The following note was received from the civic minded Peter Lawrence Thompson with the link to a 122 page Barbados Development Plan pitched to potential investors to transform and modernize Barbados while maintaining those things that make it special. Given the robust discussion about Hyatt Hotel, Blue Horizon and other development initiatives across, the document serves as a good resource.
Many have asked to see the official development plan that provides the context for the proposed Hyatt branded development on Bay Street. The linked document is from Barbados Tourism Investment Inc., not from the planning office, but it clearly has the PM’s endorsement so I believe we can treat it as an official plan for Bridgetown development.
Barbados Development Plan
The intellectual argument that Barbados is in deep economic (and social) crisis has now been conceded by the deniers – those who talk nonsense about the nation punching above its weight and exaggerating the soft influence we have in the region and, the world. Of course, it is all self-praise, the unfortunate outcome of economic ignorance and wishful-thinking.
I have said before, and will repeat again, that: first, the narrative that we have had a period of prosperity in the first decade of the 21st century was a myth built on over-borrowing on both a household and government level, ignoring our inefficient productivity to such an extent that we even believed that life owed us a living.
The second point that needs stressing is one that is in danger of seeping in to the gilded story of our economic prosperity: again, let us concentrate it to the post-independence years, and that truth is that the official myth-making of our economic growth, generally given as three per cent annualised, is, to be polite, crap. Had Barbados had a three per cent growth rate over the last decade, compounded, our post-global recession story would have been totally different. As things stand, we are up to our necks in debt, tourism, the main driver of the economy, is in intensive care and the priest is standing by to perform the last rites, while, in the meantime, relatives are fighting over how to divide up the spoils even before the last breath leaves the body.
Submitted by Looking Glass
Election promises in a commercial/services economy lead one to wonder about the island’s development. Among other things the BLP promised to reduce the cost of living, cheaper electricity, fuel, tax relief and put money in the people pocket. Government does not own and cannot control the private sector. Are you going to take over the electric company or set up another one to make electricity cheaper? The country is terribly short of job generating industry, in tremendous debt and importing everything. Do tell the people exactly how you will reduce the cost of living and put money which you cannot print in the people pockets. You are the first political party anywhere to openly make such promises.
Development means to “expand or realize the potentials; to bring to a fuller or better state” and is both quantitative and qualitative. Growth means to increase naturally in size and is quantitative. Growth in crime, debt, foreign population and the loss or take over of profitable assets does not constitute development but amounts to progressive retrogression.
National Development incorporates the entire system. In part it involves certain socio-psychological intangibles and a culture that recognizes the limits to growth. Externally determined and financed “development” is contingent upon problematic and subjective circumstances over which we have no control. Tourism is a case in point. Where the marginal cost to government is very high the loss of real and human capital obtains. National Development is unlikely to occur even if the debt burden is substantially alleviated which is unlikely.
Submitted by Looking Glass
Are we sinking under the burden of debt?
The limited possibility of substantial National Debt reduction (the total remains a secret) can be gleaned from the following: There is a direct correlation between public and private debt in a society whose mental set permits profuse consumption, “unencumbered” government spending and borrowing; moreso when the total Black Net Worth today borders on ancient history. Our total net worth is insufficient to finance government spending, new investment and job creation. Inevitably the national debt increases, and so too the sale of public and private assets.
Countries, like companies, have to compete in order to produce the most value at the least cost possible. Where the marginal cost of government is “non-competitive” loss of real and human capital obtains. The latter includes the brain drain and atrophy of the mind. Positive national development is unlikely to occur even if the debt burden is substantially alleviated. With domestic food production in decline and wages and prices out of sync, selling profitable assets and privatisation rather than generating new assets and wealth is unlikely to be positively dynamic.
Even though the DLP was as surprised as many when it won the general election and the BLP had spent fourteen years during the greatest spurt in global economic growth in history, the reality is that after nearly five years the government cannot continue to blame the BLP. With a bit of imagination, innovation and a clear vision, the DLP government could have hit the ground running, not by introducing an absolutist austerity policy, which would have been disastrous and lead to social strife, but by a programme of sensible spending and fiscal discipline. Instead, it chose to give Bds$10m to the Barbados Turf Club, a clear abuse of taxpayers’ money, it gave and underwrote $180m for Four Seasons, another abuse, both in policy terms and of the national insurance scheme; it spent $50m ‘perfecting’ the Warren Roundabout, an classic example of the failure of planning.
Here we have a new administrative town without any proper provision for public transport, with more square metres of land allocated to car parking than even office space, emphasising the weakness of our town planning system and of the need for a comprehensive traffic management and land use policy.
Medium Term ( First parliamentary term):
Part of any dynamic strategic development plan should be based around carefully locating industrial policy at the heart of that plan. But, as has been mentioned before, this generation of policymakers and politicians do not have a natural impulse for industry. They prefer to base development strategy on tourism, because it provides the ready cash, and on the provision of services such as law, medicine, offshore health and education, and accountancy, because they fit in with their professional training. In other words, these are areas in which they feel professionally and politically comfortable. But one example shows the weakness of such thinking. There is a small company in Britain, called LondonBioPackaging, a small environmentally friendly packaging firm, as its name implies. Part of the products it provides are food containers made from bagasse. In the mid-1960s one of Barrow’s promises was to develop a chip-board company made from bagasse, which he said the Cubans would train young people in developing. Today there is no such industry.
Barbados was also the home of the early stages of what became the Iraqi super gun, trialled at the Barbados Foundry; we have now lost those skills. In the mid 1960s, Texas Instruments came to Barbados with its compute chip manufacturing plant, but as soon as the tax free period was out it moved to Malaysia. So, our failure to gain any knowledge transfer from these industries is not a recent phenomenon, it goes back to the 1950s.
But spin-offs from bagasse is not our only significant industrial failure. Barbados has a premium grade rum, or so we are told, yet it remains a family-run family cottage industry, or one which uses the Barbados brand but is owned by some French company or mainly identified with Bicardi. There is no training programme for would-be distillers, no trade association, no collective advertising. We drift along hoping that people would like and buy our brands giving us further reason to talk about being world-class.
Related Link: Notes From a Native Son: Why a Massive Development Plan could Have Made a Major Difference to Development in Barbados (Pt 1)
In almost every western country, agriculture’s share of gross domestic product has gradually decreased over time.Sometimes, even without any economic knowledge, this phenomenon is remarked upon by observers, such as the turning of many recent sugar cane plantations in to upmarket housing estates. Yet, despite this social and economic reality, which has been going on since the abolition of slavery, policymakers have failed to develop a comprehensive planning and land use policy. Instead, planning has been reduced to a micro-level administrative procedure, in which civil servants have taken the lead. Almost without exception, the town and country planning department has formed part of successive prime minister’s portfolio under successive governments, BLP and DLP. So the buck stops at the very top.
Given this, there is no excuse for the absence of a comprehensive planning and land use policy in operation. It is a failure that can only be put down to oversight, carelessness or a failure of ideas. But planning is a political, not administrative, process and the decision must be made by elected parliamentarians, who must be held accountable by electors for any failings. Civil servants may think and behave as if they are in charge, but as their positions suggest, they are ‘servants’ of the people, not their masters. And before we put in place a workable planning system, this procedural aberration must be resolved.