“If I had followed the law, some roads would not have been built…The people who you pay rates and taxes to are the ones that are really responsible for doing your roads,” said Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn, when he responded to the road concerns of a Diamond, East Bank Demerara, resident recently.
The resident was at the time distressing about the deteriorating state of roads in her neighbourhood, even as she revealed to the Minister that there was never a proper road in the area from the inception. But according to Minister Benn, the road was designed for a developing community and not for an already developed area.
He revealed that for instance, persons who reside in the city and have concerns about the state of the roads in their neighbourhoods, they have to “first off lay your case at City Mayor, Hamilton Green, in the City of Georgetown.”
However, he noted that if the structure is declared a public road it is in fact the Ministry of Public Works’ responsibility. The Minister revealed though that there have been instances when his Ministry has sought to undertake the rehabilitation of some smaller roads. “A small road called Kiskadee Drive, I just did it, but it was not because we had to, it was to help the residents. We had a bit of asphalt and money and we said we would do it. I didn’t have to do it if I had followed what the law says, but I did it.”
However, in the case of Diamond on the East Bank of Demerara, the Minister revealed that it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Housing and Water to undertake such infrastructural works as it is that entity to which residents usually make payments for the housing lots they occupy.
However, Benn noted that the problem which frequently arises in the new housing development areas is that materials for construction works are transported in heavy laden trucks, using roads that are not designed to allow access to such weighty deliveries. “If you use the road like this after a while you will have to go and build it back and my understanding is that that will be done, but you (the resident) have to lay your case with Minister Irfaan Ali.”
However, the resident argued that “if you allocate land to people, common sense will tell you that for houses to be built materials have to go in…Therefore, the roads that are built should be of such a consistency that it would not deteriorate when the construction materials go in…” But according to Minister Benn, residents such as those in the Diamond area must come to the realisation that they are being afforded land in a low income housing area thus they would not be eligible for a sturdier road at this time. “If you had to buy land in normal areas you would be paying 10 times the amount of money you are paying there…If people had to wait for sturdy roads to be built first then they would not have been able to build.”
“One mile of public road would cost about US$3M but a road in Diamond would cost just about US$300,000 but if you wait for us to accumulate all the money to build sturdy type of roads you wouldn’t have a land to develop. So the logic is to build a light community road and allow the development to proceed and later a proper road will be built. “
According to Benn, if persons were forced to pay commercial rates for their house lots in developing communities, most people probably would not have been in a position to start constructing their own home. In essence, he noted that persons in developing communities are given an opportunity to build their homes through the Government at the cost of other taxpayers, who are in fact the sponsors of the roads. “If Government uses the money from other taxpayers to build the road people think they want then some people will never be able to build…” Benn asserted.
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