I like to engage anyone who will listen in conversation on current topical issues and matters affecting the well-being of the territory. One such current issue is the deplorable condition of the roads.
During a recent social occasion I sat opposite a visiting gentleman who owns property here. He described the drive to East End as a horror trip. He thought that by now, two years after Irma, the roads would have been fixed, but they are getting worse, he said. That struck a chord with me, because for two weeks I have been haunted with a quest to find out why major roadworks that should be treated as capital projects — the results of which should last for a minimum of 25 years without major repairs — are treated as recurrent projects, having to be redone often within one year. The thing bothered me. I could not understand the logic of the recurring exercise, which has gone on for so long over several decades that it now seems to have become a convention.
So just a week ago I asked a knowledgeable Virgin Islander whether he knew the reason.
“Oh, that’s political patronage,” he said.
I asked him to explain.
He went on, “That’s how the politicians want it. They do not want the roads properly fixed to last a long time. Contracts would be given to the local groups who know nothing much of road engineering — and, therefore, really cannot do an expert job. So the first rains come and wash away their effort, leaving bigger and deeper holes to be patched over and over again, especially when a general election is approaching or when some dignitary is visiting the territory. It is a way of buying votes with taxpayers’ money.”
Well, this writer is not to judge whether buying votes is the real reason or whether it is that the vision of leadership in relation to roadworks had been blurred for several decades. Obviously, the piecemeal method of fixing roads (that has been repeatedly employed) has not worked and is not working. It is plain to see.
Why not employ another way? Would it not be more logical and sensible to seek out a reliable firm, expert in road engineering, with a proven track record of quality performance?
In this writer’s humble opinion, such a firm could bring the expertise here and work with local contractors to achieve the desired result. After all, we now live in a global village, and it should not be too difficult to find one such reputable firm whose performance record could be easily tracked.
Of course, specific terms of reference would be drawn up and clearly spelt out. The correct legal measures would need to be engaged in drafting the contract so that no loopholes would occur. We would not want to be sued. We would require guarantees and value for money to avoid any slipping away with what was not legitimately earned.
‘20/20 vision year’
I am concerned that so much of our money has been washed away and that the roads are still not fixed. We cannot afford any more of that sort of wastage. Moreover, there are basic social, educational and cultural institutions of which the territory has been deprived for too long due to wastage and blurred vision. We are sadly lacking in what is basic social infrastructure even within the eastern Caribbean states, not to mention the greater Caribbean. This is the 20/20 vision year, and we expect to see better management of the public purse, and more meaningful and profitable outcomes for the well-being of the territory and its people.
Our premier has announced that his government is an unconventional one. So we expect him to remove that detrimental convention which has adversely affected our roadworks for several decades.
Some problem roads
I am sure that there are many problem roads throughout the territory that need immediate attention, especially with the continuous rainfall in these last weeks.
In my vicinity, the part of the Ridge Road that traverses Jennings Hill is falling out at the edges, and there is no guardrail protection between the edge and the precipice. The road is very narrow because Town and Country Planning did not carry out its mandate when some of the houses there were being constructed. Cars are often forced too near the edge. It is just a matter of time before one falls off. The area needs urgent attention.
The area at the start of Jennings Hill, where the dumpster is located, is forever being fixed, but is never fixed. It poses a dangerous driving hazard and is an example where expert engineering technology is required.
The Major Bay section of the Blackburne Road is a continuous messy eyesore.
These and other areas are crying out for attention. We expect the responsible ministry to take note and to put the necessary corrective measures in place.