Don't overestimate the patience of the people

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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The populace, especially in the Corporate Area, has shown commendable patience with the Government as it pushes ahead with the roadwork development projects, knowing that they were long overdue and will make life much better upon completion.

We hope that the Administration is mindful that patience is not limitless and can run out at any time. Any temptation to slow down or take this patience for granted could be costly and is to be stoutly resisted.

It would behove the Government to remain sanguine that much has gone wrong in the implementation of the projects and in the way they have disrupted the lives of individuals and businesses.

Were it not that people are eager to see them completed, we shudder to think what might have taken place by way of public protests and demonstrations.

Indeed, the Government should not expect any applause for doing what they were elected to do.

Enough distress has been caused. If one is to be honest, one must acknowledge that the National Works Agency (NWA) and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) have been derelict in their responsibility to protect the public from the effects of these development projects.

One of the big lessons to be learnt is need for public consultation ahead of the projects. Development without the input of the people, or without their needs being addressed, is flawed and bound for failure.

The approach to the opening of the Chesterfield Drive thoroughfare to bypass the Three Miles project in St Andrew was another teachable moment.

Perhaps for the optics, the prime minister posted aerial views of the accomplishment on various social media platforms. But within a week after it was opened, motorists using the Portmore toll road started complaining that on exiting the toll booth they faced lines of traffic, all caused by the build-up from Chesterfield. A few weeks later, an afternoon of heavy rains caused the same newly-built road to show signs of structural weakness.

Many complaints have come from people living off Hagley Park Road who have been without water for months, compounded by the dust nuisance from the work along that strip.

Even more people have pointed to the muddy disaster that is Constant Spring Road, and still others went without water last Christmas, and are still on a water delivery schedule because of a break in the water line at Ferry caused by the Mandela Highway roadwork.

The NWA's communications chief, Mr Stephen Shaw, who has the mammoth task of proving to Jamaicans that the State does care about the inconveniences they face daily, will lose credibility if all he can do is make excuses,

Consultation with communities does not mean there won't be inconvenience. But buy-in from the people being served is never to be overlooked. Government has to understand that the way it approaches development affects citizens deeply.

Poor planning, as we have seen in some of the road projects, reduces quality of life, especially when the planning is driven by one particular need, without fully considering the wider impact on the people.

While it is clear that the projects are needed, much work will be required to regain public confidence that the disruption in their lives will not be the norm whenever development projects are being undertaken.

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