Bridgetown is to be the focus of a major housing effort by Government, with Minister of Housing, Lands and Rural Development, Denis Kellman, vowing to transform the capital into one of the most sought after places to live.
Contributing to the Budget debate last night in the House of Assembly, Kellman also said the current administration’s overall housing efforts would not be exclusively aimed at low income Barbadians, as there was a potentially lucrative market for people with much deeper pockets, including the corporate sector.
“We will also continue to look at high rise buildings. This country Barbados has a good opportunity to build up Bridgetown and to dry up the cash that we have in the banking system,” he said.
“To help build out Barbados we need to start with Bridgetown. What we (Government) will have to do is … use our land and our contribution with the permission of the Cabinet and the people of Barbados as equity and invite the private sector and the people of Barbados who have the money to come and join with us, where we have a special purpose vehicle where we form a company and invite the people to buy shares in this company to development Bridgetown.
“What we have to do now is to ensure that the same way that Panama can use a canal to drive development for Panama, when one looks at the location of Barbados one has to realise that we are strategically located and that our capital Bridgetown must appear and will do what other towns have done like New York and London.
“Bridgetown cannot be only about Broad Street and Swan Street… We will have to blend the low income with the high income and attract people who can afford to live in Bridgetown. We will also have to attract more investors who are willing to come,” he added.
But while having a renewed focus on the City, the St. Lucy MP said the time had also come to change the way rural development took place, especially within the context of services provided by the Rural Development Commission, for which he is responsible.
He claimed the former Barbados Labour Party administration saw the RDC merely as an agency to build roads, repair houses etcetera, when it was in fact an institution which could and should support industries, including tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing.
“Under Rural we cannot any longer in rural Barbados build a road to a house… We have to build roads beyond the houses to create the atmosphere where people can build more houses,” he said.
“We have to understand that if we take the roads and develop other land … that the pressure on housing will not occur because what you are doing in rural Barbados [is] you are opening up lands for house lots for more economic activity and it will help the Minister of Finance in the way he wants to build out Barbados.
“We speak a lot about the impact of our tourism industry and how it needs new areas to be developed and so on, that is the role for Rural and the Ministry of the Environment… Rural must help the tourism industry build out these areas,” he recommended.
Kellman also had a remedy for what he saw as “a lot of waste land in rural Barbados”.
“I am saying that under Rural we have to take control in leasing those lands from persons and giving them to the young men on the blocks who are prepared to work for themselves,” he suggested.
“Fear not; we understand exactly what we have to do, and with the help of the Ministry of Finance … I am saying that the Ministry of Housing, Lands and Rural Development must not be seen in the way it was seen under the Barbados Labour Party, it must be seen as a ministry which is very proactive.”
As for the Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals, Kellman saw it as a wake up call for the country, and added: “This Budget is a budget to tell people that the time for sleeping has passed, that everybody has to have their hands on deck.” (SC)