Editorial
November 22, 2022
Reorganizing commercial activity in Kingstown – an undertaking not for the faint hearted

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves seems to be fond of the word “Revolution”.
It is a term which evokes mixed reactions depending on such factors as age, religious persuasions and political outlook. To many, especially the older folk, but also the more conservative and religious among us, the mere mention of the word ‘revolution’ evokes images of violence and chaos.

Fortunately the use of the “R” word by the Prime Minister does not correspond to any of these negative concepts. Rather, and the evidence supports this, the prime ministerial interpretation seems to be based on fundamental change and reorganization, modernization to meet the times. He uses the term therefore to underline the sweeping changes in the approach to housing (the “Housing Revolution”) and more especially, education, the “Education Revolution” term having been well established.

In this vein, the ebullient Prime Minister has gone one step further, last week announcing a “Kingstown Revolution”, to describe his government’s plans for the reorganization of the capital city. The language and content may be different, but the concept is not new. The deceased Prime Minister Mitchell, never one to use the dreaded “R” word in any positive sense preferred to describe his approach as one aimed at “changing the face of Kingstown”.

Apart from the different descriptions and scope of operations, only those with very backward or anarchist views would be comfortable with the state of our capital city. Even most of the vendors themselves, on whom a lot of the blame is pinned, agree that Kingstown cannot continue as it is.

So over the years we have witnessed a number of stalled and inconsistent efforts to “clean up the city”. We are perhaps in a worse state now than ever before.
Chaos, disorder, filth, lack of recreational and even healthy breathing space, congestion and all sorts of negativity are the order of the day.

Every well-intentioned clean-up operation has in time ground to a halt. Indeed if we are not careful business expansion in Kingstown may well itself grind to a halt. Progressive businesses have in fact already been embarking on expansion outside the congested capital city.

The new plans envisage a total reorganisation of commercial life in Kingstown, starting with vending, but by no means restricted to it. In addition to the relocation of some 800 street vendors, there is the troublesome task of rebuilding the Little Tokyo bus terminal, a far cry from its original concept, reorganizing the entire central market area, and tackling both the congestion and unhealthy surroundings.

Broadening the scope of the ambitious enterprise is the fact that the run-down Parliament, Court and some school buildings cry out for urgent attention. In addition there is the ambitious $650 million mega port project. These are not undertakings for the faint-hearted. Neither are they for the partisan-inclined. They require a buy-in from the entire population which demands space for popular input. No matter how well-intentioned, there is need for meaningful input and participation by those who live, do business in or in one way or the other utilize the limited services of the city.

It must be remembered that the Kingstown Town Board itself has no popular mandate, it is not a democratic organization chosen by the residents of the city. Then there is the partisan challenge, the three Kingstown constituencies being held by the Opposition for a long time now.

While we applaud the vision and determination of the Prime Minister, we must all recognize that it cannot just be a project of the Unity Labour Party. The Kingstown situation affects us all and therefore mechanisms must be found for meaningful participation of all on a non-partisan basis. It can only succeed if we do it together.