, public sector reform and several other initiatives promised by successive governments.
The Barbados Statistical Service has reported that Barbadian households are spending a larger amount of their income on education . Normally this would be good news, but if the education obtained was at tertiary level, it is not good news for modern Barbados.
People who complete tertiary-level education may develop independent thoughts. Independent thinkers tend to think for themselves, rather than blindly accept what others tell them. Most Barbadians who complete their tertiary-level education tend to leave Barbados.
AN EMBARRASSING STATISTIC
The World Bank’s study on emigration  shows that Barbados is one of the few countries on Earth where most of its tertiary educated population left. The consistent figure was over 60%. In 2000, Barbados had the 13th highest brain drain rate (emigration of skilled workers) among 191 nations on Earth at 61.4%. A decade earlier in 1990, it was 63.5%.
The matter covered by Barbados Underground for more than a decade between Sir Richard ‘Johnny’ Cheltenham versus Everton Cumberbatch continues to play on the civic minded among us- see BU Archives. The blogmaster has a problem with a very senior lawyer AND elder of the governing Barbados Labour Party (BLP) continuing to be selected for important national appointments while a serious complaint is pending with the Disciplinary Committee (DC). It is instructive to note the DC is blocked from doing its work- if it had any intention of doing so- because Cheltenham has been granted an injunction pending the completion of an application of a judicial review as reported in the Nation as follows:
It is the start of the hurricane and there has been the usual awareness talk to remind Barbadians to install roof straps, ensure adequate insurance coverage, know where hurricane shelters are located etc.
It was last year a freak storm with the name Elsa wreak havoc on the housing stock in Barbados. The destructions caused the then Minister of Housing William Duguid to order hundreds of steel framed houses from China at a declared cost of 28 million dollars. It is not surprising that one year later only a handful of the houses have been assembled. A national disgrace with nobody held to account by Prime Minister Mottley. We remain ignorant about the role of EWBSB in the procurement of the steel houses. No wonder successive governments have made it a priority to hoodwink the electorate on the enactment of transparency legislation in the form of integrity and freedom of information laws.
I noticed the decline about one year ago. I first had difficulty remembering things that I had routinely needed to recall every month – then every week – then every day. Fortunately, I was functional because while I could not recall the information, I still knew where to find it.
I was not ready for dementia. I tried to determine what I had done wrong to bring it on. Was it the effort of doing a Doctorate in Structural Engineering that permanently exhausted my brain? Was it how I slept that put too much pressure on my brain? Researching the subject did not help – so I accepted my fate and prepared to retire after my contracts were completed.
On 15 December 2022, I read a US Consumer Report article on the high levels of cadmium and lead in dark chocolate . For years I had been habitually eating dark chocolate every night before I went to bed. The cadmium level in the brand that I ate was safe, but the lead level was about 1.7 times the maximum allowed in California.
The launch of Sagicor Bank has been generating interest in the Bajan social media space. Besides the fact that it manages business electronically; a win for GenX and GenY, it has been paying significantly more interest for deposits than its more established counterparts.
Barbadians in recent years have been starved of a decent rate of interest on savings after the government through its agent the Central Bank of Barbados connived to eliminate the minimum savings interest rate requirement. Some suggest it was a not too obvious tactic by the government to attract borrowing through the popular short term government paper savings bonds
The graph of a simple interest rate calculation on three deposit amounts using three different interest rates based on what Sagicor Bank is offering illustrates the ‘tidy’ sums depositors will now benefit. It is better than its counterparts BUT a more sober blogmaster is aware the bank must be offering higher rates because it need to grow deposits to a level before it joins its competitors to lend for the usual consumer items. In other words, it is not offering higher interest rates out of kindness for Bajans. At some point interest rates will settle to what is being offered in the market.
Between 2013 and 2018 the accusation was correctly leveled at the then government that they were not doing enough, not saying enough, not taking decisive action. We felt the impact and the results of the 2018 election sent the message loud and clear.
Fast forward to 2023, with two 30-0’s behind us and what do we have?
Apparently a “walk back” and “kite flying” government instead. Take a moment to look at some of the “bold policies” that had to be put on pause, “walked back” or caused confusion.
1. Breathalyser Test (still outstanding) 2. Child Protection Act (More input now needed according to the Minister) 3. Two Deputy Commissioners of police (law had to be changed) 4. Education reform (nobody knows!) 5. National Republic Day (the people spoke) 6. Integrity Legislation (where is it?) 7. Speightstown traffic changes (common sense prevailed) 8. Public Service Contracts (we now have a Hollywood civil service) 9. Covd-era restrictions
The Child Care Board Act (CAP 381) was intended to be very limited in scope to care for children who clearly needed help. Anyone with common sense could identify such children. Two problems became apparent. The first is the recent poor management in implementing the Act. The second is the abuses of this digital age that the act did not foresee.
