Difficult Conversations – Paid in Ash
Last week, I described nine decisions that I would take during my first hour, if I was Prime Minister for one day. This week, I will share seven decisions that I would take within my second hour at the helm.
I would instruct Minister Edghill to provide continuous water to those who have been without water for years, within 2 weeks. This is too long overdue. Approximately 90% of the cost, effort and time to get water to the reservoir in question, is in the trenching to get the pipes in the ground. That is why it is taking years to get this done. Quick relief can be provided by running water lines temporarily on the surface, and trenching at road crossings that do not have drainage culverts.
The BWA can contract several private sector construction companies to trench across all the required intersecting roads, install pipe sleeves, and then backfill the trench. A construction crew can complete at least one intersecting road in one night – hence the need for several contractors. Once people have relief, the BWA can then resume their slow-trenching to put the mains underground.
Every household should be able to afford water for their basic needs, and have an incentive to conserve water. Therefore, I would instruct Minister Straughn to remove the Sewerage and Garbage taxes from the Basic Needs category of water use, on BWA water bills.
Barbadians should be encouraged to innovate. Therefore, I would instruct Minister Bradshaw to re-establish the national innovation competition this year – which was stopped in 2015. The prize budget for marketable prototypes, should be at least as much as that for calypsonians during the normal Crop Over competition.
I would also instruct Minister Sutherland to have the BIDC venture-partner with willing producers of marketable products from the competition, to commercialise them. This is also long overdue.
Our artists should commercialise their work. The problem is that commercialising products is both an art and a science. Business success is measured by making money from products. If you are not making money from your products, then you are not operating a business, but a charity.
I would instruct Minister King to set up a business department in the National Cultural Foundation, within one month. The business department is to be self-funded within one year. Success is to be measured by the amount of revenue generated for artists.
It is critical that this business department is not managed by politically partisan persons, with no evidence of business success. Otherwise, the department’s mission will likely be frustrated, and failure is foreseen to be certain.
VACUUM THE ASH.
It is extremely inefficient, and unnecessarily dangerous, to have persons sweeping ash and dirt from our highways. There are road vacuum trucks that are designed for that purpose.
I would instruct Minister Edghill to find where our road vacuum truck is parked, and get it into service immediately. If it cannot be found, then order another one – which may also be used to clean ash from the airport if we get another ash-fall.
SELL THE ASH.
Volcanic ash is sold on the Internet for around BD$5 per kg. Therefore, the ash has value. But it seems that Barbadians are being tricked into giving it away for free.
The volume of ash that can be collected from our roads and roofs is approximately 50,000 cubic metres. Assuming a bulk density of 1,000 kg/cubic metres, and a cost of $5/kg, results in a value of $250 million. Collecting only 80% of the ash results in a value of $200M.
The Government receives approximately $175M in land taxes each year. The Government instructed Barbadians to collect the ash, and give it to the Government without compensation. Therefore, I would instruct Minister Straughn not to demand land taxes in 2021 – since it has already been paid in ash.