Log In

Reset Password

Burch says infrastructure has been neglected

Straight-talking: David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, with Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, at yesterday’s press conference (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The island’s crumbling infrastructure is the result of 20 years of neglect from successive governments, according to the Minister of Public Works.

At a press conference yesterday, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch argued that a short-sighted, short-term approach to the maintenance of roads, bridges and other infrastructure over two decades had resulted in facilities still operating beyond their useful life.

Colonel Burch said that a lack of funds had forced the Government to take a Band-Aid approach to repair and maintain out-of-date equipment rather than invest heavily in new hardware.

Colonel Burch spoke out after presenting details of his ministry’s budget for the next fiscal year. He pointed out that cash would have to be spent patching up rundown equipment rather than buy new.

Asked by The Royal Gazette if successive governments had been guilty of neglecting infrastructure upgrades, a typically straight-talking Colonel Burch replied: “Absolutely.

“I think that there is a requirement to spend money on infrastructure as was indicated in the Budget speech, but if you do not have the funds, then you don’t have a whole lot of options other than to do what we’ve been doing.”

The ministry has been allocated $77.3 million to cover operational costs in this year’s Budget, up from $75.2 million last year.

However, that marginal increase has been swallowed up by a higher wage bill for ministerial staff.

Concerns over infrastructure development have come to the fore in recent months because of the deteriorating condition of public roads. The problem has been exacerbated by above-average rainfall in the past 12 months, causing potholes and craters to open up.

The ministry will spend $5 million on resurfacing and repairing roads in the next year — double its allowance last year. It will also invest in a new asphalt plant that should be operational in the next six months.

Colonel Burch said: “This investment more than doubles our capacity to improve road conditions and set out a plan to address not just potholes but the deteriorating state of the roads generally.

“However, I must temper expectations with realism — the journey to smoother roads is a marathon, not a sprint.

“Unfortunately, my power does not extend to controlling the weather, and so it’s something that we have to live with. We’ve had amounts of rain over the last 13 months that are historic, and we will work through it.“

Colonel Burch said that the only way to eradicate the pothole problem would be to repave all roads — a project that comes with an estimated $100 million price tag.

Colonel Burch said that other funds will be spent on “improvement to critical infrastructure and environmental initiatives”, including “the continued stabilisation of the Tynes Bay Waste to Energy Facility, and the stabilisation of major walls and rock faces along our highways”.

Preliminary work on a new Swing Bridge will get under way at a cost of $2.7 million, although construction will not start until next year.

Colonel Burch said: “We have about three years before the Swing Bridge comes to the end of its natural life, and so we’ve allocated money over the next three years to cover that.

Work to replace Longbird Bridge is “on pause until funding is available”.

“In 2021 we did rehabilitation work on Swing Bridge and also in 2023. Most of this work was carried out by people who have designed the new bridge, and so we’ve been able to extend it’s life for three years, but the indications are that you will not be able to extend it any further.

“That’s why we’re taking steps to provide funding for Swing Bridge. The aim was to try to do both bridges together because that’s cheaper, but the funding is not there so we’re doing Swing Bridge, which is the most critical.“

Colonel Burch did have good news for those seeking affordable accommodation.

The Bermuda Housing Corporation has been given a $10 million budget, which, according to the minister, could result in 60 more affordable rental properties coming on the market in the next year.

Colonel Burch said: “This boost in funding for the BHC is a critical component of our strategy to alleviate the housing challenges faced by many Bermudians, worsened by the escalating cost of living.

“Our goal is to expedite the availability of affordable homes, with several projects already under way, by expanding the private sector rental programme.

“In order to accelerate the provision of affordable housing options for Bermudians, the BHC will embark upon an ambitious plan to refurbish privately owned units, place them in the housing inventory to recover the investment and ultimately return them to their owners.

“The expansion to this source will increase the inventory of affordable housing without waiting to build new.

“What this is designed to do is remove the burden from landowners to be landlords. That’s been a part of the major issue for them withdrawing property from the rental stock — having to deal with tenants and all the attendant problems that come with that.

“We will take that on, provide them with income guaranteed, and manage the property but also increase the housing stock overnight.”

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published February 22, 2024 at 7:57 am (Updated February 22, 2024 at 8:19 am)

Burch says infrastructure has been neglected

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon