Prime Minister Owen Arthur Opens a New Can of Paint – To Cover Old Corruption

After 11 years in power, Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur announced he is trying to make some changes to his government and his party – but is this a major rebuild, or just a new coat of paint?

Prime Minister Arthur sounded a note of caution in his message last October to the Barbados Labour Party’s annual conference; in effect, warning some of his colleagues to stop misusing their political office and connections for “personal material gain.” Some at the conference were surprised when he chided them for “an ostentation of manner, unwillingness to accept sacrifice and unwillingness to stay connected” to the party’s founding values.

Barbados Free Press notes that certain BLP politicos and their family members shouldn’t act so surprised. For years, more than a few government contracts have been awarded to a small cartel in a rotation that seems designed to foster the illusion of openness while rewarding certain BLP supporters in their turn.

One can just imagine some of the back-room conversations during the past decade…

“You take the contract this time. I’ll take it next time. You take this piece; my son will take that piece. Your nephew should purchase that property, and my brother will purchase it from you next summer.”

All of which brings us to the issue of contract tenders for the new flyover and highway construction projects – and the lands that will be needed for these and future projects.

Minister of Public Works Gline Clarke appears to be all excited about this major undertaking, and with over US$100 million at stake, who wouldn’t be? (Note for the future – the Government estimate for this one contract is US$60 million, but our sources tell us that the private number being tossed around is US$100 million: thought to be likely after a few more as-yet-unannounced projects are added to the pie. Remember when it happens – you read it here first.)

3S Structural Steel Solutions LLC, of Maryland USA won the major contract for the flyovers, but many Bajan companies will also get a piece of the pie. CO Williams Construction, Rayside Construction and some others are rumoured to be among the lucky lottery winners.

The flyover project has not been without controversy already. With the project now proceeding, and in an effort to smooth the waters, the Deputy Chief Technical Officer of the Public Works Ministry, Cheryl Bennett-Inniss, announced that “Public Consultations” will now take place along with a “public relations programme.”

The last thing that Barbadians need is a “public relations programme” instead of an open accountability about where every dollar is spent.

Prime Minister Arthur is correct: the cartel must stop misusing their political offices and connections for “personal material gain.” Only time will tell if the Prime Minister is really serious about stopping the corruption, or whether, like a used car salesman, he really means “Give her a new coat of paint and some sucker will buy it.”


Filed under Barbados, Politics & Corruption