Tag Archives: Frances Chandler

Dispelling the myths by Frances Chandler,

My New Year’s resolution was not to “sin my soul” but I would have to become a recluse to achieve that.  I have no axe to grind. I own no agricultural land, but I’m a Barbadian who knows the importance of agriculture and would hate to see it destroyed.  So, my blood boils when I see both foolish and unfair statements about the sugar industry and about agriculture in general reported  in various sections of the media.  

First, my question  to the  moderator who says he doesn’t like agriculture.  “What do you eat? Synthetic meals produced in a laboratory or foods originating from agriculture?” Then my response to the person who declared sugar cane wasn’t attractive to tourists and even  bush would be preferable. As I recall, he suggested  planting  tobacco and cotton.  Doesn’t he know that  tobacco was among the earliest crops grown in Barbados and was discontinued because the quality was  poor?

The  poor quality was  because  the growing conditions weren’t right , with  sea spray causing it to “crackle” when lit. I assume that’s why, in Trinidad, which is much  larger than Barbados ,  tobacco was produced  in the central part of the island. Apart from the fact  that it would seem foolhardy to grow tobacco, considering its effect on human health, tobacco  is an annual plant  requiring soil cultivation each year .This  would encourage soil erosion. Similarly cotton, although a valuable crop , is also an annual , so while our Sea island Cotton industry could develop if it were allowed to, cotton certainly couldn’t totally replace cane.  Furthermore, if one considers the state  of the cotton industry, replacing  cane  with it would be like “swapping a duppy for a dead”.

While the sugar cane picture is always clouded by  continued emphasis on slavery, there’s no doubt that sugar built Barbados and the true sequence of events  must be documented.  Peter Webster’s article entitled “History , His Story and Twistory” in the last Sunday Sun should be compulsory reading for all Barbadians, but I will  add my two cents worth, since, as he quotes Joseph Goebbels “if fiction is repeated long enough it becomes fact ” so we must  dispel the myths  being perpetuated.

To the person who asked Patrick Bethell  to account for the “subsidies” to the industry over the last twenty five years let’s get it clear that government is just giving back a part of what they took away from the industry over the years  for use in public projects. The importance of “saving for a rainy day” was recognised, so a levy, over and above  taxes, was put on sugar production  and the proceeds put in a fund  to  stabilise prices and improve factory and field operations. Unfortunately, these funds, ( $ 116 million between 1947 and 1979)  were  used by government  for  reasons  unrelated to the industry . I can’t think of any other industry on which  this “money grab” was inflicted.

But  the most disappointing statement came from our Prime Minister. He noted that the payment to the industry was no longer an issue, yet the saga which has continued  for months hasn’t yet been concluded. It seems he’s jumped on the Sandiford-Garner “non -issue bandwagon” . He also  laid  blame for the present state of the industry squarely on mismanagement by the private sector and said that government was “in the dock” although it was only involved since 1992 and asked where those in charge from the 1600s to 1992 were. Peter Webster dealt  with that issue well.  Admittedly,  not all management “dropped out of heaven”,  but the main fault of the owners, in my opinion,  was not representing themselves more aggressively in the past.

The Prime Minister also stated that the private sector hadn’t put forward  an alternative plan . One of our experienced moderators echoed this . An alternative  which would’ve cost a fraction of what is now being proposed, and wouldn’t have involved any “finder’s fee”, was in fact put forward. This would’ve accommodated the gradual  building of  acreage  to  produce a number of  marketable products (not including shipment of bulk sugar to the UK) but it wasn’t entertained.

Finally,  I doubt whether any of the 51 persons running this country could manage the sugar industry,  but I’m sure  one or two in the industry could run the country.

Dr. Chandler is a former independent senator. E mail: fchandler@caribsurf.com


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 @caribsurf.com

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: fchandler@caribsurf.com