PROPERTY valuer Afra Raymond said yesterday’s “Spotlight on Urban Development” did not address several questions, including who is really being invited back into Port of Spain, and on what terms?
Raymond, a former president of the Joint Consultative Council for the construction sector (JCC) and managing director of Raymond and Pierre Ltd, did he not attend yesterday’s function at the Hyatt Regency, but monitored the proceedings on television.
Raymond said the residential component in 1960 was 94,000 and in the 2011 census, about 37,000 lived in the city.
“Ours is probably the only capital city in the world in which the population has so drastically declined—we have not had a war, famine, or natural disaster, just a collapse of leadership at overlapping levels.
“New homes at $1.2 million plus-prices are the HDC’s norm, but those can only be purchased by those who earn salaries over two times the average and those people have choices.”
He said it is all well and good to revitalise, but it is important to create opportunities for truly affordable new homes, mostly for rent with the few for sale for less than $500,000 so that the city can be re-inhabited and acquire new life.
Raymond noted, on the issue of the public-private partnership model being advanced for achieving these ambitious projects it would need to be carefully negotiated and overseen by the Office of Procurement Regulation, as this country does not a have a good record of successful PPP implementation.
And, Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland said he is ecstatic over this move and would like to see it come to light.
“What is sad is that this is the 16th plan since 1960, but I know the Prime Minister is not a man that mixes matters when it comes to completing projects. This is something the people of the capital city should feel proud of.”
With regard to the displaced, Scotland said that must be dealt with on a humanitarian level.
Gregory Aboud lauded the Government’s initiative but reckoned that it needed to deal with its vagrant problem.
He called on the Government to swiftly implement a “move along plan” to keep the street dwellers moving along, which was developed with the Ministry of Social Development last year.
But Robinson-Regis observed that the ministry was working along with the mayor and the police on the matter: “It is an issue that has to be handled delicately because of the court decision.”
Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez, who attended the function, said while the revitalisation of Port of Spain is no easy task, it is an undertaking that must be done.
Martinez said the city of Port of Spain has been home to many residents and the pinnacle of several thriving businesses for many years.
“However, as time has passed, our citizens have moved away from its epicentre and populated the suburbs outside the city.
“With this plan to revitalise our capital city, I can only imagine our citizens feeling compelled to move back into the city. After all, the council has been hard at work to restore the beauty of iconic resting spots like Memorial Park, the Brian Lara Promenade and other parks, squares and public spaces.”
Martinez pointed out that bringing life back to Port of Spain means that “we” are restoring hope in its function and ability to serve its residents and, by extension, all citizens.
“Given our present economic climate, as the world deals with the repercussions of a pandemic, we cannot negate the challenges that may cross our paths in the pursuit of a better city. However, our focus is to embrace this forum and chart a new way forward while working through these obstacles,” Martinez added.