Tuesday, Aug 4, 2020
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Road project disaster

Dear Editor,

In 2009 the government announced that it was conducting a New Providence Road Improvement Project, which upon completion would result in us enjoying wonderful roads making our driving around New Providence, particularly the daily commute to work, much easier and quicker.  At the same time, new underground utility conduits would be installed making for, among other things, improved water pressure especially for consumers in the eastern end of the island.

The entire project, which commenced on November 2, 2009 at the Baillou Hill Road/Robinson Road junction, was to be completed over a period of 11 months.  Although Bahamians thought the time frame to completion was a bit lengthy, they generally felt that the government was to be commended for this noble undertaking aimed at making their lives better.  With such an innocuous beginning, thus was commenced what has turned out to be a literal nightmare that has been visited upon the unsuspecting citizens of our capital city.

Immediately, our national psyche was insulted as we learned that a foreign company was contracted to do the roadwork.  Then worse, we discovered that the foreign company was using foreign supervisors to oversee Bahamian workers in The Bahamas.  The contractor, Jose Cartellone Construcciones Civiles, soon began excavating roads on a massive scale all over the island, leaving the holes opened for months on end.

Apparently insufficient signage and/or poor lighting resulted in a near death experience for at least one motorist and her infant child as their vehicle was written-off as a result of it taking a front-end plunge into one of the dug-up trenches.  Moreover, it is believed that these unclosed road cavities contributed to the dengue fever epidemic which raged during the rainy months of this year as rain water settling in the opened trenches provided a ready habitat for the Aedes aegypti female mosquito to lay her eggs.

Meanwhile, the promised 11-month time span to complete the works has now turned into 24 months and, to date, Jose Cartellone is still unable to give a firm date for completion of the works.  As we witnessed road after road being dug up and left in an unfinished state for weeks and months on end, it became obvious that both the planning and administration of this project by the government has been extremely poor.  Indeed, it appears that the Jose Cartellone group has been allowed to do as it wishes to us with our money to our detriment.  In the meantime, our weary citizens continue to endure long hours sitting in traffic each and every day, which results in increased fuel usage and reduced productivity.

While all of this has been going on, scores of businesses have seen their customer traffic dwindle to negligible numbers translating into operating losses, business failures and closures.  In the process, hundreds of Bahamians have become unemployed in the worst recession in living memory as a direct result of the actions of the government.

When business owners complained of the negative effect of the roadwork on their enterprises and requested compensation, the government said that as the government it was mandated to do as it sees fit in the “public interest”.  In fact, the government vigorously opposed the Baillou Hill Road Business League’s lawsuit, which sought to have the court compel the government to pay compensation for their losses.  This is not a government of the people, by the people and for the people.  This is tyranny!  No respectable government would deprive its citizens of their livelihoods without compensation.

In the midst of this national headache, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) announced that it would have to dig up some of the completed roads to install supply lines.  This after the government, through the Ministry of Works, had told us that it would ensure that all utility companies would coordinate the installation of their conduits beneath the roads to ensure that they would never have to be dug up again.

It would seem that insanity has invaded the simple process of road re-building in The Bahamas.  This announcement by BEC has been met with a deafening silence from the government.  Again the government failed to respond when a leading local newspaper said it found out from the website of the Inter-American Development Bank that the roadwork would incur a cost overrun of at least $12.5 million, which would have to be added to the original loan to fund the project.  I have visited the said website and verified this report.

And now to add insult to injury, Bahamian workers are complaining that they are being abused financially and otherwise by their foreign bosses on the road project.  This is almost too much to bear.

Meanwhile the trusting citizens of New Providence have been left on their own as they attempt on a daily basis to navigate through the maze of road closures, diversions and confusion.  And as a general election draws near, this same Free National Movement (FNM) government, which has presided over all of this mess, is telling all and sundry that it is the best choice for the continued governance of our country.  I think our people deserve better.  I know that they know that there is a better way.  It is the way one will find by following the beam from the green-striped lighthouse, which lights the way to the DNA and better governance for our beloved country.

– Welly Forbes

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