The Political Industrial Complex by Jahiko Bird [ABLP Youth Team]

Public Infrastructural Development in Antigua over the past few years has given rise to The Political Industrial Complex. This system has fueled the Mini Millionaire Movement and facilitated a new breed of sub standard work approaches.

Store Keepers, Lawyers and Beauty Queens with the slightest idea of how many square blows with a 16oz hammer should drive home a six inch nail, have become contractors in their own right. Hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars were used to fuel the financial furnaces of this complex and its well positioned bagmen.

All of this madness was allowed to take place as the Minister of Finance sat on his throne and fondled his fiscal fiddle. Our Monetary Rome was engulfed in an inferno not of fire but thousands of cubic yards of poorly mixed concrete, some of which would not even pass the 500psi crush test.

 The mix became volatile on the eve of the 2006 World Cricket World Cup. The open drain systems in St.John’s were hurriedly covered to protest the anticipated tourist pedestrian traffic in. Covering the drains served no real functional purpose and offered any aesthetic appeal either.

The excuse might have been that it would prevent them from falling into holes: which for years only 1 in every 5000 Antiguans have ever fallen into. If I know the average cricket fan as I think I do, they will travel thousands of miles to watch a good game of cricket, drink rum, party and have fun. They have not a care in the world as to the condition of the drains in a country.

The miles of fences set around just about every park and playfield in the country has hemorrhaged the treasury of millions. Perhaps if only they were followed by properly planned sporting programs and tournaments then they would have my nod of approval. Most if not all these fenced facilities are enclosing and have no real material worth so therefore cannot be truly justified.

A business trip into St.John’s is usually met with a welcoming party from “The Order of The Green Pants”. They frustratingly and inexplicably reign “Traffic Terror” on motorists: who at times only need a few minutes to run into a store to pick up a cheap” Chiney” trinket or a Shawarma which now staples the lunch meal pick list.

All of this happens while The Can’t Park stands sentinel over the streets of St.John’s which have now been decorated and accented with No Parking signs even in the most unnecessary of places.

Mount St.John’s Medical Center rose to the occasion when the nation’s lone public hospital was bursting at its seams. This building saw its fair share of structural ups and financial downs. The facility was ordered into a Fast Track Construction Emergency Room only to serve as a back drop the upcoming general elections of 2009. Today it is plagued with medical mishaps, stationary shortages, staff go slows and a maintenance moratorium. A slow and agonizing death will become this edifice if it’s not tethered to a life line of proper preventative maintenance.

Taking the road back and looking at its moon like appearance may prompt the burning question of how in the world they could have cost ten million per mile, bearing in mind all junctions and intersections are at sub-grade. The fact that there is no need for overpasses, on and off ramps, bridges or tunnels therefore should make the cost hundreds of thousands of dollars cheaper.

 Road sub-grades should be adequately prepared and provisions made to channel away water as fast as possible as not to encourage settling. A pothole is not made over night unless in the case of works carried out that disrupts the road surface.

Like the Multi Purpose Cultural Center the Reservoir, The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium and The Grays Farm Gutter: The New Airport shall join the ranks of white elephants that litter the country. For future consideration maybe the negotiation tables may need to be better controlled. A building which would cost almost as much money to maintain, as it cost to build, before breaking even on your return on investment: may not be worth the risking of tax payers’ pennies.

In order to better protect our nations tax dollars Public Works and The DCA would need to be retooled and restructured to the highest possible accountability standards. This would require a team of no-nonsense inspectors who will enforce the codes and standards which govern infrastructural development ensure all contract are tendered to competent contractors and construction workers. The use of sets of drawings with strict specifications and penalties should be part of this process. If you’re not good help…hire it.

by Jahiko Bird

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