Saturday, April 13, 2024

EDITORIAL: Patently political piffle


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IN A SENSE it is most unfortunate when we have to criticise Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman for what he says on any subject that falls under his portfolio.

After all, Mr Kellman is one of the few members of the Freundel Stuart Cabinet who does not suffer from the malady of refusing to have any discourse with the country.

That having been said though, in this instance we can only conclude that Mr Kellman has given ample credence to the old Bajan saying that “The higher the monkey climbs the more he exposes his tail”.

Responding to charges by Opposition parliamentarian Kerrie Symmonds that, among other things, the Prime Minister was sitting down on a proposal to get occupants into the high rise Grotto, St Michael housing complex, which today is still unoccupied two years after construction ended, Kellman said:

“The Prime Minister is not sitting on any [such] proposal. The Cabinet has decided for a while on the Grotto, so much so that I really thought that people would have been in by now. It has nothing to do with the Cabinet or the Prime Minister.”

We are not so concerned about what the Prime Minister is sitting on since we believe that all Barbados must recognise by now that “sitting on things” is one of Mr Stuart’s most prominent features. What bothers us is that the Minister of Housing, who is responsible for the National Housing Corporation, which is responsible for the Grotto project, appears puzzled that the units are not yet occupied — that he thought people would be in them by now.

Unless we have things backward, it is the Ministry of Housing that is supposed to be leading any such initiatives, and therefore if there is one person who should be able to speak definitely on progress in getting people into the Grotto it would be Minister Kellman.

So we ask: If Minister of Housing Denis Kellman can’t say when tenants or owners will be moving into the multi-million dollar development that has been sitting idle for two years, then who can? If it has nothing to do with the Cabinet or the Prime Minister, who does it have something to do with? Who really is in charge?

We are sure that to many Barbadians it is just another symptom of the inertia that characterises the workings of this Government. We readily accept that there are differences in the way the private and public sectors operate, but we struggle to find a comparable example of a private entity that could operate in this manner and remain in business or its leadership escape serious sanction.

Which private company, using the funds of its shareholders, would be allowed to start a project that ends up with a completion cost of $28 million, nearly twice what was originally projected, and then compound the poor management by allowing the asset to sit idle for two years while incurring tens of thousands of dollars in security charges to prevent its vandalism.

Minister Kellman may have inherited the Grotto, but he has been in charge for a long enough period that he should have had it well in hand and settled by now. Taxpayers should not be asked to accept this ineffective leadership.

The Grotto was one of the projects about which Democratic Labour Party candidates thumped their chests on the campaign trail leading up to the 2013 general elections, and with another election coming into view we have the Minister of Housing offering such a pitiful explanation for this sorry state of affairs.

Minister Kellman, we respect and appreciate the fact that you are willing to talk, to answer questions, but this piffle is unacceptable.


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