Editorial: The roads to hell

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The jokes have been numerous and varied, and for the most part, they have been unfunny. Nobody is amused. Not the many businesses and homes on the Friars Hill Road that have been greatly inconvenienced. Not the many customers of those businesses who have chosen to go elsewhere, and only patronize those businesses, if they absolutely have to. Indeed, even the ordinarily funny joke about a lady telling her boyfriend that she wanted a  . . . er . . .how can we put this delicately, “rough ride,” . . . and he took her to Friars Hill Road, is no longer the least bit amusing. After all, who can be amused at the expensive shocks and struts replacement costs, the recurring front-end damage, and the frequent tire and rim damage after a few trips on those god-forsaken roads? Who can be amused at the lack of regular updates as to the progress, or manifest lack thereof? Who can be amused at the infernal dust? Who can be amused at the lack of a credible estimate of a completion date on these roads to perdition?

 And that’s what they are – the Friars Hill Road and the Sir George Walter Highway are two of the worst roads to be found anywhere in the Caribbean. Perhaps only in the hinterlands of Guyana, or the barrios of the Dominican Republic, or the mountainous regions of Haiti can worst roads be found. In no halfway decent country – not St. Kitts, not Barbados, not Grenada – can such shoddy and disgraceful workmanship be found. We submit that some of the horrors in Dante Alighieri’s DIVINE COMEDY, where Virgil is led down several roads into the abyss, is akin to what our road users are experiencing. 

To be sure, the two roads to damnation are a metaphor for all that ails our fair state – a grandiose pledge made as part of a cheap bag of goodies, none of which have materialized, mind you. And no consultation with the people, especially the major stakeholders – Epicurean, Digicel, Courts, Brysons, WIOC Service Station, The Woods Mall, The Village Walk, Billy’s Food Mart, Caribbean Cinemas, and the other shopping complexes in the Friars Hill Area, for example. We have just received word that the eminences and geniuses in charge of the ‘roads to hell’ fiascos are planning to meet with . . . gasp!  . . . the major stakeholders ex post facto. But for what? The egregious damage has already been done! With over a year and a half of pretend roadwork at an enormous cost to the businesses, with little or no consultation, we fail to see the usefulness of a consultation at this point. Unless, of course, it is to announce that Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM), having jumped in over their heads, are at a loss and are throwing in the towel, much like they have done with the pathetic airport project in Barbuda.

So who the hell is this Bahamas Hot Mix (many Antiguans have dubbed them, ‘Bahamas Hot Mess’)? Well, we went to their website, where a glossy New York-looking photo of high rise buildings and a scenic riverside view greets the reader with an introductory word that BHM is a company founded in the Bahamas in 1984 by a group of businessmen. They are headquartered at the Airport Industrial Park in Nassau, Bahamas. With the exception of the glossy riverfront scene, the only other two pictures of the supposedly wonderful work completed by BHM is that of a highway with an intersection, and a stadium. It is not clear if BHM built the entire stadium Anyway, even with this dearth of visual testimonials as to their engineering and building prowess, we continued to read their write-up about themselves: “Welcome to BHM Company Ltd. – a new future for your construction, improvement and maintenance works for airports, roads, marine and mining facilities. BHM is a dynamic company with a long-established proven track record for the successful delivery of major civil engineering and infrastructure projects in growing economies. Having operated in the Bahamas for over thirty years, the company has moved into a new phase of expansion within the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and selected African countries.  We hope to welcome you as one of our new clients as we bring you our offering of technical excellence, client-tailored solutions and cost-effective delivery of projects and infrastructure projects in growing economies. . .”  Hmmm! Many fed-up Antiguans and Barbudans would seriously beg to differ with these glowing claims.

The curious thing is that when we went to all their online sites in search of photos of their other projects, there were none. In fact, the only three photos that they had of their ”Successfully delivered major engineering projects” were The Marsh Harbor Runway, (A small runway similar to the old current airport runway in Barbuda), the aforementioned New Providence Road (A highway with an intersection) and the Lynden Pindling International Airport. (It is not clear what area of the airport was actually built by BHM). Furthermore, there were no photos of their work in “the Caribbean and selected African countries,” neither were there any glowing testimonials of the fantastic work completed by BHM. In fact, in the section on their Facebook page that suggested that the company be rated, there was a notice saying, “NO RATING YET,” and in the section that asked, “WHERE IS BHM,” there was only one solitary answer – Antigua and Barbuda! Hmmmm!

Of course, we’re merely reporting what we saw. We leave it to you to decide. Indeed, you decide if, based on what you have seen of the way BHM works, if you would recommend them for any major project anywhere in the world.

Meanwhile, it is not difficult to imagine that our good PM is losing sleep over the morass on these two abominable roadways. We can imagine him cursing under his breath and contemplating who the hell to fire or hold accountable for this unmitigated disaster. Our good PM, a man with a low tolerance for what he perceives to be foolishness and malingering and ineptitude, can hardly be amused. Nay, we submit that he is livid that this seemingly straightforward pledge is proving to be a millstone about the neck of his administration.  Fasten your seat belts, folks! This promises to be a helluva ride on these roads to damnation!

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