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FRONT PORCH: Dysfunction, decay and dilapidation in Bahamaland

THE IMAGE of Cable Beach from the Ministry of Tourism website - but sadly too many public areas are neglected these days.

THE IMAGE of Cable Beach from the Ministry of Tourism website - but sadly too many public areas are neglected these days.

ON ITS website, the Ministry of Tourism boasts of Cable Beach: “This beach is world famous for its fabulous sand and crystal waters and for the myriad upscale resorts that line it.

“A few miles west of Nassau is Cable Beach, covering two and one-half miles of fabulous beach with five first-class or luxury resorts, a golf course, nightlife, and the largest casino in The Islands of the Bahamas.

“Today, it’s the ultimate playground for fun in the sun. There are all the usual water sports and activities and plenty of space for sunbathing.”

Cable Beach is marketed as one of the prime tourist areas in the country and the Caribbean, where the largest resort in the region, Baha Mar, as well as Sandals and Breezes welcome thousands of international visitors yearly. There are also upscale and luxury homes and residences in the area.

Further along the West Bay Street corridor is the Office of the Prime Minister and the new GoldWynn Resort and Residences.

Considerable effort and funds are invested by the Cable Beach Resort Association to maintain the flora and natural beauty of West Bay near the resorts. Many come to the area to take wedding and prom photographs, while others utilise it for exercising.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when the resorts were shuttered, the area was well-maintained. The association understood that when something is not maintained it is more costly and difficult to refurbish. The reputation of the properties would have been diminished had the area become overgrown and neglected.

Immediately after one enjoys the oasis of the tropical fauna and manicured areas, and enters the roundabout adjacent to Breezes Lane heading east, catching sight of the strip of land beginning with the former offices of the Bahamas Development Bank (BDB), one can immediately tell what belongs to the government.

DILAPIDATED

In dramatic juxtaposition to the private properties are government-owned buildings and land resembling a rundown, neglected ghetto-like area with dilapidated buildings, trees desperately in need of pruning and excessive dead leaves piled on the ground. It resembles a dumping ground.

Goodman’s Bay is a popular beach and exercise area redeveloped into a new park during a previous administration of Hubert Ingraham. Today, it is badly in need of refurbishment. Politicians and senior public officers exercise on the park. Yet, the park, including the area for jet ski operators, is in terrible condition.

In a recent story in The Tribune, Randy Hart, a vice president with the Wynn Group reported: “We have an understanding with the government, and Baha Mar as well, to undertake some improvements to the Goodman’s Bay Park generally. There is a committee that was formed for that purpose, which we sit on, and are just awaiting further direction from government to execute the plan.”

Next to the park, walking distance from the luxurious hotels and properties, sit two government-owned pastel pink buildings that are eyesores. Contiguous to Goodman’s Bay is a former government office site that once housed the Gaming Board and Bahamas Information Services.

The building and the grounds look like a property in a burnt-out and depressed section of an urban ghetto that been crying out for attention for decades. Both the western and eastern faces of the building are crumbling. Reportedly, “the ceiling and floor of one section of the building” have collapsed.

The former BDB building, ironically, sorely in need of redevelopment, could eventually suffer the same fate given the state of other government-owned properties.

To the east of Goodman’s Bay and west of the GoldWynn property is the La Playa mansion purchased by the government several years ago. There was talk of converting it into a residence for the prime minister or a guest house for state visitors.

DECREPIT

The once stately home, is now unpainted and sits behind a rusted gate, with overgrown trees and wild bush. It could be featured as a decrepit haunted mansion in a horror film.

As noted by Mr Hart: “There’s also the La Playa property next door to us owned by the National Insurance Board (NIB) that still has a question mark over it as well. It remains derelict to this day, and we’d certainly like to see some improvement and beautification of that property.”

Then there is the Cecil Wallace Whitfield Centre which houses the Office of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Finance, two of the central and more important cabinet ministries.

The base of the sign at the front of the property desperately needs painting as does the fence at the back of the property. The grounds need refurbishing as does the interior of parts of the building.

When the building was owned by private banks, the lawn area was better kept and served as a backdrop for wedding photographs. We might recall the many years to begin the restoration of Government House and its environs after years of neglect and indifference.

Even amidst the luxurious and well-maintained Cable Beach, the Government of The Bahamas has proved incapable of keeping its properties in decent shape. This is a gloomy and sad master example and metaphor of who we are.

Fifty years after independence, the foreign-owned properties are properly maintained, while those owned by The Bahamas state suffer from indifference and neglect.

