Grenville Phillips Speaks – I Do Not Know
The Government recently patched potholes along the road to Brighton in St George. It was foreseen that the high-quality asphalt, and the effort to install it, would be wasted. After the recent heavy rains, the asphalt washed away, the potholes became larger, and we simply resumed the daily game of ‘dodge-the-pothole’.
Engineers normally use words like sub-standard, and poor workmanship, to describe work badly done. However, there is a realm of insanely bad work, that Barbadians have come to accept as normal.
An accurate example of how we do things in Barbados, is of a baker that mixes quality materials to make bread. However, he does not know the final step of putting the mixture in the oven, and sells this unbaked product to the public, who accept it as normal.
Over the past 50 years, we have become experts in public relations. Our Prime Ministers can explain that after spending so much on the materials, unbaked bread is the best that a small country like Barbados can achieve, and we believe them. Our Ministers keep purchasing ovens, but they are never used. Our industry leaders explain that baked bread is a fanciful idea, and we believe them.
Why is it fanciful to ask that asphalt be compacted, rather than installed loose to wash away and result in expensive repairs to vehicles? Why is it fanciful to ask that fruit trees be planted, rather than these non-fruit trees that become habitats for monkeys and termites, the two animals that cause the most harm to Barbadian households?
Why is it fanciful to ask that the foundations of trees be prepared, rather than install them shallow, so that the trees will blow down during a hurricane? Why is it fanciful to offer employment to persons in poverty, so that they can pay their monthly expenses and look after their families?
Why is it fanciful to ask that corrupting no-bid contracts be abolished, so that Barbadians can pay significantly lower taxes? Why is it fanciful to ask that customer feedback be used to improve the quality of Government services?
I do not know why these things are fanciful. However, I do not blame voters for rejecting prosperity for them and their children, and once again embracing a life of house-poor and working-poor poverty. They have never known baked bread, and have been conditioned to believe that it is a fanciful myth.
I cannot even blame our political and industry leaders, who must find creative ways of justifying insanely low standards. They have somehow accepted that unbaked bread is part of our culture.
Asphalt washing out of potholes is now an important investment in our cultural industries. We hope that ‘dodge-the-pothole’ will become an international sport, to which we have a clear advantage after decades of practise. We also hope to introduce an extreme form of road tennis, where potholes are part of the tennis court.
I have spent 25 years of my life actively lobbying various Government departments to adopt higher standards – without success. I have also spent the past five offering to implement higher standards – also without success. How can the people of Barbados benefit from better standards? I do not know – but I am optimistic that someday, someone will find the Solution.
Grenville Phillips II is a Structural Engineer.