Tag Archives: Trinidad & Tobago

Chinese contractors in the Caribbean can build it cheap… but then the walls collapse

china fail caribbean

by Afra Raymond

by Afra Raymond

This article is about the Las Alturas Enquiry into the collapse of two new Morvant apartment buildings erected by China Jiangsu International Corporation (CJIC) for the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).

This Enquiry seems a politically-motivated one into a serious failure of professional practice which could have cost human lives. It is only in its opening stages, but it is already clear to me that this episode is one which contains serious lessons for our country in terms of the role of Enquiries; the role of the Chinese contractors; the culture of non-enforcement which we practice and of course, the impact of targets and political objectives on proper process.

In the case of Las Alturas this is a large-scale multiple-housing project constructed on a former quarry-site on the Lady Young Road, just south of the lookout. Two apartment buildings which were completed in late 2010 were eventually declared uninhabitable due to severe cracking and the proposed demolition of those structures was announced at the end of May 2012. Each building comprised 24 three-bedroom/two-bathroom apartments, with the total cost of those buildings stated by HDC to be in the $29M range. The buildings were erected by CJIC on the design/build basis which usually places all responsibility for soil investigation, design and construction onto the contractor…

… continue reading Afra Raymond’s Riding the Dragon

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Something Different…

Trinidad Barbados Oil Rig

by Colin Leslie Beadon

by Colin Leslie Beadon

Rain had threatened since Friday, and now the morning hung with dark low clouds. It was hot and sticky and still in the high bush where the rig stood in a clearing. Parrots flitted noisily from creeper and orchid festooned trees, and a brightly plumed toucan peeved monotonously.

The Rig Superintendent took a last bleary-eyed look at the pump pressures and rotary table torque gauges on the drilling console where it stood front of the driller, and then turned, sore-footed, to descend the ladder from the rig floor.

He slumped across the uneven dusty gravel of the location, his shirt wet with sweat, his face showing stubble and drilling fluid smatterings of a three day stretch without sleep. He climbed the few steps to the doghouse.

“I’m going in Carl,” he said hoarsely. “Call me if we run into it again. I’ll be at the house.”

The toolpusher raised eyes from the drilling report. He was a big solid man with strong placid face as black as midnight soot. He had strong very white uneven teeth, and a badly healed scar running across his bare chest.

“Go on in Cappie. Get some sleep.” He smiled faintly.

“I’ve since Friday to catch up on.” The Rig Superintendent said. “It’s a bad son-of-a-bitch, this one. ‘Bout time something went right.”

“It’s Easter Sunday. Maybe you should try going in church,” the toolpusher smiled faintly. “It might change your luck Cappie.”

“Maybe I’ll try it,” the Rig Super said, yawning and stretching.

“Maybe you could try a whore. That works for me,” said the toolpusher smiling again. He had just taken up tour and there was still the hint of sleep in his face. “Whores work, I tell you. Or a virgin if you can find one.”

“I could do that,” the Rig Super said. “But I’ve got something better in the house, and I don’t have to pay one way or another.”   Continue reading

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Filed under Barbados, Stories and Memories, Trinidad and Tobago

Nigerian Students accuse Deputy State Governor Amos Utuama of running Barbados Trinidad scam with his alleged mistress Donna St. Hill

 Donna-St-Hill Barbados Nigeria Utuama

Barbadian Donna St. Hill alleged mistress of Nigerian Delta State deputy governor Amos Utuama

We might describe this happening as “The Nigerian Scam”, but the rest of the world is calling it “The Barbados Scam.”

What we know from local and African media is that 90 students from Nigeria’s Delta Youth Training Programme paid for 9 months accommodation in Barbados at the Infinity Beach Hotel. The students’ management team stayed at the hotel in December, and the students approved of their residence after they were shown photos and videos.

When the students arrived in Barbados they were taken to a semi-abandoned dump of a hotel, and found themselves pulling pails of water from the swimming pool to flush the toilets and to bathe.

Now reports are surfacing in Barbados and Trinidad of unpaid bills by the organisers.

Some of the African press are reporting that Barbadian Donna St. Hill and her alleged lover Nigerian Delta State deputy governor Amos Utuama pocketed money. Africans are calling the story “The Barbados Scam”.

