It was with great joy that many embraced the announcement last week from the Government that they would be seeking to put new measures in place, aimed at keeping the country clean.
For too long now, our little paradise has been dealing with a number of eyesores across the island, which are not only unpleasant to the eye, but pose dangers to the health and well-being of the people who live here. According to the Prime Minister and the Attorney General, Government, in seeking to get property owners to better maintain their premises, will soon be introducing a ticketing system to curb the bad practice.
The Prime Minister explained that excessive bush and debris around our homes can cause flooding to occur when there are heavy rains, and the debris can even become missiles in high winds. She said while they do not want to criminalise persons, they think it is imperative that homeowners still be held accountable for how they keep their surroundings. The idea then is that Government will introduce a set of civil fines, similar to tickets issued for parking offences, which people would be required to pay or face the court system.
Now if we are to be honest, there is existing within the law, a provision that allows the Ministry of Health to clean overgrown lots and send the bills to the offending homeowners. But over the years this method has posed problems, as property owners, we have been made to understand, have not been inclined to settle the debt incurred on their behalf. It is hoped then that this new measure being pursued by the Mottley Administration will encourage landowners and Barbadians in general not to neglect their properties, because the very important fact we cannot ignore is that unkempt premises can present health risks, as they can be breeding grounds for leptospirosis-carrying rats and the virus-carrying Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which can transmit dengue, chikungunya and zika.
A few years ago, the then Minister of Health John Boyce went to Parliament for a whopping $4.6 million to finance a de-bushing programme in this country. At the time he also pointed out that the Ministry of Health has conducted in excess of 15 de-bushing programmes over the years, all of which would have come with hefty price tags. The proposed new system may encourage persons to do more maintenance of their surroundings, if they know that there are penalties prescribed within the law for their failure to do so.
Even as Government seeks to get Barbadians to keep around them clean, they too must do the same and ensure that they do their utmost to remove the piles of garbage being seen across the island in recent times. Understandably the shortage of garbage trucks is primarily the cause of this situation, and while that may be the reason, it cannot be an excuse. We hear that the new trucks are to be here by the end of the year and hope that this is indeed the case, as we are seeing too many unsightly pileups.
It is hoped too that the Government looks at remedying the situation with the growing number of unoccupied dwellings in this country, which at last count was well over 10 000. While unoccupied, not all of those properties can be classified as derelict or dilapidated, but a large portion of them do fit the bill, and it is imperative that we move with alacrity to clean them up where that is needed, and make them useful once again.
They say government is a continuum and if that is so, possibly the current Government could draw on the plans of the former administration as it relates to the usable unoccupied properties. Much has not been said of this Government’s housing policy, but perhaps some of these properties, as it was previously proposed, can be purchased by Government and renovated to help meet the housing needs of Barbadians and the residents of this country.