In spite of recent improvements in some areas, many of the territory’s roads are in exceedingly bad shape. Thus, we support the legislature’s recent decision to borrow $16 million from the Social Security Board for road resurfacing.
Now leaders should ensure that the money is wisely spent.
With an election looming, this means that they must resist the urge to push through rush jobs designed to curry favour with the electorate.
Instead, the projects should be handled with the same care as the ongoing roadwork funded by a $15.6 million loan from the Caribbean Development Bank. As a condition of the CDB loan — which was earmarked to repair damage done by the heavy flooding of 2010 to about 2.5 miles of roads — the bank insisted on a set of strict guidelines: All projects had to be tendered and to meet certain planning requirements.
These restrictions may have taken extra time, but in the long run they will mean better roads and greater value for taxpayers’ money.
If the resurfacing funded by the SSB loan is carried out mainly by the government as planned, tendering may not be a major issue, though any aspects of the project that are contracted out to the private sector certainly should be put to bid.
Nonetheless, there is still much to learn from the advance planning that went into the CDB works. Premier Dr. Orlando Smith is promising the SSB loan will see nearly 15 miles of road resurfaced over the next two to three years. If the job is not done properly — and in accordance with best practice engineering guidelines — it probably won’t last.
To understand the negative ramifications of a rush job, one need only remember the roadwork carried out shortly after the 2010 rains. In 2011, government signed millions of dollars’ worth of no-bid contracts to repair badly damaged roads on Tortola and Virgin Gorda. Rain soon swept away much of the work, leaving some of the resurfaced roads in no better condition than they were in immediately after the 2010 floods.
In other words, taxpayers’ money was wasted.
To avoid a repeat of this scenario, leaders should make wise decisions in as transparent a manner as possible as they spend the $16 million SSB loan.
Besides the convenience for residents, solid infrastructure is indispensable for the stability of the territory’s economy. Thus, the planned roadwork must be done properly the first time.