Puddles of sewage dapple the potholed road into Hastings, a tourist hub on Barbados’s southern coast. Tanker lorries parked by the roadside suck up stinking waste. The liquid forming one large pool at nearby Accra beach is not seawater. The governments of the United States, Britain, Canada and Germany recently warned tourists about raw sewage. Hotels complain of cancelled bookings, and a few businesses have shut. The stench comes at an inconvenient time for Barbados’s prime minister, Freundel Stuart, who faces an election on May 24th. If the opinion polls are correct, his Democratic Labour Party (DLP), which has governed for ten years, will be thrashed by the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP). The parties do not disagree much on ideas or policies, so they fight each other with accusations of corruption and incompetence. The sewage crisis has given Mia Mottley, the opposition leader, plenty of muck to fling.
A BLP government completed the south-coast sewage system in 2003, in a laudable attempt to control pollution. Since then, Barbados Water Authority has failed to maintain it. Restaurants pour grease down their drains, where it forms sewer-blocking fatbergs and clogs up pumps. Sections of the main sewer have collapsed. Ms Mottley warned in 2015 that the sewage-treatment plant had been “virtually non-functioning” for more than a year. Since late 2016, sewage has sporadically spurted out of manholes.
This is damaging an already weak economy. GDP shrank by 0.7% in the year to April. “King sugar” no longer counts for much, leaving the economy almost entirely dependent on tourism, which has grown more slowly than in rival destinations such as Jamaica and the Bahamas. After years of slow economic growth, government debt has reached 150% of GDP. The government spends more on interest than on paying government workers. Despite many tax rises, their salaries have not risen for ten years. Anthony Trollope, an English novelist, wrote after a visit in 1859 that Barbados “owes no man anything, pays its own way, and never makes a poor mouth.” That is no longer true. Credit-rating agencies have downgraded Barbados repeatedly over the past ten years.
Full Article: Barbados’s mucky election – Polluted politics.