Fear of change and development, pt.2
One only needs to recall the opposition to the entry of Sol Kerzner into the Bahamas tourism sector in the early 1990s to recognize the fear and madness in opposing development in The Bahamas.
It was foretold that all manner of catastrophe would result from the grant of investment concessions to a world-class hotel operator to facilitate the rescue of dilapidated, dog-eared hotel properties in bankruptcy. Atlantis under the Sun International label became a savior of Bahamian tourism and a stimulus for additional investment in the tourism sector, and in a host of spin-off profitable enterprises by Bahamians. Today, the former Kerzner-owned Paradise Island hotel properties, under different ownership and management, continue to provide secure, well-paying jobs for thousands of Bahamians.
The same can be said about the development at Emerald Bay in Exuma – today a five-star Sandals property; the Hilton hotel at Bimini Bay; and the upscale residential development at Baker’s Bay, Abaco. Each of these developments was heavily criticized and opposed in their planning stages. In operation, each has proven to be the source of new, secure employment for Bahamians in tourism and spin-off manufacturing sectors.
Bahamian opposition to development is not limited to the tourism sector.
Efforts by the government to improve basic infrastructure – telephone, water, roads and electricity and to introduce cable television and Internet services, and to improve and create beach parks – have all been opposed by many at every stage.
It appears that too many Bahamians in New Providence are happy to complain about the lack of entrepreneurial and employment opportunities, criticize substandard telecommunications, inadequate water supply, interminable traffic jams and unreliable electricity supply and to lament the scarcity of recreational facilities rather than supporting the necessary inconvenience of upgrading and modernization.
Today’s access to the most modern telephone, Internet and related digital services are taken for granted. And access to world-class cable television and associated services – Netflix, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – is nowadays expected.
Long forgotten are the vicious protests against liberalization and privatization of communications and against the entry of Cable Bahamas to our economy. Ignored also is the fact that Cable Bahamas, which entered our economy as a majority foreign-owned entity, is today a fully Bahamian-owned enterprise.
No water coming from government’s Water and Sewerage Corporation supply is only a vague memory now – as are the protests about the dust invading our homes and businesses as roads were dug up to replace corroded water mains that had long ago passed their useful lives.
The modern network of roads that traverse New Providence are quietly enjoyed by thousands of residents even as the memory of interminable traffic jams, which impeded our daily lives and businesses, fade along with the widespread, vociferous opposition to the extensive roadwork.
And, the claims that the development of the Goodman’s Bay Park would prove to be a menace, and the environmental disaster predicted to result from the creation of the Saunders Beach Park have all gone quiet. Both parks are now amongst the most popular recreational spaces used by the Bahamian public.
Today we have a new hysteria: The prognostications of the many pitfalls that await us should we join the other 164 countries and regional economic groups that now make up the membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Those opposed to our membership are comfortable in the company of some of the other countries that remain outside of the WTO like North Korea, Somalia and Turkmenistan.
We in The Bahamas must learn to shirk off the negative attitude to change; accept that development has been good for us and celebrate our accomplishments. Perhaps best said by one of our columnists recently, we need a “happiness boost”, one which we dare say might begin with an acceptance that much is right in our country.