Richard Lightbourne thought he saw a problem and proposed a logical fix for it. If the statistics show that people struggle economically when they have lots of children, then those having economic problems should have fewer children. The perks would be that the country’s social service network would be relieved.

But that’s not how it works.

Fortunately, few of us are the result of an economic plan, nor were our parents pessimistic enough to predict their own hard times and avoid the extra expense. And no one had the right to tell Grammy to tie her tubes.

Recently, the PM unveiled a scheme that he says would form the basis for a new Master Plan for the City of Nassau. Like Mr. Lightbourne, the study, no doubt expertly conducted by a Viennese Technical College and the College of the Bahamas, presents a logical guide for the physical development of Bain and Grants Town, based upon what appears to be an external value system. Whether it is logical or not is irrelevant. Planning is first of all about intent. It is about the intended development of the potential of the community being planned. And the key to its success is self-determination.

Communities are defined by shared values, not political constituencies or convenience. Bain Town is different from Grants Town. No amount of legalese will change that. But it can compromise both of their developments.

Having not seen the plan presented, I admit my comments may be out of order. The fact that activists in the area I spoke to had not been interviewed suggests that the plan may be premature. Mr. Lightbourne’s intention was good (I believe), but his solution would have imposed his privileged values on Bahamian women. Government and the IDB may also have good intention, but they have similarly placed the cart before the horse (the solution before the question) and are preparing to impose external value conclusions on those communities.

The community reacted both immediately and passionately to Mr. Lightbourne’s comments, but not at all to the news of a master plan for their city. Unfortunately, the effect of a master plan on the social development of the communities included is crucial to the behavior we see on the streets. You see, an environment that does not express the value of those inhabiting it produces people who show no value for themselves, and therefore for others. If crime is an issue, self-worth is the number one weapon. And the master plan‘s intent is the first volley in the battle.

 

 

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