Talking Garbage

There is a lot that can be said about Barbadians and the way we manage garbage disposal. The observation is true at the household and country level. In many developed countries garbage is treated as a raw material to convert to energy and in the process contribute to protecting the environment. Prime Minister Mia Mottley has become a spokesperson since being elected to office in 2018 on environmental issues in the international arena, it is therefore ironic that in the country she leads, we continue to oversee a primitive garbage collection AND waste disposal system.

A peeve of the blogmaster is to be subjected to the perennial call from public relations persons employed by the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) – Alf Padmore is the incumbent – asking Barbadians to desist from including green waste in garbage to be collected by the SSA. Nobody ever heeds the calls, including SSA workers, who are always willing to please the many households served. The increase in built-up neighbourhoods in Barbados and concomitant lifestyle guarantee that green waste will be ‘trashed’. Isn’t a manicured lawn integral to the look and feel expected of the heights and terrace?

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From Pillar to Post

Many will agree the times we have to live have been and will always be uncertain, especially for small developing states (SIDs). Countries like Barbados- if economists are to be believed- will be vulnerable to economic shocks. To add to the vulnerabilities there is scientific consensus about the threat caused by global warming, predicted to translate to increasing drought, rise in temperatures and other negative events for SIDs.

Whatever the perspective held, there will never be full agreement on these kinds of matters. In the last 15 years or so Barbados has been lurching from one crisis to the other. In 2008 there was the global financial crisis which permanently hobbled the local economy and in 2019 the pandemic. Not to forget the other events that occurred in the in-between period.

Notwithstanding the risks small island developing states have to perpetually manage, it does not excuse the leadership of SIDs (including Barbados) to neglect the importance of intelligently devising fit for purpose strategies to sustain an acceptable quality of life for citizens. There was a time local governments strived to achieve a budget surplus, it shifted to a balanced budget to what is currently fashionable running deficits. All key economic indicators e.g. debt to GDP, rate of unemployment, inflation, consumer price index and others support the blogmaster’s view that the magnitude of today’s uncertainty is greater than in previous years. 

If the blogmaster is correct, it means traditional decision making and approaches by the leadership of the country will not be relevant for the times. Leaders in government as well as NGOs have to agree to new governance models. Lurching from pillar to post to react to the latest crisis is not sustainable for SIDs. The Mottley government has been forging closer relationships with some African countries and Guyana in the region, a good initiative. Political parties, NGOs and others have to find ways to lure the best talent from the citizen pool to be able to expertly respond to growing uncertainty how we manage our affairs.

In the period 2015 to 2018 the proposed Cahill waste to energy 240 million plant was the topic of public discussion. Thankfully it was scrapped when the technology proved unstable as well as questionable agreement between the former government and Cahill Energy became public. However, the problem of Barbados efficiently processing waste remains unsolved. To give weight to the problem, sewage diverted from the street on the South coast of the island to the sea can be summarised as government kicking the can down the road. Reality check – there is no fiscal space given the perilous state of the Barbados economy to prioritise a comprehensive waste to energy solution. A reminder that in times of plenty one should be judicious.

It has been 15 years since the global financial crisis and instead of Barbadians seeing the advantage of agreeing to a sensible strategic approach, we continue to be divided on every important issue facing the country. The country needs to sign on to a holistic plan, one designed to plot the country’s success for the next 10 to 15 years. This is how good leadership is measured.

A word to the wise should be sufficient.