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August 11, 2009

Comments

Ryan

Larry,

Not entirely fair. There has been less than adequate disclosure along the way. We do not know who the 19 private sector participants are. We dont know their capital contributions to the port. The island extension was commenced prior to a final EIA and EMP. No private sector development would be permitted to proceed under these circumstances. Of course we all want progress in the global and economic environment, and the moving of the port and a modern port is part of this. But moving it to Arawak Cay is hardly moving it out of downtown. The real question is why do they have to extend Arawak Cay with the fill if the extension is not needed and wont be used for the port. Why risk and ancillary environmental impact? Was there a study on the economic viability of selling this fill, rather than digging into the hills of Nassau? I don't know, and no one at the meeting could tell me if this study was done or if alternatives were considered. If there is any environmental damage as a result of merely storing excess fill in the water then this will be truly unfortunate.

larry smith

I have made the point about inadequate disclosure several times, including in this article, but that does not prove a sinister conspiracy by the boogeyman.Both PLP and FNM administrations have problems with disclosure, as you are well aware. But most of the information you mention is now in the public domain.

It has been pointed out (by myself and others) that the 19 private sector participants include all the existing shipping interests in the country, including MSC, a non-Bahamian company. I have the names so I am sure they are available to you. In an earlier article on this site I also identified the directors of the ACPDC, who have been identified before in various news stories.

It has also been pointed out several times that the estimated cost for development of the port is $50-60 million, with the private sector group owning 40% of the port company, the government retaining 40% for its land contribution, and 20% reserved for an IPO. Financing is being arranged by the private sector group with no funding from the government. There is also a condition that no shareholder can hold more than 15%. However, the agreement is still under negotiation.

It has also been made clear on several occasions (and yet again at the meeting) that the extension to Arawak Cay has nothing to do with the port relocation. It is a consequence of the harbour dredging. If you were at the meeting you would have seen and heard about the plans for both projects.

Part of the spoil will be used to create the extension, which will then be used to store additional fill. The 1966 and 1989 harbour dredging did essentially the same thing with the spoil removed from the harbour. The excess fill was used by local contractors over time. See my earlier article on historical impacts to the Nassau shoreline.

Lastly, the EIA on potential impacts to Saunders Beach was discussed fully at the meeting and is available in hard copy as well as online. It concludes that there will be no impact.

drew Roberts

"Lastly, the EIA on potential impacts to Saunders Beach was discussed fully at the meeting and is available in hard copy as well as online. It concludes that there will be no impact."

Hmmm, Larry, this question does not imply anything about this specific case.

Do you know if there is any data anywhere as to the near and long term "correct percentages" of EIA reports (or their likes) both here and around the world? How often do they get it right? Even a rough range might be interesting.

all the best,

drew

A pleased citizen of this country, and killarney resident

I was at the town meeting and I personally thought that the forum was just another example that the government really is trying to reach out to the people of The Bahamas.

I am a Killarney Resident who believe that alot of the complaints regarding information not being available to the public is unfounded. Many Bahamians seem to prefer to be spoon-fed than to pay attention to news events, to visit the constituency offices, to read the newspaper, to watch ZNS news, to visit the government websites etc. etc . I have to admit that Dr. Minnis is doing an EXCEPTIONAL job in our constituency with the dissemination of information and I encourage him to do so.

If I recall accurately, as far back as February of this year, the first town meeting was held on the issue of road improvement. I am certain that many complaining now did not even bother to attend.

As usual, there is always room for improvement, as no government is perfect, but I do believe that the Government today, is acting in the best interest of the Bahamian public and many are making accusations and telling lies without knowing the facts.

At no point will any government be able to please every citizen. Had the government chosen to put the port at Clifton, I am certain there would have been an outcry about that too.

Based on all the information which is available, I support Public Projects for a Better Bahamas,CARRY ON Ministers, in the best interest of The Bahamian Public.

I say lets start a group called "The Committee to ADVANCE The Bahamas, while protecting and preserving the future."

Ryan

Larry, I was at the town hall meeting - I think I even hailed you. The 19 names have not been released publicly, only about 8 or 9 so if you know them all I would like you to let me know who they are. I have heard an estimate of anywhere between 50 million - 100 million from any given person so I don't think anyone really knows the cost. My point with the fill is that we found out it is not being used for the port, but was there any investigation in alternatives to just dumping it in the water. I asked Mr. Weech this question without a direct answer My concerns are clear and non-political, all I am asking is that they be addressed.

Pat Rahming

For the past few weeks I have read your comments in support of the Arawak Cay project. As usual, they have been well researched, well documented and well presented, and there is no doubt that, if the only question was the location of the port, your case would have been made. Unfortunately, there is more to the question than your column (and most of the public conversation) suggests.

But before discussing the broader issues, I would like to share a thought about what is called Democracy. The problem with relying on the popular application of Democracy (the majority wins) is that it assumes that all the participants have the same information available to them. This unfortunately means that by controlling the information available, the results can easily be manipulated. This led former black activist Stokeley Carmichael to comment that “the bitterest pill (he had) had to swallow was the fact that in a Democracy the majority can never be wrong” Of course, the majority CAN be wrong, especially if they have been fed the “wrong” information. I believe both camps have been feeding us wrong information in an attempt to secure majority consent.

The conversation about the Port has to date centered on the adequacy or convenience of Arawak Cay as a location for the commercial installation. It has not, however, addressed the question of the wisdom of using Arawak Cay as the site of a commercial Port. The fact that it has been used for that purpose in the past is no justification to continue.

To begin any discussion about the appropriate use for a site, the first step is an evaluation of the site and its potential. In this case, we would have to ask ourselves what are its commercial, social and environmental possibilities, especially given the fact that it is publicly owned. Here is an example of that process.

