Bajan Bureaucracy

Visitors of Barbados love it’s laid back, relaxed, slow paced style of living. However, that same pace can be a source of frustration when dealing with the bureaucracy of the island.

Something as simple as a minor traffic accident, a “fender bender”, can take more than an hour to deal with. First, you must call the police department and then the insurance company. It’s recommended by the insurance company that cars not be moved until all reports, pictures and measurements have been made. Traffic can be backed up kilometers depending on the position of the crashed cars and how many lanes are blocked.  In the US there would be a simple exchange of papers after the cars have been safely moved to the side of the road and or pictures taken. The insurance company is notified at the earliest convenience.

A few weeks ago a constable told me that if both parties agree over the details of the incident, the police and insurance can be notified later. But, every accident I’ve seen resulted in parties waiting for the police and insurance investigators. I see the results of accidents as I run errands and see the same people again when I am returning home, in the same place, waiting!

Bajans try to follow the rules because they don’t want to deal with the bureaucracy. You never want to get a ticket in Barbados! Sandra’s cousin told me that he got a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt. I asked him how much the ticket was, he told me he didn’t know and would find out when he went to court. We all know that going to court like many governmental processes take the whole day. The only time court is considered in the US is when charges or tickets are contested.

We are currently under a Water Ban. Under this ban, you cannot wash your car or water your grass, garden or plants with a hose. However, you can wash and water them using a bucket. I find that most Bajans follow this law because the Prime Minister asked that you report your neighbors  which would result in a court appearance and fine. It’s only at night that I see a few of my neighbors and others sneak out to water their plants. Have I sneaked out? I plead the 5th amendment. Actually, I’m not sure of the laws about self incrimination in Barbados.

A fairly new law has been passed that bicycle ridders must wear a helmet. It is comical to see what some of the riders wear to avoid getting a court date and a ticket. Picture a cyclist that have dreadlocks to their knees and longer. It is cultural that many Rastas or men with long dreads wear their hair wrapped in  huge hat. Can you imagine what they look like with their hair wrapped with a helmet perched on top. I’ll help you, picture Marge Simpson from the cartoon The Simpsons, that’s what it looks like. Also, I have seen men on their way to work wearing construction helmets as bicycle helmets, no chin strap. The funniest one was a gentlemen wearing a hockey mask, which is not a helmet at all!

If the economy is slow, tax returns are slow. There are Bajans waiting 2 and 3 years for their individual tax returns from the government. The Barbadian Revenue Authority (BRA) has been promising to get the returns mailed out but many still wait for the 2016 tax returns. I’ve talked to several people that don’t bother to file at all!

Recently, there was a break-in at our church. To make a long story short, it is believed that a local homeless drug addict committed the crime. The person broke in through an open window and broke a lock and stole food items from a cabinet, and some clothing that was actually going to be given to the same individual. At this point, he is a person of interest and has not been convicted of the crime. What makes this short story long was the actual reporting of the crime. The police report and subsequent investigation took more than 4 hours. I was with the police from 11:30am until 4:00 pm.

There has been a move to make embrace technology which should cut some of the wait at the license bureau, tax collections, water authority, and other governmental agencies. Until then, it’s best to stay out of trouble, avoid the courts and pay your bills early.

Although it’s  sometimes frustrating, there is no place on earth I’d rather be than Barbados!

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