Sahara Reporters published an account that held nothing back…

Neglected Delta Youth Trainees In Trinidad And Barbados Cry Out, Accuse Deputy Governor And His Alleged Mistress Of Abuse

“As I’m talking to you now we cannot take our baths because there is no water, some of us had to start fetching water from the pool. Do you know that we almost lost one of us yesterday due to food poisoning as we were told by the doctors? The issue of food is nothing to write home about. I repeat, we have sent a series of messages to the State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, to come to our aid, but ‘til date we are yet to get a reply from him,” a student told SaharaReporters.

Though the program advertised itself as one that would train students on agriculture, tourism, hospitality, and culinary arts, students now claim the entire program is a “scam.”    Continue reading

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Filed under Barbados, Corruption, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago

Afra Raymond: Tendering process for Invader’s Bay improper, illegal

invaders bay Trinidad

by Afra Raymond

by Afra Raymond

The proposed development of Invader’s Bay will be the largest in our Capital City in living memory. The entire process is tainted by fundamental irregularities, any one of which ought to be enough to stop the development.

Some of those irregularities at Invader’s Bay include an improper and voidable tendering process; failure or refusal to hold Public Consultations; breach of the Central Tenders’ Board (CTB) Act and most recently, a wrong-sided policy on legal advice.

The State has appealed the High Court decision of Justice Frank Seepersad on 14 July 2014 to order publication of the legal opinions on which they had been relying thus far. That hearing is now set for Wednesday 28 January 2015 at the Appeal Court in POS. At the preliminary hearing on Thursday 20 November, the State was represented by a seven-member team of attorneys, led by Russell Martineau SC.

Tender rules

Minister Tewarie has repeatedly told the public that the Appraisal rules for the Invader’s Bay development were first announced in his speech to the Annual Dinner of the T&T Contractors’ Association on Saturday 5 November 2011. That is true, I was there and heard the Minister do just as he said. The issue here is that the closing-date stipulated in the Invader’s Bay Request for Proposals (RFP) was 4 October 2011, which was over one month before the rules were published. Given that fact, the proposers would not have known the rules of the competition and it is fair to say there was no competition at all.  None. Just imagine the rules for a Calypso competition being distributed the week after the singers had performed. The RFP process for Invader’s Bay was therefore improper, voidable and illegal.

... continue reading Invader’s Bay – Suspicious Motives

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Filed under Corruption, Political Corruption, Politics & Corruption, Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad Islamic Coup – July 27, 1990

Nothing has changed.

Strike that.

The 2014 Muslim Jihad is much, much worse around the world.

But the 1990 Trinidad Jihad was a warning.

 

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Filed under History, Human Rights, Religion

Trinidadian & Caribbean Muslims flock to ISIS – Islamic State

ISIS Trinidad Terrorist Muslim

(click photo for larger version)

50+ Trinidadian Muslims fighting with ISIS

“What you say doesn’t matter – it’s all about what you do.”

Tonight I’m listening to an eclectic Suriname-Dutch blues mix on Anda – an independent internet radio station at http://www.radionomy.com. Their slogan is “Anda, music for you with Surinaamse boinkies. Nonstop the best artist from Suriname. Enjoy”

“Surinaamse boinkies”? Sure, whatever.

Who knew that Suriname has a vibrant blues underground in the best Chicago / New Orleans / Mississippi tradition?

The world comes to me over the internet and mostly I love it.

But there is a dark side to the Internet when it comes to spreading the destructive and violent supremacist ideology of Islam. The Saudis distribute their supremacist hate via satellite and internet to private Muslim schools throughout the Caribbean – including in Barbados.

The result in Trinidad is that at least 50 known Trinis have gone to slaughter and behead the infidels (that’s me) while serving as Satan’s emissaries throughout Syria and Iraq.

Here in Barbados the Al-Falah Muslim School is teaching Bajan children that Beheading, chopping off your hands, severe beatings are Islamic rules, nothing wrong in it.If that weren’t enough, we now have a Muslim-only housing development where no Christians or Jews are allowed to purchase homes.

