All’s not quiet on the Weston front

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It shook the body politic to its very core: here was the good minister of works, and a self-proclaimed savant on all things, calling out the National Housing Authority for the absolutely disastrous job that it has done with the ‘piece de resistance’ of its 2014 election campaign – the vain and disingenuous promise to build five hundred houses in five hundred days! It is a safe bet that many Antiguans and Barbudans were deceived by that unrealistic campaign promise. Not to mention the fallacious pledge to fix our vexing water situation in fourteen days. Those are two of the biggest campaign whoppers of all time, not only here in our fair state, but perhaps anywhere on this terrestrial ball. Many of the political cognoscenti are suggesting that George Bush’s “Read my lips; no new taxes” pledge which he broke, and Donald Trump’s, “We will build a great, big, beautiful wall, and Mexico is going to pay for it!” (Turns out Mexico is not paying a blessed thing), rank right up there with our two aforementioned whoppers as the greatest campaign deceptions of all time! Good grief! Stellar company, eh?

Anyway, lest we here at NEWSCO be accused of besmirching the embattled National Housing Authority, let’s read the lips of the good Minister of Works, he of expertise and knowledge of the way things ought to be done: “You would have heard a couple of weeks ago where Ambassador Hurst made the point that the houses have not been sold because the Ministry of Works has been tardy. Well, we are never tardy (don’t laugh, folks) in the Ministry of Works. We are the top performing ministry in this government, so we’ve brought the cameras out so you can see all the roads are in, but sadly, National Housing continues to be very slow in completing a very important project for the government, and I think, coming to see that they are so far behind in landscaping, in the finishing work, and they have all excuses, I think it is time for the Ministry of Works to take over this project!” Oh me, oh my! From his lips to God’s ears! Speak the gospel truth Brother Weston, “without fear, favor or ill will!” Much like yourself, many Antiguans and Barbudans are tired of the plethora of excuses emanating from your very own administration.

Not that anybody with with any modicum of common sense believes any of the tiresome litany anymore. Seems, this administration has gone to the well once too often when it comes to playing the body politic for fools.

Of course, the good Minister of Works, a dyed-red-in-the-wool supporter of all things Labor Party; he who has often fallen on his sword for the party; a card-carrying and water-carrying Laborite, was not done with his outrage at the astonishing underperformance of National Housing. Said he, after casting more broadsides and aspersions at the good ambassador and the embattled National Housing: “We have the capability of management, we have the energy, we have the aggression, we have the skilled engineers and professions; we can complete this project on time (Roll eyes) This nonsense has to stop! (Amen!) We have millions of dollars waiting to come back into the government treasury for the next phase, and everyday we get excuses from National Housing.” Testify, Brother Weston! Your righteous indignation is warranted, and you are expressing the sentiments and frustrations of many of us here in our fair state!

And even as you are wielding the whip and overturning the money tables in accordance with John 2:13-16, we cannot help but note your biting words, “I come, I don’t see anybody senior. I see some guys just wandering around. Nobody is here to make sure anything is happening. And they are burning cash every day!”  Of course, we here at NEWSCO, and the public at large, already knew that! It was an open secret that serious money had already been spent by National Housing with precious little to show for it. In the erudite minister’s own words, “We want to deliver these homes to the people who are paying mortgages. They are paying their rent; they are tired . . . we are calling on the prime minister publicly; we are not even going to Cabinet.” Careful, Brother Weston! You are stepping on toes! Proceed with caution. Especially with your threat to cause an uproar in cabinet this week. Shhh! Pass the popcorn, folks!

Of course, to no one’s surprise, the discontent and disquiet on the Weston front, was not going to be left unanswered, and it was not long before the good minister in charge of Housing, MP Maria Bird-Browne, responded rather pointedly: “The National Housing and Urban Renewal Development Company has completed all of the homes in Phase I at Paynters and at the Denfields Developments. However due to some delays in the completion of infrastructure, we have not been able to turn over the houses to the home owners in record time. I have therefore asked that the outstanding work by APUA, Caribbean Water Treatment and the Public Works Department be expedited in order to facilitate the handing over of the homes within the upcoming week. I wish though to thank the minister, Minister Weston, for the work that they have completed thus far within the last few days. However, I wish to appeal to the good minister to complete the remainder of the unfinished roads at Paynters Development within the next seven days. I also appeal to the good minister to commence the work that has been long outstanding at the Denfields Development, outstanding for some months now, actually. If these are done, the people will be able to move into their homes immediately. I would like to state here though, that money has never been aimlessly burnt by the National Housing, but rather invested into the project to put food on the tables of over three hundred working class individuals. This program is one of empowerment, and will continue to provide jobs and affordable housing; climate resilient housing, access, easy access to the people of Antigua and Barbuda. I wish to lastly thank the homeowners for the patience they have exercised throughout the entire time of this project, and we can finally say that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and they will be receiving their keys shortly.” Hmmm! Really! We join with the many skeptics who are saying that we will believe it when we see it. Of course, the good Minister of Housing appears to be refuting many of Weston’s claims, and she is caustically shoving the responsibility and blame into his court. Stay tuned, folks! This promises to be intriguing.

Interestingly, we note the many deadlines that are being thrown down, much like a gauntlet. For example, the Minister of Works has declared that if given the chance, his ministry can complete the housing project in some six to eight weeks. The good Minister of Housing says that the good Minister of Works must complete the roads at Paynters in seven days. The good Minister of Works says that he will raise a ruckus in cabinet this week. Not that anyone is holding his breath. We have heard happy-talk and flowery speeches before. (Ask the many National Housing contractors and workers who have not been paid) Hell, we have heard too many of them. Shame on us if we believe any of it! After all, this comedy of errors at National Housing is a twisted version of the fairy tale where one piggy builds a house of straw, and another builds one of sticks . . . and the big, bad wolf (the myriad excuses) comes and blows them both down. Sigh! Life is imitating art!

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