Arawak Cay (formerly Kelly Island) is a 100-acre tract of land built 200 feet offshore, with a commanding presence in a harbor that was once the most beautiful in the Caribbean. It sits roughly between two major sandy beaches, used extensively for public recreation, next to the largest tract of public open space in New Providence, across from the most popular heritage lifestyle attraction on the island, and a stone’s throw from the most visited historical attraction on the island. It is within walking distance for about one third if the island’s population, as well as from Downtown Nassau. It is visible from as far east as the Paradise Island Bridge and west as Cable Beach. While there are a number if existing uses, no existing feature suggests any particular use except its location.
Whatever the island is used for, it should respect the above features plus the fact that the island is a major feature in views of the harbor, both from the Fort Charlotte area and from the harbor entrance.

These attributes suggest that the appropriate uses would begin with the extension of the adjacent uses, especially public recreation, heritage or historical attractions or recreational boating, resort activity etc. They also suggest that whatever is done it should be designed to enhance the views of the harbor from the hill and the harbor entrance. In a planning sense, Arawak Cay is a feature in the front yard of Nassau. This would narrow the determination of appropriate uses, but it would not be enough to make a decision.

The second part of the process would be to consider the economic objectives. What would be the most beneficial activity that meets the above criteria, both socially and economically? In other words, how would the public seek to develop this property if it were a property developer?
The Bahamas operates two major businesses, tourism and banking. Over two-thirds of the national income is derived from tourism, which for the past several years has shown declining returns. The majority of the on-island attractions are dilapidated or at least badly in need of repair, and their number is in decline. The strategies for increased income from that sector all begin with an increase in the availability of on-island attractions, but there has no perceptible effort to create them. As a country, the need to find money to build schools, hospitals and roads demands increased income from somewhere, and tourism is the most obvious source.
So when a dramatic, high profile site with the location described above becomes available, most developers would salivate. As far back as the 1970’s, this was recognized, and Kelly Island was targeted for resort activity. Over the years there have been countless proposals for development of the island, almost every one seeking to build some combination of resort, entertainment and public open space. Both Governments have resisted these efforts, for whatever reasons. But the fact that we have chosen to use this valuable piece of property for Customs sheds, hot mix plants and container shipping does not make it appropriate.

Perhaps it is too late to stop the present project. If that is true, it is a shame. Arawak Cay may well be a great place for the Port, but the Port is not an appropriate use for Arawak Cay.

larry smith

There may be more to the issue, as you say, but the key question for me is 'where do we put the port?'

And the fact is that any place we choose to put the port on this island will have serious impacts and trade-offs.

The key goal is to get the containers out of Nassau so that redevelopment can proceed. We can't keep running on like this for another 20 years. And an Arawak Cay option was seriously proposed as early as 1995.

There are many examples of industrial ports that co-exist happily with tourist/recreational facilities - Montreal, Vancouver and Miami to name a few.

I also agree with you about inadequate public disclosure - and I have made those points repeatedly.

There is still not full disclosure, but the nonsense that the opposition is spouting does not help much.

patvrahming

I don't disagree at all about not continuing, but where we do disagree GREATLY is that I am keenly aware of the impact of the many decisions we HAVE made in disgust, some of which are presently causing us economic hardship.

I have never argued that the port could not coexist with tourism. That is not my point at all. In fact, I'm probably the only person in town not moved by the urgency to get the containers out.

I could, if you thought I was a consultant, tell you how to address the container problem without moving the port. The issue is this: we are responsible for DEVELOPMENT. To constantly say that our present circumstance is too urgent to plan is like the fellow in the forest hacking away at a tree. When the observer noticed that his ax had no edge and suggested he stop and sharpen it, he shrugged him off with "Don't you see I have to cut down this tree? I don't have time to stop."

Thirty years ago we noticed that we were producing illiterate children, and some of us said "STOP! Please sharpen the ax". But both governments were too busy dealing with leaking roofs, late contracts and expanded access. Today those children are (by and large) frustrated citizens, watching while the rest of the world spins on a faster spindle.

Twenty years ago some of us decried what was happening to the architecture of the downtown. Now that Cascadilla has rotted to the ground we have decided to try to save it. Unfortunately there are too many we can no longer save.

The question of two or three years is nothing. To bitch up our harbour because it is convenient is the height of irresponsibility. Go and park atop Fort Charlotte, and try to remember what used to be the view. The fact that we have become insensitive because of the present misuse is no excuse. The harbour deserves more. We deserve more.

We are presently dredging the harbour at great expense for nothing. The figures show that, if not another cruise tourist comes to Nassau the economy would not be affected significantly. But we are charging headlong with this project, satisfied that larger numbers of visitors means something significant. It certainly does not mean more money in the national bank.

I suggest that it is more urgent that the income from tourism be increased by the creation of new product, and your response ignores the economic side of the essay completely. It is time to take the conversation below the surface.

larry smith

Developing product is part and parcel of the redevelopment of Nassau - which is THE product.

I am one of those who believe that nothing significant will happen downtown unless the container terminal is moved. The shippers have resisted this for decades and successive governments have not been interested enough to push the matter.

The cost-benefit analysis of the harbour dredging is a separate - albeit related - issue. But it is clearly too late to go back on that project. Why didn't the opposition tackle that issue when they had a chance?

drew Roberts

I have said this before and it may be too late now with what is already going on in the area, but why should we not have a "duty free" zone somewhere between a port in the southwest and the airport.

Let local business that want to warehouse in the zone and pay duty when moving stock to their stores. As well as the usual duty free zone issues.

drew

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