“Beheading..chopping off your hands, severe beatings,etc. Are strict Islamic rules and these are the things that were done during our prophets time and are continued till this day to follow the tradition, there is nothing wrong in it.”

Publicly stated by a 14 year old girl student of the Barbados Al-Falah Muslim School (see article here)

We must abandon Iraq and the Middle East. Let them slaughter each other over words and ideas… but we must take steps in the Caribbean to ensure that these violent people – fueled by their violent Koran – never gain a foothold in our countries.

The Islamist apologists and their lackeys are far more concerned with their public relations campaign for Islam than they are for the teachings from the Koran that promote ultra-violence to spread their religion.

To those who say that ISIS doesn’t represent ‘true Islam’….

Tell it to ISIS, not me.

And bye the way… let’s hear these same apologists declare that the Koran verses about slaying infidels and imposing Islam through force have no place in today’s world. No weasel words.

Over to you…

Caribbean News Now! ISIS terrorist identified as Trinidadian

The Nation: Muslims say “Have no fear”

T&T Guardian: Local Muslims disturbed by Trini links to terrorists say: Isis not a way to paradise

Cayman iNEWS: Caribbean Muslims and ISIS

Five Reasons why Islam is a cult

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Filed under Barbados, Religion, Trinidad and Tobago

TSTT Inquiry

Trinidad’s Joint Select Committee of Parliament is pretending to hold a major inquiry into the administration and operations of the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago – TSTT.

We say ‘pretending’ to hold a major inquiry because the committee did what they could to limit the debate, disenfranchise citizens and make sure that informed persons are unable to present a proper submission.

Our friend Afra Raymond is a thorn in the foot of corrupt Caribbean politicians and business people – and he met the committee’s unrealistic ten-day deadline for submissions.

Here’s the latest from Afra…

AfraRaymond.net

The Trinidad & Tobago Parliament is now conducting an Inquiry into TSTT and this article is an edited version of my submission to that Inquiry.

The Joint Select Committee’s (JSC) ‘Invitation for Written Submissions‘ was published on the TT Parliament website on Wednesday 23 April 2014, with the deadline for submissions set at 4:00 pm on Friday 2 May 2014. Only ten (10) days.

When one considers the far-reaching scope of the Inquiry as specified in its ten (10) objectives; the size and role of TSTT and the recent published reports as to the proposals for the State to relinquish a critical 2% of its share in TSTT, it is clear that these matters are of the utmost, long-term public importance. Placed in that context, the JSC decision to Inquire into these matters is commendable, but the time-frame is so short as to raise serious doubts as to…

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Stopping lawless squatters in Trinidad and Tobago

Flag-Trinidad-and-Tobago

It is time to stop the decay

by Steve Alvarez

What kind of people are we evolving into?  On my way to San Fernando a few days ago I noticed that the squatting shanti town west of the highway before the Claxton Bay area was growing into over one hundred shanti.  I imagined that within these shacks without running water, electricity, toilet facilities and proper roads and sidewalks are human beings, families with little children who must grow up in these unplanned communities.

Sometime later when a “vhaps” hit someone in government there is the possibility that bulldozers will seek to destroy the homes much to the outcry of a beleaguered Nation or politicians may use the opportunity to score political points by offering letters of comfort to the law breakers.  Who is looking out for our children?  Who is looking out for our Nation?  When did we emerge as this selfish, heartless, narcissistic, arrogant people unmoved by the reality that we are rapidly rushing towards relegation to 4th or 5th world status?

We look at countries like Venezuela with all its oil reserves and wonder how they can be without basics services and consumables like toilet paper while we bury our heads in the sand and pretend that we are so much better.  We cannot or ought not sit by and allow squatting to continue.  Continue reading

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Trinidad Joint Select Committee of Parliament pulls a dirty trick – provides only 10 days notice for submissions

Afra Raymond

Trinidad anti-corruption activist Afra Raymond

Submitted by BFP reader Yummie Bear

Oh sure… the f**king Trini parliamentarians are pretending to have a major inquiry into the administration and operations of the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago.

What can they do to limit the debate, disenfranchise citizens and make sure that informed persons are unable to present a proper submission to the committee? Easy… give only ten days notice to the deadline for submissions!

