Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Rollins Howard
Man needs three basic things to survive – food, clothing and shelter. All the other things which we crave are more geared towards the quality of life that we want rather than the basic instinct of survival.
Hurricane Elsa struck Barbados in July last year (2021) and as a result of the damage to the housing stock a decision was taken in August to import one hundred and fifty houses from China to replace those which had been damaged or destroyed.
This was deemed the most expedient route to take since it was believed that local artisans could not produce the required quantity of houses in the given time.
The houses were supposed to be shipped in September 2021 and delivered and installed by 31st December, 2021.
Unforeseen circumstances, including more storms and difficulties in facilitating the arrival of the technical personnel who would assist in the erection of the houses, delayed the actual arrival of the houses with a resulting delay in the original time frame for completion.
In January 2022 during an inspection visit to one of the houses being constructed in Brittons Hill, St Michael, the Prime Minister announced that the Government will be building at least another ten thousand houses within five years to alleviate the housing shortage in the island.
This was most heartening to hear for it meant that some affirmative action would now be taken to address the housing dilemma.
It, however, caused me to pause and reflect on the full import of the statement. In its simplest terms the construction of ten thousand houses in five years boils down to two thousand houses every year, or roughly five and a half houses per day.
We all know, however, that construction does not work in a linear fashion like that since a great deal of the time is taken up with site preparation and myriad other operations etc. and consequently would not be a good model to follow.
Nevertheless, we must bear in mind that the one hundred and fifty Chinese houses were, ceteris paribus, supposed to be shipped in September, 2021 and delivered and installed by 31st December, 2021, a matter of four months.
In January 2022, one of these houses was under construction in Brittons Hill, yet in May 2022 the Minister of Housing states that seventy-five will be completed by the end of June, 2022, fifty-five by the end of July, 2022,
and the remaining twenty by the end of August, 2022.
It is seemingly taking eight months to build one hundred and fifty houses which were supposed to be completed in four months.
We then had Agro-Fest 2022 and the introduction of the houses from Guyana. The General Manager of the National Housing Corporation notes that although the model house which was on display in Queen’s Park took eleven days to assemble, that time should not be taken as standard since it had been erected by experts in the field.
A little more leeway would therefore have to be given to local assemblers and it is estimated that they would assemble on average thirty to forty houses per month.
If we take eight months to assemble one hundred and fifty Chinese houses or one month to assemble (at best estimate) forty houses from Guyana, how long would it therefore take us to build ten thousand?
In addition to the above the Government has also stated its plans for a large construction boom, most notably hotels and other accommodations for tourists and major road-works, not to mention construction by local housing developers and individual home-owners.
To my mind the basic mathematics (simple as it is) and the construction mathematics do not seem to be
As my friend, the late Smokey [Burke] would have been wont to say “I may be wrong as I usually am” but in this case you would have to show me ‘the ball that shoot