Diamond Area Development – What about the Human Aspect?
February 4, 2020

Diamond Area Development – What about the Human Aspect?

There are some among us, both at home and in the diaspora who persist in perpetuating the fallacy that little development has taken place in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is difficult to comprehend in the face of clear evidence of the many projects which have been contributing to the transformation of our country and the life of its people.

One may criticize with justification, the implementation of those projects, some may disagree with the type of projects, the pace, nature of funding or even question their social and economic impact, but there is no point in trying to deny reality.

Over the last fortnight there has been a flurry of activities on the part of the government in furtherance of its economic development thrust. In particular, activities to launch major projects in tourism and sports have been staged in the East St George/South Windward area. In East St George the highlight was the launch of the massive Royal Mill hotel complex while, equally headline-gripping, was the groundbreaking ceremony at Diamond for the long-promised National Sports Stadium (see Searchlight of January 28, 2020, pg 8).

Prime Minister Gonsalves, the astute political operator that he is, wasted no time in extolling the efforts of his government in implementing major projects in the area. He, and Sports Minister McKie outlined the nature of the stadium project which would encompass more than an international athletic track, but would accommodate other sports as well, including football.

In addition to the stadium, he listed a number of projects, completed and under way, which he said would transform the entire Diamond area. He mentioned the planned construction of an airport hotel, to be operated by the Holiday Inn chain, the Hospitality Training Institute and Centre of Excellence, all in the vicinity.

There is no doubt that the successful completion of these projects and proper utilization would indeed contribute to the transformation of the area and bring benefit to the people of that community, but it is important that a number of issues be carefully considered.

Diamond is an informal settler community, rescued by its inhabitants from the ruins of a failed housing project by a previous government. Indeed it is amazing how our citizens have been able to transform failed housing projects; Campden Park and Glen are outstanding examples and turned them into viable communities.

Diamond has also earned some notoriety for the activities of a minority criminal element. In making the transformation a reality, particular attention must be paid to security in the area, to make it safe, first and foremost for the residents, as well as for the sportspersons, hotels and schools in the area. This is a vital aspect of the transformational process.

Then there is attention to the physical infrastructure, for residents have already been complaining about roads and drainage in the area. But above all, there is the essential matter of social transformation. Economic projects by themselves cannot accomplish this.

For instance, how many residents of the area take advantage of the educational opportunities provided by the institutions in the area? Also, and crucially, to what extent are the residents encouraged to organize at a community level, are they involved in discussions about the social and economic transformation? Is there a buy-in, a partnership between state and community, or do they regard the measures announced as external impositions with no sense of ownership?

These are all issues critical to the success of these projects and the well-being of the community. We would urge that serious attention be paid to them.