F**cking politicians. F**king corrupt b**tards!

Read Afra Raymond’s new column. He doesn’t call ’em like I do – he’s a lot more polite, but he’d probably like to use the words that I do.

ONE LOVE!

Yummie Bear

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Filed under Corruption, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption, Trinidad and Tobago

G2G Policy

BFP_Piggy125.jpg

Our old friend Afra Raymond explores the dangers of Government-to-Government arrangements. Once again, those politician piggies at the trough will do anything they can to sideline the tendering process and turn public funds into personal profits.

How many Barbados politicians have foreign bank accounts in Canada, the USA, Switzerland or some private bank somewhere? We don’t know because Barbados has no integrity legislation and no requirement to disclose assets, and no conflict of interest rules.

Take it away, Afra…

AfraRaymond.net

The current Government to Government (G2G) arrangements are a direct threat to our country’s fundamental interests.

The key element of the G2G arrangement is that a larger, more advanced, country will assist a smaller, less-advanced country by building or operating complex facilities which are beyond the reach of the smaller state.

One of the features the G2G arrangements have in common with the other large-scale projects is the high degree of secrecy with which the proposals are developed.  That secrecy raises doubts as to whether proper Needs Assessments are undertaken and as to the degree to which the views of citizens and stakeholders are sought, far less considered.  The fundamental issue as to the necessity for these projects is thus routinely sidelined, which is inimical to the public interest.

The main criticisms of the G2G arrangements are –

  • Sidelining of the elementary Tendering Process – the procurement process is effectively…

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Trinidad grapples with corruption and misconduct by elected officials

afra raymond CMMB

Guarding the Guards
by Afra Raymond

Our country continues its perpetual grappling with the question of conduct in public office, but at this time we are faced with particular threats and opportunities in respect of the Public Interest.

Before getting to the present particulars, some critical facts and concepts must be stated. Trinidad & Tobago is a leading nation in the Caribbean region, so progress made here will be to the wider benefit of the region. That said, the particular shape of our economy is such that the State is easily the dominant player in the country’s commercial affairs. Given that reality, the question of illegal or improper conduct by the State and its Agencies, goes far beyond principled assertions. The State must be exemplary in its conduct, not just because that is a principled position, but because its regular misconduct and illegality will continue to distort the behaviour of non-State players.

The size and wealth of the State makes its control and oversight a continuing and seemingly-insurmountable task. Like the old proverb – “Where does an Elephant sit? Wherever it wants to…” It is essential that the State be subject to ongoing and timely oversight, so as to preserve the society’s stability and progressive development.

The State’s power emanates from its unique legal powers and the fact that it has more money than any other element of the society.

These two streams of power work together in a special relationship to which we must be most alert. We rely on the State to seek our collective interests, so we have a special duty to be most vigilant as to its operations.

That is the background against which the current threats and challenges must be viewed…

Read the full article at Afra Raymond’s blog.

AND: Red flags for corruption waving strongly on the Beetham Water Recycling Project (PDF)

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Filed under Corruption, Politics & Corruption, Trinidad and Tobago

Letter to Trinidad & Tobago’s Registrar General – about fraudulent mortgages and fictitious deeds

Trinidad mortgage fraud

How did the Republic Bank let a mortgage under these circumstances?

Editor’s note: We received a copy of this email from an unverified person. Take everything with some salt, folks – but let’s have a look…

Dear Registrar,

I am writing to you in hopes that you can launch an investigation regarding the fraudulent mortgages and deeds that are registered in your data base.

The first is a deed of ascent, executed on 26Apr2006, by Carolyn Joefield with a deed # de200601162018.  It was verified on 05Aug 2010.

The second is a deed of conveyance executed on 24Jul2007, by Dexter James with a deed # de200703243051.  It was verified on 11Jan2008.

The last one is deed of conveyance executed 30Jan2009, by Evered Edwards with a deed # de200900680520.  Unfortunately, I do not have the date that this was verified for you.

“It is my belief that the following institutions willingly and knowingly used fictitious property descriptions and deeds of ascent and conveyance to acquire loans and steal property, my property included.”