After 50 years, Goodman’s Bay after a holiday looks like a proverbial pigsty, yet we thump our chests with how proud we supposedly are to be Bahamian?!

FILTH

What does all of this say about us as a country and a people? What does this suggest about our public culture, mores, habits, mindsets? The filth, decay and slackness are not solely about either of the major parties. It is a sad indictment of all of us: the general public, the political class and the public service.

As we commemorate 50 years of sovereignty there are accomplishments and areas of national life that we should celebrate.

But if our commemoration is mostly a one-year extravaganza devoid of sober reflection on where and how we are failing as a state, it will be a missed opportunity and a disservice to those who fought for independence possessed of certain compelling dreams and values for a better country.

After 50 years of independence many if not most of us are comfortable with our public spaces looking like crap, a euphemism for a word that cannot be published here. We no longer see the dirt, the decadence and the decay, which have become as normalised as the ever-falling standards in many areas of national life.

Indifference, neglect, mismanagement and dysfunction are deep seated elements of our national culture and the public service. There are things that are not “Better in The Bahamas” in 2023. Some things are worse, much worse!

Much of New Providence is in a state of decrepitude, from the main Bay Street to the broken guardrails across the island to government offices with peeling paint and soiled walls.

The National Centre for the Performing Arts on Shirley Street is supposed to be a center for cultural expression. In a particular sense, it symbolises and expresses our culture, particularly the state of disrepair of public spaces which exemplifies the decline in cleanliness, civility and pride.

Bahamian pride should not be an empty nostalgic slogan. Where is the sense of pride that turns a blind eye to, or no longer recognises, or is incapable of addressing the slackness, seediness and ugliness of much of our publicly owned built environment?

UNICORN

Hubert Ingraham was a political unicorn, a rarity in our political class and culture. He understood the need to reach deep into the bureaucracy and demand certain standards.

He appreciated the need for constant oversight, because left to its own, the natural state of entropy, endless red tape, indifference and slackness in the country would prevail and metastasise.

Mr Ingraham regularly drove around New Providence inspecting public infrastructure. A former senior official at the Department of Environmental Health recalls driving around with Ingraham who, he says, often knew as much about the needs of the department as its officials.

The former Prime Minister would see the state of public infrastructure and demand that it be repaired or rebuilt. He knew that without these demands things would simply remain in a state of disrepair and dysfunction because of our pervasive slackness.

Last week, the country was horrified by the death of Kenise Darville. In a harrowing video she described her feelings about being neglected and the state of the facilities at Princess Margaret Hospital. The circumstances that led to her death are being investigated.

Through his tears, her husband Jerad Darville repeatedly pleaded: “We have to fix the system, we have to fix the system!” Many of our systems are terribly and needlessly dysfunctional.

During our 50th anniversary of independence, we need widespread dialogue and reflection on the state of our commonwealth and on the state of our core values and cultural mindsets.

Festive celebrations are lovely. But if Junkanoo rush-outs, parties and festivities form the bulk of our commemoration, it will be mostly an empty exercise, ignoring challenges unmet and national dysfunction which continues to worsen.

Addressing what is terribly wrong in our national life in areas such as education, public health, public infrastructure, crime, youth development, common courtesy, adaptation to climate change and other areas is literally a matter of life and death.

Comments

BONEFISH 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Bahamians have lived this dichotomy for years. Clean well maintained areas for tourism whilst many of them living in poorly maintained and managed communities. A bahamian PHD holder made that comment on social media. My sister the last time, she visited home said this to me. Who is responsible for maintaining government buildings? Driving around, she said that there was no real concerted effort or plan to maintain government buildings.

What is needed in this country is a massive change of attitude in this country. People have to learn tp care about themselves, others and their environment. Maybe the introduction of a real system of local government may accomplish that.

Hubert Ingraham was an exception. He was well versed in what was going on every ministry.He knew how each ministry should function. All of the things he did and attempted are needed in this country.

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sheeprunner12 1 month, 4 weeks ago

PM Hubert Ingraham was the last real hope for the salvation of this country ......... while many PLPs and their present leaders will howl long and loud about Pindling, it was Pindling who by 1983 (10 years of Independence) had lead us to the point where we were a "Nation for Sale".

It was Ingraham who pulled the country out of that political and diplomatic abyss and set us on a road to modern development and growth. Even though the world's economic crises of 2000 led to an upheaval in the banking sector, the country was in a far better situation than what Ingraham met in 1992.

Today, this present PM has taken us back to the pre-1992 era ........ he cannot keep a rein on his Cabinet and he is too pre-occupied with trying to create an international name for himself. Meanwhile the country is falling apart - just like what the author is talking about.

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