Monthly Archives: November 2015

Eat Bajan by Frances Chandler

Who would’ve thought  that Trinidad, with all its oil and gas resources would ever be in trouble with foreign exchange? But it seems they put all their eggs in the fossil fuel basket and now oil prices have fallen, they’re in trouble.

It’s been said that Barbados has a much more diverse economy than Trinidad. But for how long? We seem to be continually downplaying most sectors and  putting our eggs in the tourism basket, instead of moving all our sectors forward together.

Agriculture has certainly suffered at the feet of tourism when the two sectors should be partners in culinary tourism to keep more tourism dollars in Barbados. More  players need to “put their money where their mouth is” and support local food.  And of course farmers have to understand  they must satisfy their customers’ demands. But sometimes these demands are somewhat unreasonable and  always end with “at a reasonable price”. But how can you produce at a reasonable price unless your inputs are also at a reasonable price and your labour is productive?

Then there’s  competition from imports. We seem to have signed every agreement possible in favour of other countries’ agriculture. Apparently, under these agreements, we can’t protect our own agriculture and we have to be competitive. How come big countries like Canada can protect their agriculture? I’m sure they’ve signed on to these agreements too. But they’re proud to say their produce is homegrown. And if there’s a hint of any negative change in regulations, their farmers don’t” take it sitting down”.

I was really impressed that our Prime Minister considered agriculture important enough to raise it at the recent Heads of Government  Conference. Using his usual oratorical skills, he noted that “as leaders for the time being of our respective countries we must accept the solemn responsibility which devolves on our shoulders to raise the gaze of our people to new and hitherto unimagined regional horizons.

Nowhere is this more necessary than in the area of food security.  For how much longer are we going to repeat that between the lands of Guyana, of Belize and now also of Suriname, we have the veritable breadbasket of the Caribbean? 

Has the time not come, is the hour not upon us when we must, in a structured manner mobilize the idle hands in our region around the idle lands in our region and deal systematically with the food security issues we have been facing.  If our palates are being held on mortgage by producers of food outside of this region, are we still justified in thinking ourselves genuinely independent?”

My let down was that Barbados didn’t get a mention. We’re small, but we have idle lands and no shortage of idle hands so can contribute significantly to our own food security if the issues raised earlier are addressed at a high level.

The Prime Minister also noted that “At the best of times our countries have been fiscally fragile and this crisis has  rather cruelly exposed how vulnerable we are to exogenous shocks.” One of these shocks looming large is world shortage of food , especially in view of the worsening water  situation in California (a major supplier of vegetables and fruit to the Caribbean) and the use of corn in producing ethanol, rather than food. We must  prepare ourselves.

Someone commented  recently  “No-one can convince me that it is cheaper to bring in a foreign made refrigerated alternative across 6,000 or more miles by road and ship and for the wholesale distributors to always disperse them within the stated sell by date. There has to be waste and spoilage.” It’s quite evident  there’s waste and spoilage which translates into a waste of foreign exchange. So we have to support the development of  local agro-industries.

Recently, we’ve seen  a fledgling  cheese industry, but it needs support from government and consumers. We can’t have all types of imported cheese entering Barbados free of duty.

In short, we must all get on board if we’re to become more self sustainable. To this end, the Graham Gooding Trust is hosting its annual “Eat Bajan Day” on October 09. The Massy Group of stores  is again collaborating by offering an “All Bajan” menu in their delis and Carters General Stores is hosting a sale of fruit trees on Friday 09 and Saturday 10 October. Let’s all support the effort.


Dr. Frances Chandler is a former independent senator  E mail: fchandler

Say No to Cahill by Frances Chandler

Last week  both Houses of Parliament extolled the virtues of agitation ad nauseum.  We heard  the words educate, agitate but don’t violate over and over in relation to the  National Day of Significance. But ironically, nowadays , those  who peacefully  demonstrate  their dissatisfaction  have been  described as a mob and showered with disdain.

I agreed wholeheartedly with the march against the Solid Waste Tax  since it showed  that  Barbadians were at last taking note of what was happening  around them . Another  serious matter which I trust  they will be equally willing to vigorously demonstrate their dissatisfaction about, is the Cahill Waste to Energy plant. We must not allow concern over this  “cloak and dagger” operation  (metaphors seem to be fashionable these days )  and this dismissive treatment by government or  Cahill to be a nine days wonder.  Not only don’t we want  the plant in St Thomas, we don’t want it in Barbados period.

With apologies for using what might be considered a vulgar term, the whole affair seems to have been conducted “ass backward'” and reeks of irregularities . The disturbing facts disclosed by the Opposition Leader in the Budget Debate are not figments of her imagination . Just look at  the so-called private and confidential agreement which is now common knowledge.

How can you have a serious issue like this decided on and signed off by four members of parliament , apparently without the necessary authority,  before it’s taken to Cabinet  which is then  asked to rescind a previous  decision to go to tender for waste to energy facilities?  Cabinet  allegedly then agrees that the SSA should negotiate with  Cahill regarding the setting up and operating of the plant.

After all these decisions have been made, then the matter is put to the public in a Town Hall meeting. Isn’t this an insult to our intelligence? Furthermore, we hear statements like” the deal is expected to be closed in August ”  and “construction will start in September 2015”. What arrogance  when we haven’t heard of any Town Planning permission or the results of any Environmental Impact study. The whole agreement seems to be skewed in favour of Cahill and has no regard for the wellbeing of Barbadians, present or future.

In  my opinion, no Minister of government has the necessary qualifications to even understand the document. Certainly the Minister of the Environment ‘s  psychology degrees and  even the disputed theology degree wouldn’t help him much , but we’ll certainly need a lot of help from the Lord if this is allowed to happen. So can anyone tell me who  government’s  local advisors  in the matter are (and  if or how  they stand to benefit from this arrangement) ?  Is personal interest being put before the national interest?

We had the Greenland blunder , resulting from a total disregard of the opinions of knowledgeable  and experienced people. While that  blunder was a waste of money (albeit a drop in the ocean compared to the Cahill project), it did no permanent damage to our environment and could be changed into a wonderful eco-park tomorrow .

What is confusing is that the emphasis  of the waste to energy plant has changed from  waste disposal  to  energy production . Here again, as was noted at a recent meeting of the stakeholders in the energy sector, there needs to be one  public (not secret)  business plan  for the production of alternative energy, led by government (not Cahill) standing shoulder to shoulder with all stakeholders . I agree with BREA that the responsibility of identifying new alternative energy projects lies with the Ministry of Energy, not the Ministry of the Environment.

One of the benefits of the Cahill  project is supposed to be that the  ‘ target of using 29% of total energy as renewables will be achieved 10 years earlier.” If I’m not mistaken it was noted at the renewable energy meeting that the target of 29% had already been reached in 2015, making this statement totally nonsensical.

This country seems to be spinning out of control. I agree with the  moderator who  said  we need a  bipartisan strategic plan for all sectors. This should lead to cohesive/harmonious development rather than the chaos we’re continually being subjected to.  Of course we do in fact have a National Strategic Plan , but unfortunately this seems to change with change of government .

Dr. Frances Chandler is a former independent senator  E mail: