So, once again, the East End/Long Look sewerage project is to be restarted. How much money has been expended already? Now we are blithely told that they are in the process of signing 18 petty contracts totaling $500,000 (yes, that’s 18 petty contracts), as if that is okay! This is not okay! These “contractors” are only labourers or jobbing builders at best. Small contracts under $100,000 do not have to be approved by Cabinet, or tendered. So who knows what goes on behind the scenes? And how can a project be properly planned and carried through to completion without an overall authority?

Then we are told that following on will be five petty contracts for the Road Town sewage works, for a total of $600,000! Now presumably some of those will have been approved by Cabinet? Again, how much has been spent already? How will it be managed and how will it tie in with the Biwater project?

Speaking of which, do we have a planning department? Oh, I forgot: Helen of Troy kicked that into touch, the old boss is leaving, and the new boss has not arrived yet and apparently has never worked in the department. Do we have traffic management engineers and statisticians?

What about that ridiculous “tourist road crossing” by Crafts Alive Village? It is in the wrong place for several reasons. It is approximately halfway between the crossings at the lights and Pusser’s. It does not align with any “invalid friendly” ramps. It will cause a traffic bottleneck when traffic races off from the lights, only to be stopped by pedestrians crossing. A light control would only worsen the situation. I see a job for a redundant litter warden as a “lollipop man.” Lastly, it most likely will be right in the path of the main sewer line when Biwater comes to town, and will have to be removed anyway! Still, stick a few cat’s-eye reflectors on it, eh!

Prison fence

We spent the best part of $284,000 on a new security fence for the prison, although only $150,000 was paid. It not only wouldn’t have been long enough to completely surround the facility, and now lies rotting away in the hospital builders’ yard, we now hear that the cost has increased to $931,000 for a fence that will surround the prison. Am I the only one who thinks that this is downright criminal? Oh no! The criminals are supposed to be inside — but they can walk out.

Then it’s $500,000 for a school staffroom! I am sure they must mean for more than a “staffroom”? You could build a pretty good villa or apartment block for that. But then, this is government money, not ours!

Delayed toilets

The toilets at The Baths, a long running saga, are still not completed due to some argument or other. Not to be too crude, but someone high up in government needs to “kick arse” on some of these projects. But then, how much higher than the district representative can you get?

What is the government, in the guise of customs and excise, going to do with a seized tank full of 240,000 gallons of fuel? Don’t you love that “approximately 240,026.88 gallons”? Sell it back to Delta? Sell it to government officials? Sell it to us? I think our legal system has gone over the top. A small fine would be more appropriate in this case, which appears to be a technical oversight, and not the fault of Delta — except maybe they should have waited until an official came. But then the ship would probably be charging waiting time. The fuel is duty free and for the government anyway!

Garbage disposal

There is a proposal to bring sister island garbage to the Pockwood Pond incinerators. Does this mean the two units are now underutilised? I expect government will be able to pay a nice fat fee to some consultant to tell us how much it will cost. With transportation, loading facilities and so on for each island, unloading and transportation at Pockwood Pond and the cost of barges and tugs. The mind boggles!

The BVI Health Services Authority inform us that they are owed $26 million by patients who either won’t or can’t pay their medical bills. And that’s only back to about 2008. They themselves owe $2.4 million to their suppliers. I don’t think government have any idea how much the BVIHSA services and the proposed National Health Insurance are going to cost, but I can tell them! A lot!

It all depends on completion of the new hospital, now slated for sometime in 2014.

Dolphin facility

I don’t agree with the principle of swimming with the dolphins, so I am not sure what to think of the application by St. Thomas to open a two-acre facility over there. I don’t know how much our facility relies on tourists coming over from St Thomas: All the cruise ships offer the trip at a cost. If St. Thomas does get permission, that trade will be killed here, losing money for our facility, the ferry companies and tour operators. On the other hand, it might mean that ours would have to close down due to lack of business — but then I am forgetting what’s behind it all.

Speaking of fish, President Roosevelt was looking forward to a much-improved BVI Fishing Complex, until he discovered that the contract had been paid and not fulfilled! The contractor, an apparently difficult character who has been convicted of corruption-related charges in the past, had the money for two years without delivering. Now that government has demanded repayment of the money advanced, he says he willingly agreed to repay the money.

So from March 11 “all supermarkets” will charge us 15 cents per plastic bag if we don’t bring our own. So how do we get our vegetables to the checkout and home? Having to buy boxes of plastic bags for our garbage will cost us more, delight the bag makers and stores, and make not a jot of difference to the environment. Those using their own bags should remember to wash them and not to carry raw meat and fish in them with other goods.

Planning, tendering

Why are our different administrations totally incapable of planning, tendering, contracting, seeing to completion, putting into operation, paying for, and then maintaining any project or building they have ever started? To name and rename a few: the then-new airport, the Beef Island bridge, the Central Administration Building roof, school buildings, prison roofs, the new hospital, and community centres. Not to mention abortive consultancy exercises for drag racing, medical schools, the West End ferry dock, educational programmes, cruise ship facilities and so on. It is because we are still in the mindset of 1950s’ subsistence living. And, like it or not, the United Kingdom let go of the apron strings too soon, and is only now looking to grab them back again.