PGDM Building Inspectors' Workshop
Welcome Remarks

Minister Bernard Walker
Minister of Urban Development and Renewal

Cortsland Hotel, 15 January 2001

Mrs. Rosemary Georges, Coordinator PGDM/AB; Minister John St. Luce; Mr. Alwyn Wason OAS Consultant; Ms. Cicely Norris Director of OAS Antigua and Barbuda; Mrs. Patricia Julian Director of NODS; Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am honoured to have been invited to address you at this workshop. This event for me is a very momentous for it represents a long sought after goal, which has finally been realized.

Since becoming the Minister with responsibility for Urban development and Renewal some twenty-two (22) months ago, I have been musing about the many problems existing at the Development Control Authority, and I have been literally consumed with trying to come to grips with the changing environment facing this country and the need for the DCA to change with the times and new demands.

As you know, change is not always readily accepted, and unfortunately a few of the team members at DCA experienced some difficulty in "catching the vision" (to use a popular phase).

It was very clear to me that in order for us to move this Unit forward, the institutional framework at DCA had to be strengthened, and so a Planning Consultant was hired to develop and implement an Institutional-strenghthening Program. A program was in fact formulated setting out among other things, the need for reform, Job Descriptions for the team, Development Control Procedures, and an in-depth Training Program schedule.

It is always amazing how things fall into place. Here we are having this workshop, which is all part of a process of creative thinking involving several agencies. Here it is that we have decided that instead of operating on perception, and or ongoing about being a small state, and hard done by the external environment that we know is often quite hostile. We have harnessed our capacity to think through our common problems and come up with workable solutions.

I am pleased to be part of the process and my remarks will speak to a number of those issues.

Let me say from the outset, that I endorse the process continued here today. I endorse most heartily the review of the problems of inspection of developments, for adherence to acceptable, building practices, as provided by existing building codes in the sub region and beyond, but particularly in Antigua and Barbuda and in St. Kitts and Nevis. I whole-heartedly endorse the need to impress upon all Stakeholders the importance of safe construction practices, to mitigate the actions of extreme natural events, such as hurricanes, heavy rainfall, and earthquakes.

We have all learned, I’m sure, that development is complex and so is development control. It is sometimes messy. We know first hand that it reflects the vagaries of human nature and the desire for a simple, quick, short term fix, which often undermines the long term investment necessary for successful sustainable and equitable development.

I this era of globalization and economic trade liberalization, it is clear that the way we do things have change. The big challenge is for us to initiate the changes ourselves, taking into consideration our peculiar circumstance rather then have them externally imposed.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has recognized the importance of training Building Inspectors for development control, and so we have modernized the Antigua and Barbuda Physical Act and the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations. This Act has been approved by the Attorney General and will be tabled for its first reading at the next sitting of Parliament here in Antigua.

Importantly though, the task we face today in this region as indeed in all developing countries with respect to solving the problems associated with Development Control as well as the lessening of the vulnerability of developments to extreme natural event such a hurricanes, heavy rainfall and earthquakes, is a formidable but not insurmountable one.

Over the last quarter of a century Antigua and Barbuda as indeed the rest of the Caribbean has made significant progress – maintaining and sustaining that progress over the next twenty-five years is the challenge we face.

The world today has not become an easier place for mall developing countries. The inequities between large and small, rich and poor, powerful and weak are widening. Witness the crushing of WINBAN (Windward Islands Banana Industry) the attack on small states as Harmful Tax Havens, the constant threat of economics advisories, and the economics dislocation such impositions can wreak on developing states, as OECD or FATF tighten the nose against our attempts at diversification.

But we cannot lose faith and confidence in ourselves. These obstacles should serve to galvanize us all, and collectively strengthen our resolve to overcome these challenges.

To overcome the obstacles and challenges, I wish to emphasize the need for teamwork – at all levels. Some of us prefer our individual subjective judgments and we become highly offended when others differ with our point of view. Some of us experience great difficulty executing as team, and the organizations efforts to pursue common goals disintegrate at the point where our individualism exerts itself. So as we engage each other, and embark on this process in our several environments, the organization charged with Development Control must embrace the concept of Teamwork, where all the stakeholders, speak with one voice.

