We can't continue the lunacy of damage-repair spendingWednesday, September 08, 2021
There are times when we wonder why do we even bother to draw attention to the inadequacies that afflict our beloved country. However, we are cognisant of the fact that if we don't speak we will — like those who remain silent when people are being abused — be guilty of that misapplication of power and authority ourselves.
It pains us each time we are forced to discuss the issue of extremely poor road construction because we believe that the people in authority know that much better can be done.
They have been told time and time again how to reduce damage to roads from heavy rain and other forces of nature, but based on the ease with which road infrastructure crumbles each year we have serious doubts about their commitment to the country. Maybe they simply cannot process the information or, worse, refuse to.
Whichever it is, they ought to be ashamed of themselves and should really be investigated to determine if their inaction is driven by financial gain.
Our focus on this issue, again, has its foundation in a story published on Monday regarding the deterioration of the Revitts to Shaddock Hill road in St Elizabeth. While our report featured only that stretch of road, its condition is not unique to that area. There are, indeed, hundreds of kilometres of roads across the country in similar, if not worse condition.
In the referenced case, Mr Cetany Holness, councillor for the Junction Division, is lamenting the state of the road: “No vehicle can traverse here since Tropical Storm Ida,” Mr Holness told this newspaper. The photographs of the road are graphic.
The pertinent point Mr Holness made, though, is that inadequate funds are allotted to repair the road each time there is damage. He also pointed to the absence of proper drainage — a problem islandwide.
We recall that just last November, after the passage of Tropical Storm Zeta, more than $2 billion of taxpayers' money was reported to have been found to clear blocked thoroughfares, clean drains, restore access to several corridors, and for road patching. That same month the Government told us that it had to utilise $1 billion for emergency road repairs and clean-up activities following a period of heavy rain. If these two instances were anomalies we could be forgiven for not making much of them. However, the fact is that this madness is an annual feature.
At the time, we pointed to the very frank comments made by Mr E G Hunter, CEO of the National Works Agency (NWA), to the Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee of Parliament that, instead of constructing roads properly in order to avoid repeated repair work after periods of heavy rain, what we have been doing in this country is spending lots of money patching roads.
Mr Hunter had pointed to the age of the infrastructure, inadequate funding, and an emphasis on repairing damage as factors affecting the state of the 5,000 kilometres of roads for which the NWA has jurisdiction — 55 per cent of which were in bad condition at the time.
The reality, he quite rightly said, is that the budget is prioritised towards damage repair, not damage mitigation.
We simply cannot continue like this. Mr Hunter, based on his experience, obviously knows what needs to be done to stop this fiscal lunacy. The Government should utilise his skill and knowledge in a more meaningful way.
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