How many times have you heard it? You’re listening to your favorite politician tell you how he plans to create a better world…..

“I’ve got a great idea….I’m going to…”

A year or two later, you remember the “good idea” and check it’s progress, only to find that it had not worked as expected. Was it a matter of resources? Was the timing wrong? Or was the idea a good idea in the first place?

One current example is the “idea” of making Bain and Grant’s Town a Free Trade Zone. The apparent rationale is that it would “revitalize” the area. It would not.

Are the people of Grant’s Town poorer than the people of Pinewood Gardens, Nassau Village or Yellow Elder Gardens? No. Their plight is similar, except for one thing: the former area has had a longer time to decay, and the rot is more evident in that area. Money might create a less derelict environment for a while, but it will not address the real reason for the decay.

Those of us who grew up in either Bain Town or Grant’s Town lament the decay, because we remember the proud people who, with very little money, fought the decay daily. They kept their yards clean (even under the floor) and their houses repaired (most of the time by themselves). It was important to them that everyone knew they were decent people. There are still many of those people in the area, and they still insist on being known as “decent people”. For them, duty free materials might be a nice bonus, but it would never be the reason they repair, expand or refurbish their property. Their reason would still be that they are “decent people”.

The idea would also not encourage significant business. The two existing duty free zones have both been struggling economically for decades. Freeport is nowhere near the business environment that Marsh Harbour is. Nor is Bay Street. The fact is that while there are certainly benefits to creating free trade zones, it is the mindset of the people of the zone that creates the environments, both personal and business. And the mindset of the people of Bain and Grant’s Town, the mindset created by the promises of politicians of paternalistic policies, the mindset the “idea” of the free trade zone is designed to exploit, is one of dependency. Most of the present residents honestly believe that to change or improve their condition they need Government help, despite the good work of activists in the area to demonstrate otherwise.

Bain and Grant’s Town is a major part of the City of Nassau, not its backyard. When both the political establishment and the people of the area recognize that fact, then the planning agenda of the City will include them, and real change might become possible.

The problem is this: the “good idea “must first of all be a way to solve a problem that has been identified for which a solution has been conceptualized. When you know you need to cut the grass and that a lawnmower is a solution, the “idea” of borrowing a lawnmower makes sense. But before you decide that the height of the grass is a problem, the lawnmower is irrelevant. First the problem must be identified, then a solution conceptualized, then “ideas” about how to make the solution possible. That is the sustainable sequence.

“I have an idea. Let’s make Bain and Grant’s Town a Free Trade Zone”.

Totally irrelevant idea.

August 6, 2016