Critical to team work is the institutional structure and framework for policy implementation in a mall economy. Every country embraces a critical style of policy making ad policy implementation.

We in Antigua and Barbuda have begun that process of institutional strengthening. To do that we first had to assess the weakness in the system and arrive at recommendations designed to move us along (as we say in Antigua) – in the right direction. In making the assessment a number of issues were highlighted which pointed to the need to reform the Legislative and institutional framework for land use planning I Antigua and Barbuda.

We recognized early, that unless the problems identified (and I’m sure you will focus on some of these in your deliberations) but these problems are rectified as a matter of urgency, the objectives of achieving sustainable development, sound environmental management, and judicious use of the country’s scarce resources would remain nothing but the much talked about platitude which remain a long way from fulfillment.

Having been at the forefront of Development Planning in this frontier, permit me to suggest a number of principles for effective Development Control that may seem obvious, yet are critical to a successful program-

It is clear that without the cooperation of local Leaders to improve the quality of education and training, to consider the utility of appropriate construction (for example) sustained development will not take place.

Further the overriding lesson for us to grasp is that the issues of development and Development Control are only addressable through integrated, multidisciplinary approaches that link the capacities of Local and development (Control) professionals, and partnerships among donor organizations.

These are broad suggestive ideas that no doubt will be flashed out in the process of your deliberations.

And now for a few comments on Risk Reduction through mitigation. Madam Chairperson, I crave your indulgence for just a while longer to make a few comments on "Reducing risk through mitigation." I recognize our Director of National Office of Disaster Services – Mrs. Patricia Julian and some team members among us. They have been spearheading a series of Hazard Mitigation initiatives around the country. Since an overview and a program for a Post Georges Mitigation strategy is on your agenda for consideration, kindly permit a few general comments on this subject.

Hurricanes especially have over the recent past become the rule rather than the exception and so it behoves us to fashion strategies that effectively mitigate these unwelcome intruders.

Mitigation is the cornerstone of Emergency Management, it is the ongoing effort to lessen the impact disasters have on people and property. Mitigation involves keeping homes away from floodplains, engineering structures to withstand earthquakes, creating and enforcing effective building codes to protect property from hurricanes and more.

Mitigation may be defined as "sustained action that reduces or eliminates long term risk to people and property from natural hazards and their effects.

Not unnaturally, in response to unacceptable loss of property (and life) from recent disasters (5 in the last four years) and the prospect of even greater catastrophic loss in the future, a National Mitigation Strategy has been developed by the National Mitigation Strategy has been developed by the National Office of Disaster Service (NODS) to provide a framework to reduce these losses.

I was privileged to attend such a symposium in a quite vulnerable part of our island, Grays/Green, not too long ago which was quite educational and informative. I learned quite a great deal about Hazard Mitigation.

The strategy is intended to engender a fundamental change in the perception of the general public about hazard risk and mitigation of that risk.

The overall long term goal of the strategy is to substantially increase public awareness of Natural Hazard risks, and to significantly reduce the risk of loss of life, injuries, economic costs, and the disruption of families and communities caused by natural hazards.

The foundation of the strategy is the development of partnerships that empower all Antiguans and Barbudans to fulfill their responsibility for ensuring safer communities.

These ideas no doubt will engage your attention during the next two weeks of this workshop, but I wish to end by making this appeal to the Building Inspectors especially (perhaps a name change is in order).

You have a great responsibility in ensuring the integrity of the development control process.

Your understanding of the Building Codes and your commitment to diligently enforcing the regulation and upholding the standards is key to the success of the Development Control Process.

Let me use this opportunity to thank OAS Consultant, Mr. Alwyn Wason, and Coordinator PGDM/AB, Ms. Rosemary Georges, for putting this workshop together. We are please to be able to tap from this fount of knowledge.

Once again, let me proclaim my endorsement and that of my Government’s for this Workshop and may I commend all our efforts to enhance the Natural Hazard Mitigation problems in not only Antigua and Barbuda but also the wider Caribbean.

I pledge my government’s commitment to sound Mitigation Practices.

May our deliberations at this workshop be productive and informative.

USAID/OAS Post-Georges Disaster Mitigation:

Page last updated on 07 Jun 2001