The Revitalization of Bridgetown Initiative (TRBI), launched by the private sector in 2008 to transform the island’s capital city to boost its attractiveness as a place for doing business, has run into a major challenge.
Chairperson Sharon Christie told Barbados TODAY a lack of funding was hampering the committee’s programme which was seeking, among other things, to improve security, lighting and the general cleanliness of Bridgetown. As a result, there has been a considerable fall off in the committee’s activities.
Christie said the programmes under the TRBI were completely funded by private enterprises which were now experiencing financial difficulties, resulting from the general sluggishness of the Barbados economy in recent years.
“I would say (the TRBI) is in danger but I would not say it is at the point of collapse . . .,” Christie said. “….A lot of people look to the capital of a country and see it as a reflection of the country. So we are very committed that Bridgetown must continue and must grow and must be brought back to good health.”
She went on: “Can we achieve that on our own without support from government initiatives is questionable. The private enterprises get a lot of stick, (with some critics) saying ….we are asking for handouts and we are not pulling our weight. On the contrary ….everything that has happened in Bridgetown, little though it may be, has been driven by private enterprises.”
Christie explained that as the local economy worsened, members of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) which sponsored various programmes under the initiative, reported less cash flow which hampered their ability to assist.
“So, as … cash dried up in the business community in Bridgetown, our initiative has also dried up . . . At this moment, I can’t tell you about a particular initiative that we are going to bring about,” she said.
While members of the Royal Barbados Police Force were doing what they could in terms of providing security within the city, Christie said when it came to the issue of cleanliness, that was lacking.
“We discussed with the Sanitation Service Authority an initiative where we, Bridgetown businesses, wanted to assist in (providing) funding for additional resources for the city, …..(but) that did not happen because what we were able to fund, was not able to fit into the Sanitation Service Authority’s way of operating,” she explained, reiterating the private sector’s willingness to assist in improving the city’s cleanliness.
She said when it came to the improvement of lighting, TRBI had formed a partnership with Caribbean LED, but that project has been “slow to take off”. “A lot of the problem in Bridgetown is that the owner of the property and the people who operate the property are two different people. So if I want to erect a streetlight on your building but someone is operating the business there, someone has to pay for the electricity, somebody has to give permission for the light to go on the building. You may give me permission to put the light on the building but (the operator) might not want to pay for the electricity. So it is not a simple thing,” she explained.
Recently, Christie issued a call for a city management structure to be put in place to help save Bridgetown from further deterioration. She also expressed concern that Bridgetown could be in danger of losing its UNESCO World Heritage designation if careful attention was not given to maintaining its many historic structures.