Retired Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Robert Bobby Morris wants citizens to spend less time fixating on the size and amount of potholes on the island, and to spend more time talking about safeguarding the overall road network.
Recalling that Barbados came from a society of “cart tracks” and “marl roads” as major thoroughfares in its early years post independence, Morris said the country now had one of the largest road networks per capita in the world, while insisting that the national conversation should be about road maintenance and not about how many potholes are plaguing road users.
“We are concentrating in Barbados on looking at potholes. So much so that the Press will show you the depth of a pothole and go down in it because that is our vision, we are down in potholes . . . . I am asking you, has any economist every told you how many square metres of roads we have in Barbados?” he asked, adding that his personal fear was not about potholes.
“My fear is how do we maintain that now and in the future. It is one of the most frightening things to me. When I think about the highways and then we have all these little [roadways] through every little village, and then we have the people in White Hill saying they want a road put up there rather than moving them to the roads, what is our thinking. Why are we talking about potholes instead of talking about our road networks?” he questioned.
Morris was taking part in a panel discussion today on the topic Development: Does it Build a Society? It formed part of the 11th annual Ministry of Finance lecture series at the Courtyard by Marriott.
While further questioning why economists were not pointing out the “major, minor and secondary roads” on the island and talking about “what the difficulty will be for us in the future” to maintain them, Morris was also critical of residents who were demanding the construction of flyovers, saying they too were not thinking about how the existing road network would be maintained.
“That is part of the Barbadian difficulty that I have,” he said.
Morris’ comments came approximately two weeks after Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs Senator Jepter Ince suggested that the vexing problem of potholes was a test from God.
It was during debate in the Upper House on the Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2017 two Wednesdays ago, that Ince had challenged Barbadians to resist the urge to complain.
He said God had spared Barbados from the natural disasters this year, including drought and hurricanes, but was now testing Barbadians with heavy rain which helped food crop farmers, but caused significant damage to the island’s road network resulting in a proliferation of potholes.
“The Lord said, ‘I’m going to test you with some potholes. I gave you rain; you had a drought and I gave water. The farmers could plant, and I saved you from the hurricanes. The roofs are on and I am giving you bread, I’m giving you transportation, but all I am doing is testing you with some potholes and we in Barbados are quarrelling every day . . . there are other people in other countries that would be glad if they were in a position that we are in today – hurricane ravaged countries,” Ince said at the time.
During Friday’s discussion at the Marriott, Ince was the one to initially raise concern about the state of the country’s roads, saying he believed there was a problem with management and maintenance.
“One of the challenges in Barbados is management. We have not been able to get our management and our maintenance of our resources right. I give you an example, we complain about our roads. We need structures in place to maintain our public road systems in an efficient manner,” said Ince, while pointing out that public and private sector buildings were also in need of proper maintenance.