From a city which has seen glory days to what many now describe as a dump, few could disagree with the government-led initiative to revitalise Port-of-Spain.
Not many citizens would disagree with the harsh descriptive used by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday when he described Queen Street in Port-of-Spain as “the official toilet of Port-of-Spain.” Imagine how the description would make T&T’s first Miss Universe, Janelle Penny Commissiong, feel given the street now carries her name.
It is atrocious and astounding the state of deterioration which appears to have overtaken the capital, to the point where it is now a hazard to walk on the streets, not just because you may get mugged or slip into a pothole but because of the monumental problem emerging with the homeless.
It is to the Prime Minister’s credit that he has recognised how deplorable the city has become. For the record Prime Minister, many people have been asking about the days when City Corporation workers were out early washing the streets. We are not certain why this stopped but surely the city still needs washing daily.
There was a time when the homeless hid by day and came out at dusk. Now, they have literally taken over the city and walking the streets has become a perilous activity.
We are pleased that one of the priorities of the plan is the removal of the homeless from the streets. We hope this can be achieved sooner rather than later, considering previous attempts have resulted in legal action.
The revitalisation presents some exciting opportunities, not least of which is a chance to repair pavements to make them more user-friendly for everyone, including the disabled.
However, the PM’s announcement is the 17th incarnation of a revival plan and we hope this time there is a sense of seriousness and urgency to get things done to make the city inviting once more.
Questions about the plan’s timing should have been expected, coming as it did on the heels of financial cutbacks and changes to GATE and the scholarship programme. Where will the money for such a large venture come from?
Pride in a city where many from across the globe do business should be enough encouragement for the private sector to do their part. There is hope, as the PM said there is significant interest from local and international private sector investors. Currently, cruise ships are not calling at the Port of Port-of-Spain because of COVID-19 but once sailings resume tourists will again be visiting and walking the city’s streets. They bring financial and other benefits to the business community.
Short-term goals of the master plan include cleaning the city, increasing police presence, removing the homeless from the streets and improved lighting. One also hopes there is realistic plan for the site of the Salvatori building, which was torn down 14 years ago.
The PM has outlined many commendable goals which we hope will be achieved in the shortest time with the urgency required.