Govt has no responsibility to house shantytown residents
The deadline for shantytown residents to leave these illegal communities in New Providence is July 31. The government has led a clear, humane policy. It gave a warning months ahead of the deadline. It spoke publicly of the deadline. It consulted with the Haitian community. It has never demeaned Haitians.
Shantytowns are primarily made up of people of Haitian descent – some documented, some undocumented. Bahamians and other nationals live in these areas too.
After the deadline the government has pledged to clear the shantytowns. Bahamians have wanted this policy for a long, long time. It is overwhelmingly supported.
Shantytowns violate many laws. They are dangers to public health. Poor sanitation practices create circumstances in which diseases flourish. Illegal electricity hook-ups cause fires.
It was strange on Tuesday for the leader of the opposition to question the government, specifically wondering where shantytown dwellers would live when their shanties are removed.
“We continually remind… the Bahamian public that these people were elected without a plan or vision and it is being manifested daily,” Philip Brave Davis said.
“You plan to rid yourself of shantytowns, what would be the consequences of that? You’re displacing people. I think the word used is regentrification.
“Now, don’t you think if you’re going to rid yourself of shantytowns that there would be an alternative plan in place for people who may be displaced by that? What are those plans?”
The government’s responsibility here is it to uphold the law and maintain public health standards. The communities are illegal, unsafe and unsanitary. Shantytown residents who are legally in The Bahamas need to find legal accommodations for themselves and their families. That’s their personal responsibility. Those illegally in The Bahamas should return home.
The government cannot house every Bahamian – nor should it. This is not a socialist state. Adults are expected to work and provide for themselves and their families. The state has social assistance programs but these are meant to be temporary in order to help those during the worst of times.
The government does not need a plan for shantytown residents. It needs to clear all shantytowns and ensure they are never rebuilt.
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, who heads the government’s Shantytown Action Task Force (SATF), said recently he was advised that only 50 percent of the reported 1,410 shantytown residents remain in those communities. The people who know they are breaking the law have heard the government’s hard-line policy. They are finding places to live in on their own.
The leader of the opposition need not worry about them or what the government is doing. The people’s policy is being advanced and shantytown residents are adapting.
Both parties should adopt the same no-shantytown policy. Slackness is what got us here. Being permissive is what encourages migrants to come to The Bahamas illegally. If the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) were in government leading this initiative we would support it doing what is necessary.
There is no sensible argument to allow shantytowns. We need our politicians to be united on this issue. The Bahamian people are.