Government has already spent $1.8 million on the first fortnight for the debushing programme, according to Minister with responsibility for Communications and Works, Gregory Bowen.
Speaking to reporters during last week Tuesday’s Post-Cabinet Press Briefing, the senior government minister also dispelled rumours circulating in the country that persons employed as debushers would not receive payment for the work done before carnival.
Referring to the reports making the rounds in the country as “propaganda”, minister Bowen pointed out that the statement made on the debushing issue was taken out of context.
He said the statements made by government on payments to the debushers were made against the backdrop of the country’s depressed financial environment with millions to be paid in salaries and back-pay to public officers, hence there was no debushing program during the Easter.
He stated that the program, which started in July, was planned to ensure that a significant component of the monies due to the debushers would be given towards the re-opening of school in September.
“The program was planned to commence so that at least two payments (would be made) after the Carnival so that parents would not be tempted to utilise all the monies during the festive season and be in the same boat when school re-opens,” the minister told reporters.
“However, this was twisted to say that the wicked government of the day would ask the debushers to work for the entire four fortnights and pay everyone after Carnival – as it stands last Friday was a payday”, he said.
According to Minister Bowen, the Friday before the August 11-12 carnival would also be a payday for the debushing workers, and that an additional two other paydays would fall after the festival.
He said the government decided to employ this approach in order to prevent what was seen after the workers received payment last week and soon started to engage in a shopping spree.
Minister Bowen is urging parents and those assisting students to return to school in the new school year which begins in September to refrain from spending all their monies on Carnival activities but to put some aside for their children’s education.
During the press briefing figures were released showing that government sent out 528 debushing crews in the first fortnight (seven persons per crew) at a cost of $3,095 per fortnight, totaling $1.6 million.
There are 176 debushing supervisors, one supervisor serving three crews, costing $106,260.00.
Minister Bowen said Government has also allocated monies to the contractors/supervisors to purchase files and garbage bags to place the debris collected and to ensure tools are sharp.
He is encouraging citizens to be vigilant to hasten the debris collectors to pick up debris on a daily basis to prevent a pile-up on the roadside.
Government is also encouraging residents to cooperate with the debushers and let them know early if they do not want the bush that is cut down to be placed on their property.
In addition, contractors have been warned that with fewer working days due to the Emancipation and Carnival holidays, if the work is not completed within the timeframe given they would not be paid.
Government will spend overall an estimated $8 million for the four fortnights of the debushing programme.