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The deputy prime minister’s apology for dirty New Providence

Published: Oct 15, 2013

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Dear Editor,

The deputy prime minister apologized for the dirt and weeds on New Providence streets.

Regrettably the deputy spent a year and a half “fixing” a system he met working perfectly well.  As the saying goes: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”  While the DPM searched for his elusive “transparency” the weeds grew an inch a day.

The deputy was swept into office along with the PLP but it appears that he left his broom at the door.  Since his appointment as minister of public works and urban development in 2012, residents on New Providence have watched the deterioration of their urban landscape.

The PLP declared Urban Renewal 2.0 reborn in 2012 and spent an estimated $15 million in the first year of its administration, claiming to clean the inner city and keeping the island clean under the program.  The DPM gave an undertaking to account for exactly how that money, allocated in the Ministry of Finance 2012/2013 budget, was spent.  The accounting never happened and then the item was simply deleted from the 2013/14 budget.  So much for the DPM’s search for transparency and accountability.

Urban Renewal is a central part of the PLP’s fight against crime.  Under the program they demolished a few derelict buildings and cleared some overgrown lots, but we have watched the weeds grow along every major roadway right along with the rising crime.

On Wednesday, the DPM apologized to the public for its great patience over the weeds and dirt.

The Ingraham administration left behind a working system of roads and park maintenance and was well advanced in creating a Roads and Parks Authority similar to the Straw Market Authority.  The Ingraham administration kept New Providence roads and parks clean for some $4 million annually.

Having fired competent contractors and replaced them with “their people” the PLP government now asks that we be patient and tolerate them.  I understand that each PLP MP for New Providence handpicked the person to be hired to clean their constituency.  God help the poor Bahamian landscaper if he or she was not one of them.

The Tonique Williams-Darling Highway is a good example of the results of their foolish policy.  This highway’s verges and medians were well maintained under the FNM government.  The PLP government fired the landscape contractor and the work was given to a known PLP operative who has struggled to keep it clean or to even keep the grass cut for weeks on end.  When it is finally cut it’s all brown.  When the rainy season ends, I fear the verges may disappear completely as a result of the incompetent landscape maintenance.

The Bahamas’ environment is our nation’s most precious natural resource.  It has taken years to cultivate and nurture a well-maintained urban environment.  The PLP, which has represented Bain and Grants Town, Englerston and Centerville – the heart of Over-the-Hill for more than 50 years – never did a good job of bringing environmental relief to those areas.  Now they have succeeded in making the rest of New Providence look as weedy and neglected as some of the least cared for areas of Over-the-Hill.

The FNM maintained a rigorous island-wide cleaning program utilizing temporary workers, contractors and civil servants.  The standard of cleanliness in public spaces was elevated and maintained.  Parks in the Over-the-Hill area were not only maintained but had new play equipment installed.  The state of the island was appreciated by many residents and tourists alike.  The decay, after only 18 months, speaks volumes about the lack of focus of this government.  And then the DPM apologized.

The DPM’s dismantling of the Roads and Parks Division at the Ministry of Public Works has resulted in this chaos.  The public anger at the dirty, unkempt state of our roadways and open green spaces was evident long before the DPM’s apology.  It had been chronicled in a column in The Nassau Guardian, spoken about on Bodie’s talk show and lambasted by none other than Bannister, a frontline PLP supporter.

The visible lines of urban decay graphically highlighted by the growing forest of weeds stand in stark contrast to the DPM’s apology.  Instead of profiling to become prime minister, the DPM should concern himself with demonstrating that he has the competence to complete his simple assignment to keep our island clean.  Indeed, he is the first DPM to also hold responsibility for public works.  Perhaps the prime minister thought it an appropriate training ground for someone so anxious to graduate to the post of prime minister of our country.  If so, the maintenance of our island suggests less than stellar performance on the part of the DPM.   Mr. DPM, an apology is not enough.  Do something.  Clean this island.

– Kirkland Turner

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