Editorial: To promote the general welfare

The frustration of the hundreds of drivers on Friar’s Hill Road was showing. Patience was wearing thin. Apparently, notwithstanding the laudable goal of widening the road and laying pipes and all the other capital improvement work being done there, the poor signage, the very poor drainage, and the seeming chaos, have given rise to the sense that even with government sub-contracting the project to a private entity, things are not being done in an optimum or scrupulously efficient manner, or with a proper plan to minimise, as much as possible, the inconvenience to road users.

Ah, our long-suffering road users! We bear the brunt of governments forsaking one of their core functions  – that of “promoting the general welfare.” When our cars, a major expenditure behind our kids’ education and our mortgage, have to go through the twisted chassis, the broken front-ends, the damaged shocks and the exponential depreciation that our vehicles suffer on our roadways, that is not a “promotion of the general welfare.” Nay, it is rather quite distressing! Consider the absolutely deplorable condition of the road leading to Devil’s Bridge, one of our major tourist attractions! It is a disgrace! And not to mention the horrendous road leading to historic Betty’s Hope Estate! Indeed, many callers to OBSERVER Radio’s Voice Of The People yesterday aired their disgust at the appalling lack of foresight, never mind the neglect of these two roads. Thousands of visitors go to these sites (There were thousands of locals and visitors at the Easter Monday kite-flying extravaganza) and they expect half-decent roads, not the dusty, boulder-strewn road to damnation and perfidy that is the Devil’s Bridge Road. And that road has been in that condition from time immemorial! For shame!

       Then there is the extremely dangerous situation on the Old Parham Road, across from the T. N. Kirnon School and Her Majesty’s Prison. Again, it is commendable that the Public Works folks are cleaning and repairing the drain. But that good deed is negated by the exceedingly slipshod manner in which the cement slabs that cover the drain have been deposited in the street. Apart from the fact that the drain has been left uncovered and poses a clear and present threat to life and limb, there is the danger to vehicles and bicyclists travelling down the road at a high rate of speed at night. Why no signage? Why no media alerts? Why no caution tapes and barriers around the exposed work area? Is this an ‘anything-goes’ operation with nary a thought as to the safety of the citizenry? Thank God that we are not living in a litigious society, because in another world, the hazardous conditions on the Old Parham Road would be accidents and lawsuits waiting to happen.

Which brings us to the question of the core functions of our government.  It is to ‘promote the general welfare,’ and good roads and good road works are part of the general welfare. It is not to expand its size and dibble and dabble in all sorts of businesses best left to the private sector (See President Obama’s declaration shortly after the 2008 bailout that his administration had no interest in running General Motors or Chrysler. He suggested that car making was best left to the car manufacturers).  It is not to be taking over businesses and then attempting to run them the way that they run their ministries. Government interests are often inimical to the interests of the private entrepreneur, and history has shown that where governments become too deeply involved in a private endeavour, that endeavour eventually fails. The point here is, governments should stick to providing and maintaining the nation’s infrastructure, providing good lighting and security, maintaining law and order, and seeing to a select few other services that are within the ability of government to provide with our tax dollars. In other words, “limited government.”

Mr. Government, all we ask and expect you to do, we expect you to do it exceptionally well! And not as though you are doing the citizenry a favour. Is that too much to ask? We think not! One of the clauses in the preamble to the American Constitution is, “Promote the general welfare . . .” We suggest that that ought to be the least that we should expect from our government in our bit of paradise. We again further suggest that good roads, and considerate ROAD WORK AHEAD alerts are part of that ‘general welfare.’