Michael Lashley, who served as housing minister prior to his current role, has spent his political career focussing on ensuring Barbados becomes a prosperous and just society. As minister of transport and works, he is responsible for the country’s physical infrastructure and local transportation system. He spoke to The Report Company about the impact of his ministry’s work on the country’s development.
The Report Company: How would you introduce Barbados?
Michael Lashley: Barbados has a very big asset in tourism, particularly with the UK which is one of our biggest markets. We have had a very close relationship historically with Britain. In fact, my parents lived in England for some time. Barbados is a very rich nation in terms of its history and in terms of its people. We are known to be hospitable. We pride ourselves on our very solid educational system, and our promotion of peace and security. It’s always a welcoming paradise. In spite of the global economic challenges, Barbados still has the resolve, still has the commitment and still has the will to overcome.
TRC: How is your ministry working towards the national strategic plan?
ML: My ministry is specifically involved in relation to physical infrastructure. Of course, the objective of the ministry is to provide an efficient road network, maintain government buildings, license and inspect vehicles and maintain certain standards in relation to public transportation. We are meeting with the ministry of environment with relation to emissions to put a strategy in place to protect the environment. That ties in with the whole aspect of protecting the environment and greening the economy.
In terms of infrastructure, the fact is that we operate in a different economic environment than before. We have gone to various international agencies for funding, particularly the IADB, and very shortly we will be closing an agreement to the tune of $25 million. We need to enhance this infrastructure. We have certain roads that are economic corridors linking tourism assets and infrastructure. We have established a technical team and we have regular meetings with the IADB as well as town hall meetings advising and communicating with residents and people who will be affected directly or indirectly to ensure that the project moves smoothly.
“In spite of the global economic challenges, Barbados stillTweet This
has the resolve to overcome”
TRC: What are your major focuses at the moment?
ML: We have to build infrastructure that accommodates and incorporates other sectors. We have an issue in relation to maintenance of our physical infrastructure, because it is difficult to continue with having to set money set aside every year for this while we are not gaining any revenue from the roads. We have to look at how to get these revenues from elsewhere to maintain the roads. We are also looking at a change in construction methods, because there is a view that if we use concrete roads instead of asphalt roads, there will be a longer life span and so the maintenance costs will go down. There is also a view that we should be looking at getting in some way a revenue stream to pay for the maintenance of the infrastructure.
TRC: What motivates you as minister?
ML: I am really motivated by the fact that I always want to make a contribution to Barbados. Prior to entering politics, I was an attorney at law, and my aim was to build up experience in Barbados and make a contribution to the socio-economic development of the country. Now, as a minister in government, I want to make sure that my ministry looks after the social and economic development of Barbados.
My vision today is to provide a reliable public transport system for Barbados, and maintain that social good in the current economic environment. Public transport is extremely expensive. We have a private sector that we are looking to engage in public transport in a way that certain standards will be met. We are currently building proper terminal facilities for the private sector and we are hoping to also build out the bus terminal. This will be part of the urban renewal programme in Barbados. We will go towards a public and private sector integration, but then there must be a stronger supervisory arm from the government in terms of the legislation.
“We are committed to a sound environment, strong governance and also guided by the ideas of transparency”Tweet This
TRC: What would be your message about Barbados?
ML: Next year, we will be celebrating our 50th year of independence and that really will be a big celebration. We will not only be opening up to visitors, but also to Barbadians living in the UK who can come home and get involved in all of the activities. Since independence, we in Barbados have been able to maintain social stability, maintain economic stability, we still have a social welfare system for the vulnerable and the poorer sections of society are still protected. We are committed to a sound environment, strong governance and also guided by the ideas of transparency.