Front Porch | Modernization and transformation of New Providence
Hubert Ingraham was a newly minted prime minister in a hurry after the Free National Movement (FNM) was first elected to office in 1992.
After years of maladministration by the PLP, the country was in the doldrums, our tourism plant in a bleak state of disrepair. Some Family Islands were still treated like vassal territories, some with creaking and decrepit infrastructure of the 1950s.
During three terms in office, the Ingraham-led FNM resuscitated then transformed the modern Bahamas. Tourism was revived. Ingraham advanced a progressive and far-reaching social agenda.
He led an ambitious program of reform and modernization. Family Island infrastructure was dramatically transformed, with some settlements finally brought into the 20th and then the 21st centuries.
During the party’s third term in office from 2007 to 2012 the FNM dramatically transformed New Providence into a modern urban center.
In its fourth term in office in an independent Bahamas, the FNM under the leadership of Hubert Minnis is aggressively advancing this program of innovation and transformation.
The Ingraham agenda included the dredging of Nassau Harbour to accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world, which have brought in millions of cruise passengers critical to the economic well-being of the country and scores of small businesses, taxi and tour drivers, hair braiders and others.
The FNM opened the new Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA), one of the best international airports in the region. The new Critical Care Block at the Princess Margaret Hospital is among the finest such healthcare facilities in the region.
The FNM transformed New Providence’s road network and dramatically improved the infrastructure for water and sewerage.
The Airport Gateway Project, the financing of which the PLP bitterly complained, was a critical upgrade for the tourism product and plant for New Providence.
Today, the gateway to our major tourism centers on New Providence and Paradise Island is landscaped and seamless, the envy of many jurisdictions in the region and around the world.
If more Bahamians travelled the Caribbean and Latin America, they would be stunned to realize how attractive this gateway is compared to the roadways leading into other tourism destinations including in Central and South America.
Every day, thousands of Bahamians travel this well-paved gateway to work or to LPIA.
In a Caribbean News Now commentary this past April, Drexel Seymour of the Turks and Caicos Islands congratulated The Bahamas on the modern infrastructure of New Providence.
Seymour wrote: “Over the past week and a half, I spent much time in The Bahamas and I must say The Bahamas has many things right when it comes to their number one industry. By the way, I am not disrespecting my birthplace, I think there is room for improvement and we can learn from others.
“From the moment you arrive at Immigration and Customs, you truly feel welcome to The Bahamas. I made two separate trips over the last two weeks; they politely welcomed me to The Bahamas.
“As you travel from Nassau airport, the place is well landscaped and clean. This is a great first impression for any visitor coming from the airport to the hotel.”
Seymour concluded: “…I know TCI receive (sic) awards for the best beach and best island but as an outsider visiting The Bahamas, I am not afraid to say this, but the Bahamians got it right when it comes to promoting tourism. Yes, there are other issues in The Bahamas but the experience I encountered far outweighs any other issues. Keep it up Bahamas. There are so many lessons that we can learn from you.”
The many Bahamians who moaned and complained about the ambitious roadworks never appreciated or still fail to realize what it took to modernize and revitalize an outdated network that became degraded over many decades.
Many Bahamians want new roads without any inconvenience, like those who complained when the Minnis administration launched the redevelopment of West Bay Street between Blake Road and Old Fort, which is now a delight to drive on.
Still, after roadworks are completed there is often little gratitude. It is an entitled attitude with which politicians and policymakers must always contend. But what is often surprising, is the empty and non-constructive criticism by some journalists and commentators.
Curiously, some reporters seemingly expected Ragged Island to be magically re-developed overnight following the devastation by Hurricane Irma. Some expressed great aggravation that the work to restore Ragged Island did not happen sooner.
Now that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has announced a number of critical public infrastructure projects for Ragged Island, the complaint from some journalists and commentators is that the government may be spending too much money for too few people!
The period 2007 to 2012 was perhaps the most consequential five years in the urban development of New Providence. Absent that term, the residents of the island and the tourists who visit would not enjoy such first-world infrastructural amenities.
In a statement in the House of Assembly on March 5, 2012, Ingraham outlined the FNM’s vision on infrastructure. He stressed: “Major infrastructure investments such as the New Providence Infrastructure Project provide undeniable and concrete benefits to society and our economy. Such benefits cumulate over time as persons and businesses adapt to and capitalize on the new facilities.”
Ingraham also spoke about the New Providence roadworks. He noted: “Eighteen years ago in 1994 my government engaged MM Dillon Consultants, a Canadian firm, to prepare a transportation development plan for New Providence. This plan formed the basis of the IDB-funded NPIIP (‘the project’).”
“The project was conceived in response to an imperative to transform our aged and outdated public infrastructure, i.e., water mains and laterals, electric and communication conduits, poor drainage and congested road network in New Providence, an island whose population has more than doubled in the last four decades.”
Ingraham continued: “The objective of the program was to reduce transport costs and traffic congestion for road users by providing a more rational and efficient transport system for New Providence Island.
“The objective will be met by improving and expanding the existing road network, through improved traffic flows, increased public transportation, reduced vehicular nuisances, modernizing and strengthening the institutional framework responsible for the provision of transportation services, improving road safety and alleviating the negative environmental impacts associated with the existing traffic congestion levels.”
The work to transform and modernize an urban center takes decades and requires unrelenting effort and discipline.
A fourth FNM government led by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has eagerly picked up the mantle of reform and modernization.
It was a mantle the PLP-led Perry Christie dropped from 2002 to 2007, especially with roadworks. Because that administration did not continue the roadworks, they became more expensive after Ingraham and the FNM returned to office.
In his third National Report, Minnis began to lay out his government’s vision for infrastructural development and for the ongoing modernization of New Providence.
He noted: “Infrastructure is not about steel and concrete and other material. Infrastructure is about improving the quality of life for all citizens and providing business opportunities for Bahamian entrepreneurs.”
Next week: More on the modernization and transformation of New Providence.