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Funds needed for building code

Published: 
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Shyankaran Lalla

Yet another budget has been delivered, but the National Building Code Committee is still waiting after two years for funding to begin work on formulating a code. However, chairman Shyankaran Lalla said he was hopeful the committee’s long-awaited funding had been included in the Housing Ministry’s $2.877 billion slice of the national budget pie that was announced on Monday. In December 2013, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said funding had been approved for the committee to begin its work. 

However, he said, administrative delays and a dispute between the committee and the T&T Bureau of Standards hindered progress on the building code project. But he vowed to iron out the delays and have the funds released. Lalla, in a telephone interview yesterday, said to date the committee was still waiting for the funds. He blamed bureaucracy for the delay and urged the Government to deal with such, since it was “stymying the development and the plans that the Government has for this country.”

“We hope that Dr Moonilal will pay special attention to bureaucracy and obstructionism as we look forward to the new fiscal year and how they are going to dispense with the funding,” Lalla said. He said the importance of a building code could not be ignored, especially since Moonilal, in his budget debate, in response to Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, pointed to the poor construction of the Las Alturas buildings which were deemed structurally unsound.

Lalla said there were numerous examples to show that a standardised code was needed. “Hundreds of millions of dollars are being frittered away for repairs on shoddy work on public projects. If you do not have a minimum standard, money wil continue to be spent on shoddy work. We are really, really concerned about that,” he said. With the code, he said: “You will have a benchmark to which you will do the work.”

T&T, he said, had been blessed with the opportunity to put the necessary measures in place to ensure that buildings that were not properly constructed were retrofitted for earthquake resistance and new buildings would be constructed to meet the seismic codes. Lalla said that in the absence of a building code some of the provisions of the Planning and Sustainable Development Act would be rendered null.

“Building codes are mentioned as an integral part of that whole process (in the act) and if you do not have a building code the provisions mentioned in that act will be difficult to enforce,” Lalla said. Moonilal, who was in Parliament for the budget debate yesterday, did not respond to text messages seeking his comment on the release of funding for the code.

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