Land owners who have not settled their bills in relation to lots debushed by the Ministry of Health may soon find them up for sale.

This was revealed today by Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, who noted that as his Ministry gets ready to start the annual debushing programme, Barbados’ landscape was challenged by the number of unkempt lots which remained a public health concern.

According to him, last year the Ministry’s debushing programme cleared approximately 2,460,872 sq. ft of land belonging to Barbadians who reside here and abroad, as well as some state departments.

"There was an annual cost of $800,000 and it is really sad to know that after spending $800,000 of tax payers money cleaning up lands in this country thus far, we have only been able to recover $75,003.19," Minister Inniss said.

He added: "Now, one can argue that because there are public health concerns arising from these unkempt lots the state must clean them up, and we will continue to do whatever we can with our limited resources, but I really believe it is simply reprehensible that Barbadians could sit back; watch land that they own grow into this unkempt state and then adopt an attitude that the Ministry of Health or the Government of Barbados would come and clean it up. That is not acceptable."

The Minister stressed that the issue was a perennial one and underlined. "We have been talking about this for too long and whereas we as a Government have always opted to use moral suasion and not to take any strong-handed approach, it is my considered opinion that the time is right now for the Ministry of Health to make full use of the Health Services Act, which gives the Minister of Health the authority to dispose of said lands and assets to recover the cost.

"And, I wish to make it clear that those who have been given due notice by the Ministry of Health and have not responded and whose lots we have gone in and cleaned up at a cost of $18 cents per square foot and have refused despite repeated requests to settle their bills, that I will be moving with a sense of urgency to arrange for the said lots to be disposed of to recover tax payers’ costs incurred."

Dismissing the view that people might think that it high-handed, he argued that was not the case. "We have been doing this now for 10 years and it is certainly to my mind a lack of care for your fellow Barbadians when you can sit back, see your lots grow into bush and don’t give a hoot about it…"

"But Barbadians need to be aware that this Minister of Health is prepared to enforce the law and to dispose of their land in order to recover the cost.

The Minister acknowledged, however, that there would be instances where people would be unable to pay and they needed to come forward and discuss the matter with the authorities. And, he pointed out that prior to any public auction of lands the Ministry would seek to publish "in the public domain the names of those who have not responded and the location of the lots".

It was also pointed out that officers in the Ministry would, over the next couple of months, work to collate the necessary information, ensuring that the Ministry followed the law in terms of due notice and reminders.??

Minister Inniss maintained: "And, where such has fallen on deaf ears, we will enforce the law. We don’t need any more legislation; we don’t need to go to Parliament and create any more laws… We need to make good use of the laws that are on the Statute Books and I am prepared as Minister of Health to do just that when it comes to these unkempt lots in Barbados."??

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