Cabinet watchdogs

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It was with mixed feelings that we heard the news that Cabinet had appointed three ministers to to be part of a sub-committee to keep an eye on LIAT. The sub-committee has been tasked with providing regular updates to Cabinet as to LIAT’s progress, or lack thereof. Yes, since it is our government’s money that is being spent, we think that it is prudent to appoint a LIAT watchdog. Good move! But that’s where the plaudits end. We are mystified at the three persons selected to be Cabinet’s chief LIAT watchdogs – Minister Molwyn Joseph, Minister Lennox Weston and Minister Robin Yearwood. Don’t laugh!

For one thing, at least two of these good gentlemen have been watching over things for years, and they have not done such a wonderful job. For example, Minister Yearwood has been the head honcho at the APUA, and customer satisfaction with APUA can be rated as barely satisfactory to poor. APUA has not distinguished itself in any of the water or electricity services that it provides, a whole power plant has gone bust, and clean, reliable water delivery is still a crap-shoot on any given day. Minister Yearwood ought to look in the mirror and repeat his very words to himself, words to the effect, ‘Any government that cannot provide clean, reliable water to its people ought to be voted out of office.’ From his lips to the ears of the longsuffering people of this country. If APUA had other private sector competitors, on a level playing field, it would lose most of its business.

Then there is Minister Molwyn Joseph who has come up short on the weighty matter of the environment. His willingness to sacrifice Mother Nature on the altar of development is a stain on his fairly decent record of banning single-use plastics, installing garbage receptacles around the city, and the hosting of the PLAY IT OUT TO PHASE IT OUT concert. On all other environmental matters, this good minister gets an ‘F’. Much like his aforementioned Cabinet colleague, we seriously doubt that Minister Joseph can be an effective watchdog over LIAT. Remember, it was under his watch that funds squirreled away for a crisis by the UPP at the Medical Benefits Scheme, were looted for all manner of other purposes by this profligate administration.

Ditto, Minister Weston. While we appreciate his candor on important matters, that perhaps otherwise might be kept a State secret, (for example he revealed that the country was broke, even before Covid-19), we believe that he is a watchdog with more bark than bite. For example, we can remember his annoyance with the National Housing folks whom he accused of, “Burning cash every day,” back in June 2019.Alas! No sooner had he made his accusations that the Minister of Housing, Maria Bird-Browne, told him basically to shut-up! And she gave him an ultimatum. Said the good Minister of Housing, “I wish to appeal to the good Minister [Weston] to complete the remainder of the unfinished roads at Paynters Development within the next seven days. I also appeal to the good minister to commence the work that has been long outstanding at the Denfields Development, outstanding for some months now, actually . . .” (Chuckle).It was a stunning riposte from the unassuming and understated Minister Bird-Browne,to the prideful and garrulous Minister Weston. Since that contretemps, Watchdog Weston has not uttered a bark about wastage and mismanagement at National Housing, never mind that many of its problems persist.

Similarly, Minister Weston, he with a penchant for rattling-off figures, as if playing with Monopoly money, (remember his silly boast that the government had $500M set aside for fiscal emergencies such as Covid-19), sought to rein in BAHAMAS HOT MIX (BHM). He accused them of ‘buccaneering’ and gave them a Christmas 2019 deadline to complete the rehabilitation work on the Friars Hill Road and the Sir George Walter Highway. However, as everyone knows by now, BHM gave him the finger and told him to stick it where the sun don’t shine.Good grief! Since that rebuff, there has not been as much as a growl from our fiscal watchdog.

So there you have it folks. The three LIAT watchdogs. Some schoolchildren have been referring to them as the ‘three blind mice.’ Others have sneeringly suggested that these three overseers are a straight case of “Ratta guarding cheese.” They will not be reporting a blessed thing to Cabinet, as is their remit. LIAT will run amok, burning through cash to the tune of at least $500,000 per month, to make pointless trips with half-empty aircraft, to a few islands. It makes no sense! A better option would be to ground the fleet for now; suspend operations until the Caribbean has been at least seventy percent vaccinated, and robust regional travel returns, perhaps in time for Christmas 2021.

In the meantime, consider the following, if you will. Minister Joseph already has his hands full with the Covid-19 crisis. The next big thing on his plate will be the vaccination effort by perhaps March, preceded by a national vaccine education campaign. Plus, all the other environmental issues.  Then there is Minister Yearwood who already has his plate full with . . .  well, who knows what he does? And of course, there is Minister Weston, who has his hands full finagling the numbers in order to meet the government’s monthly obligations. Plus, he is in charge of Works, and the absolutely horrendous condition of our roads is evidence enough that he ought not to be saddled with any other responsibilities. Which begs the question: could Cabinet not have come up with three brilliant, competent watchdogs from the private sector? Do these ministers have to be involved in every blessed thing? And have they not been “weighed in the balance and found woefully wanting,” on so many fronts?

But don’t take our word for it. Read their own damning words about each other, and their lack of competencies. Said Minister Weston in June of 2019 when responding to a broadside from Ambassador Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst: “You would have heard a couple of weeks ago where the houses [by National Housing] have not been sold because the Ministry of Works has been tardy. Well, we are never tardy in the Ministry of Works. (Don’t laugh, folks. He said it with a straight face). We are the top performing ministry in this government. . . . “  Good grief! Tell that to frazzled road users! Tell that to the birds! If the Ministry of Works is the top performing ministry in this government, then woe are we!

  Cabinet watchdogs, indeed! Woof! Woof! Whimper! Whimper!

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