Q: I graduated from college with a degree in entrepreneurship from a Nigerian institution. Thanks to my course of study, I have...
As the city of Port-of-Spain prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary with a month of activities in June, the authorities are grappling with issues such as crime, vagrancy, lack of residents, abandoned lots and illegal vending. These issues are now challenging the city’s development.
In a one-on-one interview with the Sunday Guardian, recently-installed mayor Raymond Tim Kee said there was a certain level of “unattractiveness” in the city and while former mayor Louis Lee Sing still sees beauty in the city, he feels it remains largely unkempt.
While both men may appear to be polar opposites—one taking a no-nonsense approach, voicing it as he sees it; the other measuring his words and actions—the issues raised with respect to what is needed to make “PoS smile again” were the same. Curbing crime, returning residents to the city and creating a mall-like atmosphere within the capital could all help return the city to its former glory, both men said. Both Tim Kee and Lee Sing agreed that one of the major challenges facing the city is the lack of residents.
“As you will probably realise, Port-of-Spain, which was very much populated with residents, is not very much like that anymore and the reasons are obvious. One of the things that would deter people from wanting to stay in Port-of-Spain is the fact that we are in a situation where there is a kind of behaviour that is really unacceptable,” he said, explaining that many people may fear about their children growing up in the city these days.
“While it may look like it is an avalanche of people moving out of the city, that did not start now,” he said. Tim Kee said everyone now has exposure to higher education and the more educated the person is, the more the individual is able to analyse and have options. He said the people of today and even yesterday prefer to go out of Port-of-Spain. Crime, Tim Kee said, was a major impediment to people moving into the city.
He said one needed to look at the public–private partnerships for an injection of funds into the city and the central government should look at incentives so that “business people are encouraged to invest in the capital city.” He said to revitalise the city one had to look at the re-establishment of “big establishments/big stores” within the capital city.
“In the old days you had some huge stores. Now you have several small ones and the city does not look like what a real city looks like. All the big department stores and so on are things we have to encourage back into Port-of-Spain,” he said.
But what is needed to bring people back to Port-of-Spain? Lee Sing suggested the construction of 30-storey buildings, part of which would house apartments for people. He also suggested the overall “sprucing up” of the city. He suggested, as well, placing kiosks along Frederick Street and having outdoor restaurants. The big establishments, Tim Kee said, required pedestrian traffic, which would generate returns on the investments made in the large establishments.
On the issue of vagrancy in Port-of-Spain, Tim Kee said he was working with recently-returned businessman Anthony Salloum to address the problem and would be looking at acquiring land and constructing a space in which to house the displaced. He described current accommodations as “inhumane.”