The Red House where the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago sits. Azlan Mohammed/AZP News
Remember when everyone got their knickers all in a twist about a $2million flag meant to inspire national pride? Ha! Ha! Ha! What fools we all were.
There has been a lot of hullabaloo regarding the recent renovations of the Red House, which only cost us taxpayers a measly $441 million. Our Prime Minister let us know this was a steal of deal considering the original estimate came in at $1 billion. Naturally he used this opportunity to throw some shade at the Opposition claiming that when he courageously took over the project there were some questionable irregularities such as a $38 million bill submitted for roof work that was never done. Tisk, tisk, and praise Dr Rowley for saving us!
Unfortunately the rabble rousers, including a very angry man in orange, were not satisfied with these savings. To save some face the Government sent out a cute little breakdown of the costs and threw in the fact that the works created 3,000 jobs. Take that you peasants!
Well, well, all this grand standing came crashing down when Mother Nature stormed the party…literally. One tiny rainfall and that discounted roof, which only cost slightly more than $20 million, failed to do its only job…keep the rain out. Embarrassing much!
Que Noel Garcia of UDECOTT to calm our fears. Relax little ones it was just a broken rubber seal on a skylight and that naughty contractor has to fix it. It’s under warranty; it won’t cost you a penny, so be happy and prepare to whine (or wine) it’s almost Carnival time!
I know this is hard for our politicians to understand, so I will try to make this as clear as possible; $441 million is a phenomenal amount of money; it is more money than 99% of Trinbagonians will ever have in their lifetime.
If you add this $441 million to the $32 million spent on Whitehall and the $89 million spent on the President’s house it sums up to $562 million spent in areas that have no direct benefit to the citizenry.
Now before I am stoned to death by historic building warriors, I do believe we should take the preservation of our historical buildings seriously as they help preserve some of our identity (although some can argue it’s a not a particularly friendly time in our history… you know colonialism and all.)
The main problem I have is with each governments’ method of waiting for our entire national infrastructure to reach the point of derelict before anything is done.
We see it not only with historical buildings but our hospitals, our schools, our police stations and of course our roadways. Regarding the latter, this is an election year…
Instead of performing basic maintenance i.e. simply fixing things as they break or begin to wear down, the powers that be appear to simply let things fall completely apart so they can boast of some magnificent renovations or restorations.
This ends up costing taxpayers far more money than had they just implemented a maintenance programme that’s proactive rather than reactive.
Another trick our governments of past and present love pulling off is building new buildings while the current functioning ones are left to decay. This was my problem with Couva Children’s Hospital or whatever it’s called now. I’ve had a child admitted through the A&E and then warded at Mt Hope Children Hospital, so I understand yes there is need for more pediatric hospitals to ease the work load.
However it was hard to digest that instead of properly maintaining the facility and providing the necessary tools (like a decent supply of antibiotics) it was decided to build yet another hospital which would sadly face the same fate as the others.
My other issue with the Red House renovations is the smug attitude the Government has when faced with any criticism or questioning regarding the works taken place. They have an attitude that we should just accept what has been done and be happy. This again represents the huge disconnect between our politicians those whom elected them.
It’s insulting to ask a single mother working two jobs and still struggling to pay rent, while dealing with her children at home because for some reason their school wasn’t able to open in time, to feel a sense of pride when looking at a building, that while beautiful, cost an exorbitant amount of money and does nothing to help improve the quality of life her and her children.
In her address at the opening of the Red House, President Paula Mae-Weekes (aka my future BFF) reminded the Government and Opposition that while they continue to argue semantics, the people of the TT continue to suffer. I know they probably didn’t pay attention, which is why we Trinbagonians are charged with the responsibility of demanding accountability and reminding our government whom they actually work for – we the people!
So yes while it’s nice to see the Red House, the President’s House and the Magnificent Seven back to their original glory, do not expect the citizenry to drop to their knees in praise, because while you may have nice comfortable seats in beautifully decorated climate-controlled chamber (well not totally climate controlled because you know, the leaks), remember the real reason for you sitting there and who pays for your comfort.