From right to left: Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley; Director General at the CARICOM Office of Trade Negotiations, Ambassador Gail Mathurin; and World Bank Country Director, Caribbean Countries, Tahseen Sayed, at the opening ceremony for the Understanding Risk Caribbean Conference, at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society yesterday. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley believes the time has come for the creation of a sinking fund for infrastructure replacement in Barbados over the next few decades.

Ms. Mottley expressed this view last evening as she delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony for the five-day Understanding Risk Caribbean Conference, under the theme: From Risk to Resilience: A Foundation for Action, at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. 

It is being organized by the World Bank, in partnership with the Government of Barbados, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and the European Union.

The Prime Minister said: “We have to make a determination as to how best we put aside that money that is necessary to be able to stabilize our capital infrastructure programme, by first securing our own sinking fund, that is dedicated purely to capital replacement over the course of the next few decades.  It is going to be impossible for the people of this nation to replace 2,500 km of water mains within a 10-year period or 20-year period….

“It is critical that we put aside those funds.  But the lumpy nature of the investment is such that we have, in my view, to make serious decisions as a nation, first and foremost, to protect the fund by embedding it in our constitution.  And I say so from the perspective that 30 years ago a similar capital fund was simply disbanded without reference to the needs of the future.”

Ms. Mottley pointed out that the majority of the 2,500 km of pipe had to be replaced, and the price tag, which government was fighting, was close to a million dollars a kilometer.

She lamented that it would be 25 per cent of the country’s GDP to simply seek to replace the water infrastructure without reference to what must be invested in augmentation of water resources.

The Prime Minister said she has asked the Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Wilfred Abrahams, to bring a water conservation plan to Cabinet to prepare the country for the level of conservation that was critically needed, especially in light of the current drought.

She stated that it was easy for persons to suggest developing public service announcements, but opined that would not be sufficient.  She proffered the view that change in behaviour had to be led by children, their parents and the community.

Ms. Mottley said there was a need for a moral and ethical discussion across the global landscape on matters pertaining to natural disasters and climate change, especially in light of the international community’s stance that countries could be graduated on the basis of middle income status based on their GDP, and be precluded from accessing critical funding.

She continued: “It is our contention that it is only when moral and ethical leadership is given, both at the national level and international level, that we will summon the courage to fight down these battles.  Until such time, it is a form of idle entertainment for those who choose to watch.”

Ms. Mottley told the 500-odd participants, who are drawn from 20 countries, that their suggestions at the end of the conference must be backed by domestic and international political will.

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