The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Trevor Browne
As president of the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers and Chairman of the Council of Caribbean Engineering Organisations, it would be impolite of me to ignore a direct demand from no less a person than the Minister of Housing of Barbados Dr William Duguid, to apologise for daring to question his decision to import basic houses from China.
In July 1976 I was hired as an engineer at the Barbados Light & Power Company, shortly after the commissioning of the two steam plant units at Spring Garden. I spent the next 38 years there practising engineering among some of the most talented, committed and intelligent people anywhere on this earth.
I also benefited from work and study attachments with the London Electricity Board, The Ontario Hydro Electricity Commission, The Corning Ware Corporation in New York and with multiple other international and regional organisations.
It has been an experience in engineering that has been way beyond my wildest expectations, dreams
It is only when I read the book “I Speak For The People” by my personal favourite local personality of all time – Wynter Algernon Crawford, that I realised that my blessed engineering experiences were the result of the vision, self-confidence, wisdom and love for Barbadians of this man who, after a tour of the Spring Garden Station to open the new plant, questioned the absence of local faces among the engineering staff and instructed that appropriate adjustments in “hue” be implemented “before his next visit”.
It may have been coincidental, but immediately following Crawford’s call, persons like Claude Franklyn, George Inniss, Chester Pitt, Orville Carter (all qualified Bajans living in England) were recruited by BL&P and a series of young local graduates (yours truly included) were hired.
The result of Crawford’s vision is probably best highlighted by the Light & Power Company of 2000 which exemplified total quality, high customer satisfaction and world class local expertise in a range of technical areas and which produced a number of outstanding leaders who are currently contributing
to Barbados and the world.
When we contrast Crawford’s vision with the current policy being executed by this ministry, one saying that Barbadians are incapable of building low-income housing at competitive costs and quality, and that therefore, we are somehow ‘better off’ by engaging Chinese people to facilitate us, the mind boggles, especially following the impressive job done by the very same local building sector to construct the much more complex North Point Isolation Facility in record time, within budget, and at high quality.
In the circumstances, I must accept Minister Duguid’s call for me to apologise to the people of Barbados.
So . . .
I Trevor Browne do humbly apologise to the people of Barbados for the fact that in 2021, after 75 years of totally free education, after producing more qualified and educated citizens per thousand than almost any other country on Earth, we can have representatives of the people who, rather than inspire us to great things, can look us in the face and tell us that we are incapable of building low income houses for our own people.
I apologise for the fact that such a simple matter as fostering enfranchisement among citizens can be made to look like “pulling teeth” in 2021.
When Crawford, Barrow and Tom Adams made it look so simple decades ago – even at a time when there were almost ZERO local professional expertise available to them.
I apologise for the fact that this minister – who headed the Ministry with responsibility for Engineering, appears to be unaware of the role of engineers in complex projects. That role is one of pre-emptive problem solving.
It is one best done by discussion, examination of different viewpoints, openness to scrutiny, and most importantly, by peer review examination.
This means that any so-called “engineers in his ministry” who are either not legally registered; or are not members of the Professional Association will be incapable of practising modern professional engineering.
No savvy member of the public would consult a rogue dentist, doctor or lawyer who was unregistered, or who was not a member of the specific Professional Association –where peer review and conformance to ethical practices can be facilitated and mandated.
So I am indeed sorry – and I mean that sincerely, that as a country we seem to have fallen so far behind the days when we actually enjoyed leaders who truly thought, and spoke “for the people”.
Days when Barbadians benefitted from that vision as I did over thepast 40 years.
We all should be truly sorry for this country if citizens are not fully aware that “where there is no vision, it is the people who will suffer . . .”
Trevor Browne is the president of the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers (BAPE) and Chairman of the Council of Caribbean Engineering Organisations (CCEO).