September 30, 2011
Peering down at construction from his office window, Dionisio D'Aguilar didn't like what he saw.
"There were 19 people down there working on about 50 feet of sidewalk yesterday," he told Guardian Business. "And they were doing absolutely nothing. They were just moving dirt around. So I called the supervisor from across the street and invited him into my office."
D'Aguilar, the President of the Superwash laundromat chain, and Chairman of AML Foods Limited, is fed up with the sluggish progress of the New Providence Road Improvement Project (NPRIP).
He led the supervisor over to his office window and asked him if he sees people working.
"He had a broad Jamaican accent, so I couldn't understand him - and he's working for a Argentinian company," D'Aguilar said. "These people shouldn't be handling a group of Bahamian workers."
As the NPRIP drags on, it has been frequently criticized for slow progress, poor planning and major disruptions to traffic flow, local residents and businesses.
D'Aguilar said it's time for the government to admit the Argentinian company hired to do the work - Jose Cartellone Construcssiones Civiles (JCCC) - is responsible for the mess.
They should concede that a Bahamian firm should have been hired instead.
"This is a cluster you-know-what," he added.
"I think the government should say the Argentinian company is responsible. When you come into this country, you need to know how Bahamians work. You need to know what button to push to get them to produce. I understand the government's intention is to improve the roads - I can see the final goal.
"But from A to B, the public is observing this unproductive, poorly managed project. Someone needs to get out there with a boot and speed things up."
Looking elsewhere, D'Aguilar used the roads project around Baha Mar as an example of local companies motivating Bahamians to do the job fast and efficiently.
That said, he conceded the Baha Mar project is "virgin real estate", and because there are fewer people, businesses and infrastructure, it's easier to cause less disruption to the public.
"While there is truth to that, I still think the Argentinian company has done a very poor job," he felt.
This week, the NPRIP received its latest blow when the Bahamas Electricity Company (BEC) announced it may have to excavate parts of the recently paved roads if it has to do expansion or maintenance work.
Hubert Ingraham, the Prime Minister, said provisions weren't put in place to accommodate BEC work in the future.
"In the corporation's opinion the New Providence Road Improvement Project has made insufficient provisions for some of the utilities that will allow easy access in instances where there is a need for further expansion or to carry out repairs," he said earlier.
Also this month, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) intensely criticized the project through an advertisement in The Nassau Guardian, leading Neko Grant, the Minister of Public Works and Transport, to issue a press release wherein he defended the Argentinian contractor, saying relevant authorities have enacted the appropriate traffic management systems to control the situation.
Nevertheless, D'Aguilar said "genuine problems" remain - and it's time the government admitted that hiring JCCC was a mistake.
"We want to see action and we see so little action right now," he said.
"The pace is just crawling along. It's in the government's interest to sort this out. Three years from now we'll have forgotten all about it - but for now, it's damaging."
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