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Tewarie: Collaboration with residents vital for development in east PoS
Planning and Sustainable Development minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie says the level of poverty in T&T cannot be allowed to escalate and government plans to stem that scourge, starting with a pilot project in Port-of-Spain. Through a partnership between the ministry, the Port-of-Spain City Corporation and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative (ESCI) is being implemented at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion.
The IDB has pledged US$98 million to the project and will work with government to raise additional funds.
“I want to ask the donor community, the international community here in T&T, to support elements of this project. We are not asking you to look at the whole project and say that you are going to give a percentage of what the whole is. We are asking you to look at the project, see what you like, see what you would like to help with and make your commitment really meaningful,” Tewarie told the Sunday Guardian.
The East Port-of-Spain Development Company (EPSDC) is a major stakeholder in the project, but Tewarie said the agency has an annual budget of just $30 million for its projects. Tewarie said while touring parts of the city with EPSDC officials recently, he was alarmed to discover that families without pipe-borne water to their homes and still using latrines.
“I have seen rural poverty and I have seen urban poverty. And I have seen poverty in different parts of the world, but seeing it like this in my own country and experiencing like this was amazing,” he said.
“It really showed me the kind of work to be done in this country, because you can have your macro plan and you can have your land use policy and you can have your physical development plan and every ministry can have a plan for what they are doing whether it is in health of social services, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of how people live from day to day, how they organize their lives, that’s another business.”
He added: “I feel that we need to begin to connect the strategy for development that is overarching and macro in nature and (it) needs to be focused with the strategies not only for decentralisation and community development. We need to begin to understand and appreciate what it means to live in communities that are truly horrible in terms of the quality of life and the quality of existence.”
Tewarie said a long time ago he came to the understanding that everything depended on one’s state of mind, because poverty, underdevelopment and achievement are all based on the power of the mind.
“That really is the challenge that we face in T&T. Through the Sustainable Cities partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, this commitment is real in terms of the Government of T&T from the point of view of the IDB. Apart from the US$98 million, the project is going take a lot more money to realise its true objective.
“You don’t take a city which you cannot walk comfortably in, as Port-of-Spain is today, (and) in one shot and make it into the ideal city in the world. You can’t take a city like that which has people moving out of it and make it into a city that embraces people and can be embraced by people.
“You cannot take a city in which overcrowding of cars is more significant than overcrowding of people and turn it into a sustainable city with low carbon emissions and in which people can breathe the natural air of the Caribbean and feel this city is a special city,” said Tewarie.
“And you can’t develop this city of Port-of-Spain in which we live with things like the garbage and the drainage without dealing with things like the quality of the air and you cannot deal with these issues in the city unless you deal with the quality of life issue and the challenge of the communities that surround the city which have the potential to give life, and culture and vitality, creativity to the city. “
According to the minister, the State must collaborate with the people of east Port-of-Spain to make good things happen. He underscored the critical role the state agency had to play in this process and emphasised that the EPSDC needed to develop better human relations to achieve its objective.
“You cannot do a project in east Port-of-Spain efficiently and effectively unless you have consent from the people who live in that community, including people who may be regarded as criminal elements in the society,” he said. In an effort to avoid conflicts with residents, the minister recommended that the board win the consent and support of residents for identification of the project, then the manner of delivery.
“So there are two ways of doing projects in east Port-of-Spain—you can bring a contractor from outside and you can employ people from outside, with some people from the community, but then you are going to have to bring security and the cost of the security is going to be a significant percentage of the cost of project. “Or, you can do it another way,” he said.
“You get the community to agree on the project. You get everyone, including those who you might consider (being) not really on the right track, to agree that the project will continue and you hire the contractors.
From there, you hire the labour from there and by the time the project is finished they say to you not only are we pleased that we contributed to this, but we are proud. This is the model that we need to understand—the new democracy of the 21st century. This is true for urban as well as rural.”
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