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Saturday, July 26, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Highway to nowhere Pt 2
Last week I touched on some of the issues surrounding the controversial Pt Fortin highway. The Highway Re-Route Movement has benefited from a modest fillip with the labour movement endorsing the campaign, taking up arms with Wayne Kublalsingh and his cohorts.
I should have made it clear in my last column that I have a tre-mendous amount of respect for Dr Kublalsingh. He is part of a very small group of people who really give a s--t about this country. You may not know it, but we have all benefited from his having laid his narrow neck on the line repeatedly.
As outlined in last week’s column, though, I haven’t any confidence in his argument against a “particular” segment of the San Fernando to Pt Fortin highway. This is however immaterial to the matter at hand. The Highway Re-Route Movement now has the support of labour, a marriage of convenience of course.
The OWTU’s Ancel Roget, confronted with a surprisingly resilient and defiant TCL, is seeing the cement workers strike protracted beyond what was anticipated, given Petrotrin’s simpering capitulation. This is little more than an opportunity for labour to saddle with foes of the State in shared enmity.
I doubt very much that the motivation of the labour movement matters to Dr Kublalsingh. In this sort of situation, I would imagine, “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” This is important in the context of Jack Warner’s recent caveat that “41 protesters and the media are not going to stop this project.”
This highway project is, of course, a fait accompli. All I can do here is expand on what I hope would be recognised as a more fundamental issue. The Government has committed $7 billion (put them down for $15b: I can already hear the contractors complaining about the effects of the inclement weather) to a project that in my opinion could be avoided.
I am not a traffic engineer but given that I traverse many of the roads which connect almost like a net laid over the southland, consideration should have been given to upgrading the existing road network with proper surfaces and covered drainage. This, theoretically, could be done at a fraction of the cost proposed by this administration.
The issue of enforcement ventilated in the last column cannot be understated. When this Government took office the Aranguez flyover was opened. A two-lane connector road between El Socorro and Aranguez was meant to alleviate some of the traffic conundrums which would present themselves with the elimination of the highway traffic light at El Socorro.
Well there is now a popular bar located on that unlit narrow connector road with parking for just about four vehicles and one small bicycle. Naturally, in the evenings, the east-bound lane is commandeered by limers who believe that folding in the wing mirror facing the traffic legitimises their asinine parking.
Barrackpore, Debe, Penal, Mo-ruga, San Fernando, Siparia, La Brea…so many areas in south Tri-nidad are connected by an elaborate network. You can get to Moruga through Princes Town or Barrackpore. The Princes Town route will shave two hours off your life because of congestion caused by illegal parking and street vending (all in the full glare of the police station mind you). The Bar- rackpore route on the other hand is so rough that it will rattle your snarglies into sterility.
It is a favourite pastime of the central government and local government to argue interminably over who has the responsibility to maintain which roads; ultimately they all remain untouched. That is why taxpayers have to go out in the streets in hairnets and netted vests to burn tyres.
So rather than repair and upkeep these roads and appease the countryside firebugs, it just makes more sense, I suppose, to bulldoze our way into a mammoth project which can finally give our long suffering mega contractors some much needed capital.
It was not started by this administration, but under the watch of the People’s Partnership the ideology of economic diversification has lost what little shine it had left. Ponder for a moment if you will what $7 billion could do for myriad nascent industries desperate for a leg up in an oil-centric nation.
In agriculture, cocoa and pepper cultivation among others are poised to form the next critical plank of the economy. Why is the Government not investing in agencies to guide meaningful growth in agriculture? By meaningful I don’t mean the hopelessly adrift and corrupt boards to which we’ve grown accustomed.
Why isn’t the Government investing in our culture? Oh wait, it is! A starving Machel Montano was given $2 million for the “International” Soca Monarch. We are rapidly approaching the point of no return, the point beyond which all of our big ideas and imprisoned creativity will have no relevance as we will have been left behind by a rapidly changing world. That point is the very destination of this grand highway.