FOR the 17th time, the country is being told of promises for revival of the capital city Port of Spain.
This time, it is based on plans for a massive and varied transformation as outlined by the Prime Minister.
Dr Rowley began by stating the ugly obvious, that “for decades” the city has been experiencing considerable urban decay. He said manifestations of this could be found manifest in “a myriad of challenges such as reduced private sector investment, depopulation, abandonment and decrepit infrastructure, unemployment, destitution and high levels of crime”.
There have been attempts, of course, to address some of this collapse into the picture of gloom and grime which presents itself on a daily basis, equally to those who live and work in or around the city, and to visitors alike. The creation of the Brian Lara Promenade, as well as the construction of the public transportation hub known as City Gate, are among those commendable efforts. But in both cases, these creations have long lost their lustre and are in dire need of a facelift. Attempts across various political administrations to deal effectively with the ever-growing problem of socially displaced persons have not borne fruit commensurate with attendant expectations.
Within the last decade, there came the announcement that the Inter-American Development Bank had cited Port of Spain as one of a number of “sustainable cities” across the Americas region. There was also an East Port of Spain Development Company, established to undertake precisely what its name implies. The creation of the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT) had as a major aspect of its mandate the upgrading of the critical infrastructure in the capital city, equally as with elsewhere in the country.
In an address in which he outlined the latest moves to tackle rehabilitation and the restoration of life and vibrancy in the capital city, the Prime Minister also reminded us that there have been 16 such plans, in one form or another, between 1968 and 2015.
He referred to some of the projects which when combined have contributed to the restoration of some measure of pride, largely outside the central downtown core. These include the restoration of the Red House, President’s House, Stollmeyer’s Castle, Whitehall, Mille Fleur and QRC. He announced a new programme, under which UDeCOTT has been entrusted with the task of developing another master plan, and to act as the State’s agent for all its related projects.
The overall agenda here is to accomplish, inter-alia, restoration of life and vibrancy in the capital city, improve traffic circulation, enhance property values, discourage criminal activity, unlock private capital and stimulate the economy, the Prime Minister said.
As it stands now, Port of Spain is a dying city, choked by traffic congestion, devoid of social activity and entertainment, hazardous for shoppers and visitors alike, and teeming with persons in need of mental and psychological help, among other significant detractions.
That the administration has recognised its responsibility to redress this long slide into urban decay and death is noteworthy. The long list of prior efforts and endeavours to turn things around have not borne nearly the quality of fruit over which much expectations have been generated.
It is therefore with cautious optimism will anyone proceed, along whatever tracks are laid on this latest road ahead.