PRIME Minister Perry Christie yesterday defended the past record and relevance of the award-winning and “intelligence-driven” Urban Renewal programme yesterday.
Underscoring the prevalence of Bahamians still living in substandard conditions, Mr Christie said that the focus should be placed on alleviating social ills rather than trying to assign culpability.
“We can debate the question of why didn’t you fix this Christie or why didn’t you fix it Ingraham, and we can get lost in that debate, but the fact of the matter is it needs to be fixed now,” he said.
“The government of The Bahamas does not, by the policies it has implemented, know what’s happening in the communities, the strategies, the policies, do not embrace knowledge of what is happening. Therefore if you do not have public policy informed properly and accurately, it’s not relevant to what’s happening.
He added: “Urban Renewal enables the people in charge of a district to go to every home in that district and make an assessment of every home in the district, if they do that and they inform the relevant ministries, then the point I made about uninformed policies will be no more.”
Former deputy Prime Minister Cynthia “Mother” Pratt and former FNM cabinet minister Algernon Allen were appointed as chairpersons during a special ceremony yesterday.
The success of the programme was vital to the country’s tourism industry, according to Mrs Pratt, who among others recounted the formative stages and early successes of the programme.
“The police was not brought in mainly to arrest people,” she said.
“They came and they wore many caps because many of our young people are delinquent, no guidance, no direction. They need somebody to take them and sit them down and talk to them and the police did exactly that.
“They were guardians, they were fathers, they were friends, and so they were able to get these same notorious young men to turn and to change.” she added.
Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin confirmed that social workers will be stationed in each district.
With the commission appointed, Mr Christie added that he hoped Rhodes scholar Desiree Cox, the programme’s former head of research, will return and participate in its further development.
“Urban Renewal,” said Mr Christie, “is a living programme, not a textbook programme. It is grounded in the community and the experiences of the community and that is the reason why I asked police officers to head it initially. The experience you have from the streets alone is an education you cannot get in the classroom.”
“Being a part of Urban Renewal,” said Mrs Pratt, “is like the veins running through the body, if Urban Renewal fails this country is in trouble. This country is dependent on tourism, if people do not come here because of the crime then we’re in trouble, we must succeed, we cannot afford to say ‘if’, we must.”