It seems the 3 deeds mentioned above form part of an invisible estate that does not exist in reality, only on paper.  My question to the Registrar is, how did a Nyron Josefield, not Joefield, acquire a mortgage with Republic Bank using deed # 200601152018 on 19Oct2006?  The records clearly show that the deed that was used was only verified on 05Aug2010.  Continue reading

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Filed under Crime & Law, Offshore Investments, Real Estate, Trinidad and Tobago

Drugs, the Drug Trade and Us

HMCS Ottawa Barbados Drugs

Special to BFP by Phillip Alexander

Following on the almost billion dollar drug bust found a few years ago in the hull of a yacht bound for Spain outfitted in T&T, the six hundred million dollars worth of cocaine intercepted at Monos down the islands for which a handful of small fries are spending life in prison, and the soft drink that killed a foreign national ‘accidentally’ in the branded bottle of a Company now in the international spotlight once again as another of its brands are found to contain seven hundred and thirty pounds of narcotics, I turn my attention to the drug trade in Trinidad & Tobago.

At a local car dealership in San Juan a shipping container was opened and millions of dollars worth of drugs literally fell out onto the floor. A container full of chicken was opened on the port and found to contain again millions of dollars worth of drugs for which no one has been arrested, and, on the heels of both of those discoveries I ask, why has it not become mandatory that all shipping containers be unstuffed on the port?

A surgeon in east Trinidad has removed drugs from the stomach of a drug mule without reporting the matter to the police, and from what can be gleaned from the sanitized media stories, both surgeon and mule are still free to continue plying their trade. What is to become of this?  Continue reading

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Filed under Barbados, Crime & Law, Police, Politics, Trinidad and Tobago

Afra Raymond on More 104.7fm – talks about his lawsuit against the Minister of Finance

afra raymond

Afra Raymond chats on the show ’Forward Thinkers‘ with David Walker on 104.7FM, dealing with the CL Financial bailout and my lawsuit against the Minister of Finance to get at the detailed information as to how the $24B in Public Money was spent. 24 October 2013. Audio courtesy More 104.7 FM. Listen here.

Programme Date: Thursday 24th October 2013
Programme Length: 0:45:41

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Filed under Corruption, Freedom Of Information, Trinidad and Tobago

‘Political Terrorism’ is not too strong a phrase…

Flag-Trinidad-and-Tobago

Is this debates commission playing power politics with our elections?

by Phillip Edward Alexander

How could the debates commission in all good conscience include the ILP ‘one man party’ and the MSJ ‘not yet a party’ in the electoral debates and exclude the COP which has seats and corporations under its control?

See why I continue to say that the Chamber of Commerce could NEVER be trusted to handle the debates fairly and without attempting to control outcomes through underhanded moves?

This is an outrage of epic proportions. I am incensed and every Trinidadian should be as well.

And I am no supporter of the COP or its leader; but right is right and if you can include David Abdulah’s imitation ‘wanna be party’ you are morally obligated to include this country’s third largest political party or the entire debate would be a sham.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

COP Demands Equal Access to Local Government Debates
Calls on Debate Commission to Reverse Outrageous Decision Restricting Access to Key Public Dialogue
Continue reading

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Trinidad: Invader’s Bay payday?

invaders bay Trinidad (click image for large)

“Ministers of the Government and others employed in the various Ministries must begin to appreciate that laws are there to be followed both by the Government and by members of the public alike.”

Expediency must never be allowed to take priority over principle.

by Afra Raymond

by Afra Raymond

Invader’s Bay has re-emerged from the shadows via PNM Senator Faris Al-Rawi’s budget contribution (PDF) on Monday 23 September 2013 (pp. 168-175).  The twists and turns in this controversial proposed scheme are detailed at the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry – JCC’s webpage here.

Invader’s Bay is a 70-acre parcel of reclaimed State land off the Audrey Jeffers Highway – just south of PriceSmart & MovieTowne – in the western part of Port-of-Spain.  Its value was estimated by the State in 2011 to be in excess of $1.2Bn, so these are prime development lands, possessing these attributes –

  • Water, Electricity and all urban services are readily available;
  • Flat/gently-sloping terrain;
  • Direct access to Audrey Jeffers Highway;
  • Waterfront location.

