In its thrust to broaden its international reach and reputation, the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at The University of the West Indies (The UWI) recently...
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Chaguaramas, the platform for diversification
All groups and individual citizens must be given a fair opportunity to participate equitably in the economic and social use of Chaguaramas. To this end, a special commission must be given to the Economic Advisory Board to produce in short order an overarching plan for the utilisation of the lands on the Western Peninsula.
The plan must include a variety of projects to fit Chaguaramas’ potential. The projects must accommodate large investors, inclusive of foreign investors, small and medium-sized investors. A special focus must be placed on creating projects that could accommodate group investors such as trade and credit unions and cooperatives, Nipdec, even community groups which can join their collective resources to develop projects.
The plan delivered thereafter should follow a widespread but focused national discussion on the proposals; it may become necessary for the finished plan to become a document of Parliament. This process must serve two major objectives: one, to utilise the wisdom of the national community and allow for people’s participation; two, to conscientise all groups in society of the need for them to own a “piece of the pie”.
No group/individual must ever be able to say: “we never got a fair opportunity to be part of Chaguaramas.”
The focus must be on foreign exchange earners and foreign exchange savers—food production and processing to reduce the $6 billion dollar food import bill.
At the end of a stipulated period for discussion and awareness, investors will be allowed to bid for projects identified in a generic manner, eg, hotels and tourism attractions, manufacturing, agricultural and agro-industrial projects, sports, leisure, entertainment and other potentially viable projects.
Technical assistance to fashion projects for submission must be provided by the State.
The leases should be for stipulated periods depending on the project; no one or group should own in perpetuity the lands of Chaguaramas. Moreover, the leases must require the lessees to make best economic use of the lands or forfeit the leases. The fees attached to the leases will make it economic for the projects to become viable.
Free-wheeling private capital that wants to identify its own projects to invest in can be accommodated, but within a frame of the development paradigm as being the best possible utilisation of the Chaguaramas lands.
Special preference must be given to the original Chaguaramas landowners who had their lands taken from them without consent and proper compensation. Those farmers who have been on the lands for generations must be granted leases with the Government responsible for basic infrastructure.
The plan must also recognise and preserve the history of Chaguaramas with museums and monuments to those who fought against continued American occupation. Extending and applying the urging of Dr Terrence Farrell for priority to be given to infrastructure construction directly attached to economic projects will require the extension of the Audrey Jeffers highway to Chaguaramas be given priority.
The development of Chaguaramas can become the export platform to initiate production for markets inside and outside of Caricom.
Moreover, the Chaguaramas development model of fairness and equity for the operation and management of the significant economic resource can begin to redress the economic and social inequity which has developed because of our peculiar historical circumstances, and the consequences which have evolved out of that past.
We cannot continue to ignore the fact that groups of people have variously been marginalized and/or given a head start over others, and the fact that certain groups weathered better than others the storms of slavery, indentureship and the plantation and the colonial inter-regnum.
Conversely, if the lands of Chaguaramas are distributed in a manner to allow ownership and control of the Peninsula with so much potential for wealth creation into the exclusive hands of the elite, it will widen the gaps amongst the social and ethnic groups, and between those who have wealth and power and those relegated to the economic margins of the society.
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