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Balancing development, social cohesion

by Barbados Today
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Barbados is on the cusp of what many believe is a major construction boom as several projects get underway or continue their expansion.

With the most recent statement from the Central Bank of Barbados (CBB) outlining the economy grew by 4.1 per cent in the first quarter of the year, much of the economic growth will be riding on the back of tourism and construction.

CBB Governor Dr Kevin Greenidge reminded citizens that even though the cost of living continues to be a concern, at the macro level, the country was doing very well with 12 consecutive quarters of growth by the end of March.

Economic growth is an important goal, for it is the anchor on which the country can thrive and take care of the needs of its citizens, which are many and increasing.

The CBB Governor was asked to respond to views that the macro-economic developments were not reaching people on the ground, who still feel they are benefiting from mere crumbs while the “big boys” get the majority of the national pie. In his defence, Governor Greenidge insisted the economy was expanding but it would take time.

“As corporations start to expand, invest and hire more persons, those persons start to do their own thing, spend money and expand and that’s how you get it going,” he explained.

Dr Greenidge added: “It’s not like one minute you have economic growth and the next minute it’s inclusive, but in my view, we are getting there. Of course, what you find is that because prices remain relatively high, inflation, even though I said it’s slowed to [4.8 per cent], that’s still an increase, and . . . there are some areas like food because of the impact of the weather conditions, persons will feel that in prices.

“So, there is this feeling that things are a little hard but when you take it in a broad picture, unemployment at 7.9 per cent means [economic growth] is spreading.”

Even as we collectively celebrate continued expansion of the Barbados economy, the influx of foreign direct investment, there is need for caution where that need for foreign investment has the potential to foment conflict with the local population.

In this connection, we speak to the number of construction and tourism-based projects occurring on the south and eastern coast of Barbados.

Many Barbadians, while welcoming the turnaround of the country’s economic fortunes, are at the same time expressing some consternation about the price they are paying for those investments.

In the news was the concern of St Philip residents about a new luxury villa development. Not a single villa has been constructed as yet, but developers have already carved out private roads to which access is granted only to property owners.

What is causing discomfort to residents are the plans outlined on the billboard indicating what appears to be a treacherous path to access the historic Culpepper Island.

This is being denied by the businessman behind the project, but residents seem not convinced by the words but are moved by the physical development plans before their eyes.

Another source of conflict between foreign investors and the local community is brewing at Bathsheba in St Joseph where a wealthy American has demolished part of the landscape to build his new house.

Not far away from this spot, St Joseph residents are still waging a very public war with an Australian outfit that wants to deny access to the Joe’s River area. Residents insist they have rights to access and use the area that go back hundreds of years.

They also insist that part of the area, including the bridge, represents public property on which the old railways travelled including over Joe’s River Bridge.

What many rural residents of the south and east coasts are asking for is greater government regulation of these spaces. They are aware of what has happened on the West Coast, where 95 per cent of the coastline is blocked from public view with extremely restricted points of access to the sea and beaches.

With the physical development plan outlining three national park villages on the south-eastern side of the island where limited physical development is permitted, government has to ensure that in its rush to encourage foreign direct investment that it does not create an acrimonious relationship between developers and residents.

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