Quotes From Grenville Phillips III
“Yet, for some inexplicable reason, the Government has not required that builders follow the national building standards. In my opinion, requiring builders to follow the minimum building standards does not require the proclamation of any new laws…“
“Whenever I am driving through a new housing development, I habitually stop and inspect the building construction work. Sometimes I photograph what I observe. I have yet to observe a house being constructed to the minimum structural standards of the Barbados National Building Code.“
“The new DLP administration has promised, in their manifesto, to build 500 houses in 500 days. Will they be as sub-standard as the ones built by the last administration? I have inspected houses being built for the Government last week and can confirm that so far, nothing has changed…“
Our Construction Industry Is Creating Dangerous Structures Throughout Barbados
Our friend Grenville Phillips III is a structural engineer who obviously knows his stuff. Grenville is upset about the low quality of construction in Barbados – and rightly so. In the past few days he has put up some detailed articles and photographs that should frighten Barbados homeowners and prospective homeowners to death. If you are even thinking about purchasing a home in Barbados you need to read Grenville’s articles. (here and here)
But like many Bajans who have never lived off the island in a society that is governed by the rule of law, Grenville doesn’t understand that without proper laws, and adherence to the rule of law, a society cannot enforce compliance to standards of any kind. He doesn’t understand that without laws that formally set the standards and provide mechanisms for enforcement and penalties – there are no real standards.
Successive Barbados Governments Have Failed To Enact Proper Laws In Many Areas
This problem is at the root of many of our frustrations on Barbados. We can’t enforce environmental responsibility if we don’t have standards set in law and penalties to hammer the worst offenders with. That’s one of the reasons why the previous BLP government allowed Shell Oil to get away with the toxic disaster at the airport jet fuel pipeline: there was no law against what Shell did! (Shell story here, here and here)
That’s why corrupt members of the previous BLP government could get away with unethical behaviours that would have seen them thrown in jail in the United States, Canada or the UK: their behaviours were not against the law of Barbados.
There was no law against former Public Works Minister Gline Clark building a house on land that his government expropriated. There was no law against Minister Clark withdrawing “campaign donations” cash from his personal bank account at the ScotiaBank and then using the cash to pay his house contractor. (Gline Clark’s story is here)
We have more road deaths than murders, yet we still don’t have the breathalyzer laws and the equipment that would reduce drunken driving and save lives. With no effective laws and without the deterrence provided by roadside testing by police traffic officers, drunken driving remains a national weekend pastime. (story here)
Without proper laws – anything goes.
So having laws is the first requirement for setting standards, and Barbados does not have a Building Code that is law. We have a draft Building Code that has never been proclaimed as law.
Our “Barbados Building Code” should rightly be called “Unenforceable Suggestions For Building In Barbados”.
Rule Of Law Lacking In Barbados
The second requirement for an effective Barbados Building Code is societal adherence to the Rule of Law: a concept that is sadly lacking in Barbados. The rule of law, in its most basic form, is the principle that no one is above the law. (Wikipedia explanation here)
Any Bajan can tell you that the law is not applied equally in Barbados. If you are rich or one of the political elites you can get away with pretty well anything on this island. Heck, you can even beat your wife and the police will not answer her call for help for four days if you have money and live in a gated community. (BFP story here)
Grenville missed this point about the rule of law when he wrote his anti-corruption piece Protecting Barbados From A Culture Of Corruption.
Grenville has done a magnificent job highlighting the dangerous chaos in our construction industry, but unless the new DLP Government proves itself capable of passing effective laws and returning our society to the Rule of Law – foreign investors and domestic home buyers in Barbados will remain at grave risk.
* The above photo is courtesy of Grenville Phillips III and illustrates one of his articles that we linked to. The wall is apparently not safe and Grenville or another competent engineer can know this merely by looking at the photo. I think that the new DLP Government had better pay attention to Grenville. Were I David Thompson, I’d offer him a position right away and pair him with other competent professionals and lawmakers so we can get Barbados construction up to the standards that our citizens and foreign investors deserve.