A Spacious, Cleaner and Safer Nassau

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December 12, 2012

Dear Editor, Is it the politically correct thing to say that the "chickens have come home and will continue to come home to roost" regarding the overcrowding of Nassau? Then that question begs another question: Why is it that we are politically intimidated and extremely cautious when it comes to freedom of speech, especially speech that is non-treasonous? It is without question that the massive, much needed road projects in Nassau will greatly benefit the public in unimaginable ways.

If I am correct, I understand the primary purpose of this redevelopment is to enhance the flow of traffic throughout the island, the secondary purpose to improve the utility infrastructure, and thirdly, to ease the motoring public's frustrations caused by traffic congestions. The mental quagmire that drivers encounter daily calls for a systems approach to ameliorating the problems. In any scenario when the exact problem is not identified, or mis-identified, then we inevitably apply misdirected, improper "solutions".

Consequently "it only becomes a matter of shifting chairs on the Titanic" - simply delaying the inevitable. Our real problem is the overpopulation of Nassau. The problem is the inevitable consequence of years of economic, academic, spiritual and social concentration on the capital, and the concomitant neglect of sustainable Family Island development and commerce. There was a time when the proposition of one or two cars per family was discussed. But apparently nobody was willing to "bell the cat" or take the "bull by the horn" on that matter.

Political expediency was the order of the day, too much infringement on personal rights and insufficient concern for the communal good. The relevant authorities left that "hot potato" alone. Therefore, we were left guarding our rights - our personal rights to traffic congestion, frustrations and the myriad other side effects. Another recommendation was the drastic improvement of the public transportation system.

This too met many headwinds. An improved, safer system, with reasonable fees and increased routes operating earlier in the day and later at nights may have substantially decreased the need for superfluous private vehicles. Staggering certain work places, including government services, was suggested. But much talk, little action. But I have "saved the best wine for the last". It is at this juncture I wish to inject an idea that may put the "icing on the road development cake" or at least be part of the solution.

The commendable, visionary decision to undertake a comprehensive road redevelopment, while a step in the right direction, is obviously not enough. However, the system is still, when weighed in the balances, found wanting. Found wanting because the traffic congestion and motoring public may only experience a slight degree of ease, a slight degree of frustration-less movement and only for a few years at the most. It is quite possible that after spending millions of dollars that it would be realized as only a magic bullet solution, and that far reaching measures have to be implemented if there is going to be a true quality of life enjoyed in the city.

It is upon these premises that I wish to proffer another idea in continuation of a systems approach to supplement and complement the road renovations. I have heard for over 35 years about the diversification of the Bahamian economy - that is yet to happen. Well, let us try a new diversification - a diversification and redistribution of the Bahamian population. This demographic diversification, may result in less crime (the operative word here is "may"), improved air quality, higher employment levels, less crowded schools, less crowded health care facilities, and other unforeseen benefits.

And need I say, reduced stress which may even result in less crime. As a matter of fact, if history serves me well, was there not such a "redistribution of the population proposal" that was suggested in the early 1960s? Here is the plan - the creation of a pilot community on one of the Family Islands. Let this be a quasi-government project. I say quasi-government because the world is steeped in Keynesian "government is God" economics. But the government is not God; it is not the panacea for the ills in a modern society.

Let there be a team of investors to conduct both a feasibility study and to sponsor this project if it is found to be viable. Let us imagine that this group constructs about 200 to 300 quality homes, complete with sidewalks, landscaping, and a recreational park. Let us estimate that each home costs $100,000. As an incentive to Nassuvians (we are attempting to depopulate Nassau remember?), let these houses be offered at around $80,000 to $90,000.

Voluntary applicants for housing, businesses and governmental services could be positioned before the project begins. Here is what of necessity will follow: a. There will be a need for schools, built to accommodate children of varying age levels. Now you will need teachers, administrators, custodians, security, etc. These positions will be staffed primarily by professionals from Nassau who wish to migrate in these homes. b. How about a new clinic, complete with an ambulance or two, complete with nurses, doctors, and other supporting personnel - staffed primarily by professionals from Nassau.

c. There would definitely be a need for a police/fire station. d. Then the population needs to eat. In comes one or two supermarkets, complete with staff from the community. It is at this juncture that I must admit that while locals may get into the hiring spree, major preference should go to the population coming in from Nassau. And don't forget entrepreneurial opportunities for other fast food restaurants. e. Workers need transportation.

So in addition to bringing their cars, one or two used car companies can open up, complete with mechanics and one or two auto parts store, a tire and battery store, car detailing specialists, and other auxiliary services. In comes a gas station and then comes its competitors. f. Gardeners, home maintenance contractors, garbage collectors, will all be needed to facilitate this community. Once again, locals could be free to join the free enterprise market. g. Banks will be needed. Perhaps Crown land could be leased or sold at concessionary prices to attract the banking industry.

When one bank comes, in comes the competitor. Maybe Crown land could be granted or at least considered, to encourage the myriad small businesses that would be needed - i.e, a furniture store, a pharmacy, beauty salons, barbers, shoe stores, and the list goes on. h. Churches will "spring up" and spring up with their kindergartens, preschools, etc. i. What about a small technical/vocational school operating at night when the day school is closed. This can be done to train workers for further employment. j.

A government plaza catering to basic utility (water, light, phone) needs of the society would be necessary. k. Private investors may build a motel or two to accommodate guests. I understood there was a time when the idea of anchor projects was on the table. This might be a good time to discuss its viability. l. Other professionals could set up business - i.e., private doctors, lawyers, accountants, gymnasiums, etc. m. Perhaps we can look into the viability of adding more reliable fast-ferries as a means of transportation to link the pilot island of choice to Nassau.

I suppose that it must not be taken for granted that this venture will be greatly appreciated by the island of choice. It is possible that protests may be made that this venture could result in more criminal activity, that the pristine, laid-back culture could be spoiled, ad nauseum. And the islanders may be right. But there is always a price for progress, and the nation should regard this as part of national development and not infringement/intrusion on island lifestyle.

And as for the volunteer migrants? Incentives can be given to attract families from Nassau. While migrators should be from Nassau, service providers of all sorts can come primarily from Nassau but not exclusively. I am sure we could disperse at thousands. There will need to be a major shift in mindset to facilitate this project by both Nassuvians, but especially the islanders. And voila - a sustainable economy!

Now certain regulatory boards or agencies can sit down at a round table and congratulate themselves for their genius. Then evaluate the progress, the mistakes, make the necessary adjustments, then replicate the project, move to another portion of that island or implement the project on another island. Nassau can then breathe easier, be less frustrated, crime may decrease, traffic will flow easier, and the unemployment rate will decrease.

Now we are not interested in overpopulating any of the islands; just to create relief valves to cap the flow of overpopulation and frustration that manifests itself in so many social ways. Then we may really be able to "wake up early one morning and kiss our mamas goodbye. Cause we goin' back to the island and this time she ain't ga cry. Cause she ga wan come too." - Dr. B

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News date : 12/12/2012    Category : Letters

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