Before proceeding to the latest revelations, it is important to restate the main objections raised by the JCC and others with respect to this proposed development –

  • The Request for Proposals (RFP) was published by the Ministry of Planning in August 2011 seeking Design-Build proposals for the development of these lands and specifying an entirely inadequate 6 weeks for submissions;
  • There has been no public consultation at all, so the public has not been involved in this, the largest proposed development in our capital in living memory;
  • The RFP was silent as to the other three, extant strategic plans for the POS area, all paid for with Public Money.  Given that the RFP was published by the Ministry of Planning, that is a tragic irony, to say the least;
  • EIA – The RFP is silent as to the requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment in a development of this scale;
  • The proposals were to be evaluated against the “Invader’s Bay Development Matrix and Criteria Description”, which was only published after the closing-date for submissions.  That is a clear breach of proper tender procedure, which renders the entire process voidable and therefore illegal.

The key points Al-Rawi was advancing seemed to be based on certain leaked Cabinet papers, but not having seen them, there is little detailed comment I can give.

Al-Rawi stated that the Government has agreed to lease parts of the property to two developers – DACHIN Ltd (Derek Chin, the MovieTowne man) and Invaders Bay Mariner Development Company (Jerry Joseph).  He also claimed that those leases are to be granted at the land value quoted by the developer/s’ valuer -$74psf – which is a small fraction of the valuations obtained from the Commissioner of Valuations – $511psf – and PricewaterhouseCoopers, the independent consultant retained by the State – $436psf.

According to Al-Rawi –

…The developers are saying, “Hold on, you need to look at this from a residual valuation approach”, and on a residual valuation approach they are saying, “Remember we have to do infrastructural work, we are only going to get a residue of this land coming into our hands, therefore, we want a residual value approach…   Continue reading

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Filed under Consumer Issues, Corruption, Politics & Corruption, Trinidad and Tobago

Afra Raymond charts the losses from large-scale, improper use of Public Money

acquisition-options-hdc-chart-2-20130405 click chart for full size

“Eden Gardens could have been lawfully acquired for $35million, but HDC paid $175million for it in November 2012”

“Objectively, it does not matter whether the money is wasted or stolen, if it is ultimately unavailable for the benefit of the Public.”

by Afra Raymond

by Afra Raymond

The last four articles in this series have focused on what I call ‘two sides of the same coin’ – the coin being the large-scale and improper use of Public Money.

I examined the THA/BOLT office project called MILSHIRV being undertaken with the Rahael group and the Calcutta Settlement land scheme in which the HDC acquired developed lands at several times the proper price the State could have paid.

Throughout this type of critique one has to strive for effective balance and fundamental integrity.  The extent of the waste and/or theft is never easy to pinpoint when one is working from outside and relying solely on published documents, but my best efforts to establish those facts is what is presented.  Of course it is impossible to say for sure that any amount of money was stolen in a particular project, hence the phrase ‘wasted or stolen’.

Objectively, it does not matter whether the money is wasted or stolen, if it is ultimately unavailable for the benefit of the Public.  Once spent, that Public Money is gone forever, which is why Value for Money is of such importance in any proper Public Procurement system. Continue reading

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Preparing for the worst – Some implications of a major earthquake on Trinidad & Tobago

Afra Raymond looks Lessons from Haiti

We have all looked on in horror at the scenes of destruction and human suffering, experienced by our Caribbean neighbours in Haiti as a result of the strong earthquake on 12th January.  Coming after the horror and attempts to assist, my mind shifted to the possibility of such a disaster in our country.  That prompted me to attend the seminar organized by the Association of Professional Engineers of T&T (APETT) and the T&T Contractors’ Association (TTCA) at Crowne Plaza on Wednesday 3rd February.  The seminar was excellent and such was the content that this week I am setting aside the other important matters with which I have been dealing.

The Structural situation

We heard several presentations from engineers and the President of the TTCA which set out the structural situation.  Some of the main points emerging there were that we are at significant risk because –

“An approved national building code does not exist at this time, designers use building codes with which they are familiar,” Darryl Thomson, a standards officer at the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS), said during his presentation.

