by Larry Smith
"All the Bahamas ever does is talk about what it is going to do, but somehow never manages to actually get anything done,” she said.
I will cite one clear example to document this comment. But there are many others - energy reform and waste disposal spring first to mind.
My example is the revitalisation of the city of Nassau. Once the centre of commerce and life for the entire country, the capital has been in a state of decline since at least the early 1980s.
Based on my writing over the past decade, here is a summary timeline:
1980s - Downtown interests (led by Norman Solomon) hired a US-based community developer, the Rouse Company, to draw up suggestions for the revitalisation of Nassau. They did not have enough political capital to get to first base.
Early 1990s - Architects Jackson Burnside and Pat Rahming proposed designs for five public waterfront sites on the island’s north shore "as a catalyst (for) the redevelopment of the city."
Late 1990s - The Nassau Tourism Development Board focused on the redevelopment of "Historic Nassau" and Jackson Burnside produced another planning study.
Early 2000s - A private sector downtown improvement programme was launched to build on Burnside's recommendations, and workshops were held on the benefits of heritage tourism.
Mid-2000s - The Nassau Economic Development Commission (a public-private partnership) was formed and US design firm, EDAW, hired to develop a master plan for the city. The Hotel Corporation was to become a Tourism Development Corporation to guide the whole process, and shipping operations were to be removed from Bay Street. Consultants were hired by the private sector to develop a business plan for the city.
Late 2000s - In one of the few achievements of this saga, container shipping was finally moved from the congested downtown area to Arawak Cay. The new port was set up as a public-private partnership and by all accounts has been a great success.
2014 - The government reveals that Chinese interests are acquiring downtown property and will produce a new master plan for the city. Nothing more has been heard of this plan.
2015 - The government launched "Sustainable Nassau Initiative" with funding from the IDB.
Today - Perry Chrstie (who commissioned the EDAW master plan in 2004) says this new "plan of action" will not just sit on a shelf. "This plan represents the first step in the formation of creative solutions to our urban environment."
According to Jackson Burnside’s widow, Pam, despite all this planning and talking "nobody is looking at the bigger picture. It is up to us, the people, to become the real stakeholders and agitate for action to make it happen."
Pam is one of the leading lights in an initiative called Creative Nassau that was formed in 2008 by her late husband. Nassau has been designated as a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Arts by UNESCO. And the group’s goal is to enhance "awareness, appreciation and celebration of Bahamian art, culture and heritage."
But as far as planning goes, Pam says “nothing we will be achieved until the needs of The people are met, so that we have a reason to return to the downtown. Then we invite visitors to come and celebrate with us.”