EDITORIAL – When government cannot even change a street sign

From time to time, a small issue becomes disproportionately large — to the chagrin, and possibly the misfortune, of those who chose to ignore it.

This usually happens when the issue becomes a metaphor for something more consequential — in this case the perception that governments cannot get anything done efficiently — even something so simple as reducing the speed limit on a particularly hazardous stretch of West Bay Road in the Seven Mile Beach corridor.

Believe us, no sitting group of legislators wants to be branded as “The government that couldn’t change a street sign.” And yet, consider the following:

  • In November 2013, roads officials launched a public consultation process on the topic of speed limits and road safety island-wide.
  • In the first quarter of 2014, they gave Cabinet their plan, which included the proposal to lower the speed limit on West Bay Road from 40 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour.
  • More than a year passed (!), and in April 2015, Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts said the speed changes would take effect in May 2015. That did not happen.
  • After that deadline came and went, officials said the changes would be made about four months later (!) in September 2015. That did not happen either.
  • Now we hear that the speed limit reduction is being packaged with other amendments to the traffic law, which Cabinet may consider during the next month.

Meanwhile, the speed limit remains unchanged. So the question inevitably arises: What does it take for government to do something so simple as swapping out a street sign?

Reflect for a moment on the number of entities involved in the process so far: the National Roads Authority and Traffic Management Panel, which studied existing speed limits and made recommendations; the Ministry of Planning, led by Minister Tibbetts, who has repeatedly promised the change will “soon come”; Cabinet, whose approval is needed in order to make the changes (of speed limit signs!); and the entire Legislative Assembly, which apparently needs to consider other alterations to the traffic law. And that’s not counting the workers who will actually replace the signs.

Our fear is that the involvement of so many bureaucrats and politicians may have made the task so unnecessarily complex that it may never be accomplished. (In that case, perhaps a “second-best” solution may be in order. We know of some unruly “gangers” who specialize in spray-can graffiti; they could probably do a “paint-over” of existing signs by sunup.)

More seriously, we could make (and in many cases, have made) similar observations about multiple initiatives this government has purportedly pursued, yet are still “pending” or remain “works in progress.”

Let’s see — the George Town landfill, pensions, healthcare obligations, education reform, affordable housing, cruise berthing, the “EY Report” (AKA “Project Future”), “one man one vote,” the revitalization of downtown George Town, the East-West arterial extension, mental health facility improvements, and now, apparently, even the most modest measure of implementing Daylight Saving Time.

The postponement of this last item may have more significance than might first be apparent. You see, if the government had persisted in its intention to “spring ahead” in March as planned, it would have given the country an extra hour of daylight in the evening — time that officials could have used, possibly, to put up a road sign or two.

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  1. How does this surprise anyone? This Gov’t can’t make a significant decision. Daylight Savings? Not one new project the gov’t has announced (except the airport) has broken ground. The parking system at the airport is still broken. Gas prices are still too high. Members who were core to the PPM are now leaving.

    If we could only run our country on Hot Air, we would all be rich.

  2. This is a nice example of inertia defeating efficiency. Of itself it is fairly unimportant, but as you point out, it is the same inertia that is going to defeat more important issue, particularly OMOV.
    Sad, but thats the way it is!