“I would think generally we are not (prepared) and we need to seriously look at what we are doing and change the way we do business where the built environment is concerned,” President of TTCA, Mikey Joseph said.

Past-President of APETT, Mark Francois, told us of estimated multi-billion dollar damage to buildings if a natural disaster were to hit our main cities. “Potential building economic loss … in Port of Spain was of the order of US$5 billion and in San Fernando US$6 billion” Francois said.

Francois went on to make 3 other important points – firstly, as a former British colony, our professionals had used British Standards up until the late 1960s, with the risk to us being that, since the British Isles are not prone, those standards did not take account of earthquakes.  As a result, he stated that major parts of our civil infrastructure, upon which we would rely in a disaster, were not designed or built to withstand earthquakes.  His example of the POS General Hospital being one such structure was sobering.  Secondly, he stated that building plans are being certified by engineers who do not posses the necessary qualifications in structural work and that he had done assignments to re-design some of those ‘certified’ plans.  Thirdly, he dealt with the well-known practice of engaging personnel employed with the regulatory authorities to draw plans for buildings and obtain permission.  This begs the question as to how could a public employee on such a ‘PJ’ fail to pass their own plans.

These quotes were drawn from the Trinidad Express story on Friday 5th February.

The Seismic situation

The speaker on this aspect was Dr. Walter Salazar, Senior Research Fellow at the Seismic Research unit at UWI.  The three main points from his presentation were firstly, that our country is indeed at similar risk as Haiti in terms of a strong earthquake.  Secondly, the most likely areas for the strongest earthquakes are Tobago and the north-west peninsula of Trinidad, particularly Chaguaramus.  Thirdly, we are now overdue for that strong earthquake.

The disaster-preparedness situation

The head of our Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), Col. George Robinson has confirmed, in light of natural public concerns, that our systems are in place to deal with such an earthquake.  Knowing the individual, there is little doubt in my mind that the necessary diligence has been applied to developing solid systems.

What is the likely financial impact?

My concerns as to our level of earthquake-preparedness are rooted elsewhere and that is at the level of the ‘financial safety-net’ upon which we would rely in the event of such a disaster.  Our low national savings rates have long been a concern of economists/financial experts.  We do not save enough money, in the view of these experts, to propel our country’s journey to the next level of national development.  My concern is the implied question of how we would cope with a destructive earthquake.

Add to that the fact that only a small fraction of our buildings are properly insured and a worrying element to the disaster-preparedness picture starts to emerge.

Aside from the structural concerns and seismic risks as outlined above, there is a question as to the nature and extent of our financial safety-net.  Where will we find the money to rebuild?  Our lending institutions need effective systems to ensure that the properties they hold as security are properly insured.

Such an earthquake would also damage our infrastructure – roads, water and electrical distribution systems, drains and so on.

As a consequence, even if your own property is undamaged or properly-insured, you could also suffer from the wider damage.  If your entire neighbourhood is severely-damaged, apart from the issue of loss of life and physical injury, there would be a negative effect on the value of your property.

This issue affects everyone.

Some suggestions

I am suggesting that this is an issue which needs our urgent attention and that the private sector can take the lead.  The Association of Trinidad & Tobago Insurance Companies (ATTIC) and the Bankers’ Association of Trinidad & Tobago (BATT) can take a leadership position here.  One way forward could be for the insurance and banking sectors to agree, in their self-interest, a minimum code for design and construction with APETT and the TTCA.  That would be one way to set a benchmark in terms of proper standards for all financed or insured construction going forward.

In terms of existing privately-owned building owners, the Central Bank should consider adding a component on the importance of proper insurance to their National Financial Literacy Programme.

The other urgent requirement is the retro-fitting of our major public buildings to meet the challenge of these overdue earthquakes.

Thank you to APETT and the TTCA for organising this important intervention.

Afra Raymond is a Chartered Surveyor, Managing Director of Raymond & Pierre Limited and President of the Institute of Surveyors of Trinidad & Tobago.  Feedback can be sent to afra@raymondandpierre.com.

Afra Raymond also writes a blog: Afra Raymond’s blog

Photo courtesy of the Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center blog

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Filed under Barbados, Building Collapse, Disaster