The Solutions are obvious. First, manage the implementation in accordance with international standards like the ISO 9001. The second is to amend to act to include the observed abuses of this age. This solution was rejected in favour of abolishing the Child Care Board Act and replacing it with a new Child Protection Act – which is currently in Bill form.
One of many concerns Barbados Underground has been championing through the years is the rate of depletion of NIS funds. Quoting former Minister David Estwick who addressed the matter last week, “the operating balance at the NIS becomes negative by 2028, six years from now…and the NIS funds would be depleted in 12 years. Compounding the problem is a matter of poor compliance”. Do we have the capacity to run with the message for the purpose of engaging in constructive debate?
There are not many other ways one can continue to express concern about the management of the NIS by the Barbados and Democratic Labour parties through the years. Although Prime Minister Mottley has given the assurance the NIS is nowhere near to a crisis situation, the reality of the numbers tells a different story for the independent minded.
The country awaits the outcome from a recent national consultation on the NIS when it is anticipated significant changes will have to be implemented. As it stands our NIS contribution is one of the highest in the region with age eligible for full pension benefit being 67. The fact we are labelled an ageing population with restricted opportunity to expand the pool of contributions has opened the door for managed immigration.
While this blog highlights the NIS fund, the burgeoning pension liability of government for the public service, both central government and SOEs adds to the problems a future generation will have to wrestle.
Barbadians have jumped on the bandwagon and have become addicted to the latest flavour of gossip news. In the meantime…
The following article posted in the Nation newspaper on May 25, 2023 with the title Retirement crisis looming, says former Minister is recommended reading.
In the name of transparency, integrity & accountability Minister Ryan Straughn should account to the public by answering the question as to where is the public register of all government issued contracts over $1M as mandated by the BERT since December 2021?
To quote from transparency international “Covid-19 was not only a health crisis but a corruption crisis”. I am calling for a full audit of the government of Barbados’ covid-19 expenses.
The issuing of government contracts to respective business players comes under the microscope and luckily the IMF in it’s Article IV consultation & Memorandum of Understanding of Economic & Financial Policies with Barbados, displayed vision in asking the Minister of Finance Ryan Straughn to table a Public procurement Act 2021 in order for crisis related expenditure to be tracked and traced.
The minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn explained that the new legislation was necessary as it was mandated by the BERT austerity programme. BERT was amended In May 2021 and a new line item was supposed to be listed in the 2021/22 budget which required all COVID-19 related government issued contracts in excess of $1M BDS be reported to the Barbadian parliament
According to the agreed IMF MOU of Economic & Financial Policies both the contract and the names of successful bidders of government contracts along with a public register of all government contractors were to be made available in the Barbados corporate registry by the end of 2021.
Today’s Nation newspaper editorial with the title Matters lawyers must address attacks some of the many issues Barbadians have been complaining about for many years. However, a point made in the editorial that “…the immediate answer to the existing problems by the Bar Association and the Law Reform Commission is to reform the Legal Profession Act.” This is incorrect, such a view gives lawmakers a pass.
In a Barbados Underground post on May 11 with the title ‘Johnny Cheltenham Files Injunction Against Disciplinary Committee, Barbadians continue to witness a senior judicial officer in the name of Johnny Cheltenham able to exhaust legal options to the chagrin of the Claimant. To the credit of Claimant Everton Cumberbatch, he has been persistent in his claim that Sir Richard Cheltenham engaged in unethical and unprofessional behaviour in a matter that was the subject of court case 770 of 2008 that was defeated in the Barbados courts. A matter that was slow moving in the Barbados court system for more than a decade.
On a political platform in 2018 the then leader of opposition announced that “Common Entrance must go!” The crowd cheered.
For three years the appointed Minister pronounced ad infinitum that “Common Entrance must go!” The masses bellowed.
For the last two years this Minister (when she actually speaks) joined the choir to lustily sing that “Common Entrance must go!” The audience applauded.
And of course the 66 year old once retired Director of Reform said emphatically and conclusively in the House of Parliament that the new system would be in place by September 2022 and “Common Entrance must go!” The pundits thumped their desks.
Like almost every other Barbadian, I used to be unquestioningly confident about our banking system. But in 2018, Barbados banks voted against depositors’ interests. My bank voted for the Government to confiscate some of my retirement savings, and hold the remainder hostage – not allowing me to access all of it until the year 2033. Therefore, they gave me every reason to distrust them.
This year, Credit Suisse, the Swiss bank that lent us money with unfavourable terms, was failing. Fortunately, their depositors were insured to 100,000 Swiss Francs (BD$225,000). In the UK, the insured amount is 85,000 British pounds (BD$215,000). In Canada, it is CAD$100,000 (BD$150,000). In Europe, it is $100,000 Euros (BD$220,000). In the US, it is US$250,000 (BD$500,000).