Enough of Opposition politricks
I WANT YOU to envisage a Barbados without the ABC or Spring Garden Highway. I want you to imagine what traffic would be like if the only way to get from the north of the country to the south was via Highways 1 and 7.
That is, a journey along the narrow coast road leading from Speightstown through Holetown, onto Black Rock and Bank Hall; then down to the roundabout by the Globe, onto Martindale’s Road, Bay Street through to Oistins, up Thornbury Hill onto Pilgrim Road; then the airport.
Can you imagine how Barbados, whose roads are today choked with cars, would manage in these circumstances? Frightening thought, isn’t it?
This idea came to mind as I traversed the ABC Highway to and from the Wildey Gymnasium and the National Hockey Centre where my daughter played hockey each day during the mid-term school break.
As I sat in the hockey centre I could see the work being done on the Barbados Football Association’s (BFA) all-weather, full-size FIFA field. The turf will be laid there soon and after that, the BFA’s administrative building will be constructed.
I then thought of Wes Hall, Barbados’ first Minister of Tourism and Sports. He pushed the synergy between these two sectors and gave impetus to the idea of that entire Wildey area – all 27 acres – being a sports complex.
He stated that big bucks could be earned from sports tourism by developing world-class arenas and attracting overseas teams to come here to practise, especially during their winter months. The hotels would cash in from these teams staying in them, and local sportspeople would benefit by being exposed to better skilled players in the particular discipline.
That idea from Hall (who deserves to be knighted) was never fully developed, as residents in the area and political opponents had problems with it. The residents were concerned about the noise, traffic that the crowds attending the football games in particular would bring, while the politicians lambasted the cost and concept of the project at that time. Today, though, 30 plus years on, foreign teams are often here playing hockey and swimming at the nearby Aquatic Centre earning much needed cash for hotels, tour buses and the associations themselves.
Why should such a good idea to promote sports tourism meet resistance? And what does this have to do with the ABC Highway?Both of these projects, though now recognized as valuable assets to Barbados’ development, were heavily criticized when proposed.
The dissent against them was for purely political reasons, and best demonstrates that what may be of benefit for the country may not necessarily be good politics for opposing politicians at the particular time.
In terms of the ABC Highway, Prime Minister Tom Adams initially conceptualized a four-lane highway linking the seaport to the airport through the centre of the country. His philosophy was that for the country to effectively develop its tourism product and fledgling financial services sector, it needed to have the type of infrastructure in place to accommodate this.
The then Opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP), and some others, roundly criticized it as a waste of money. So Adams compromised by constructing primarily a two-lane thoroughfare.
Just think, had Adams had his way, we would not now be faced with the prospect of spending more than the initial cost of that highway to expand it.
Likewise when his father Sir Grantley Adams went ahead to build the Bridgetown Port, there was a huge outcry from the DLP and those connected to it. Who today doesn’t consider this initiative a blessing?
But the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was no better. When the DLP had determined to take this country into Independence, it was against Barbados going alone and suggested we seek federation with what now make up the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. Given the political challenges those countries encountered later, I don’t think anyone could reasonably disagree with Premier Errol Barrow’s position.
Also, when Prime Minister Barrow undertook to build a new airport to replace the old Seawell Airport, that initiative was also slammed by the Bees. Yet, the Bees finished it and put Sir Grantley’s name on it.
This state of affairs with our politics is disgraceful and needs to stop. Politicians need to understand that the public sees through these things and this is why they have developed a healthy cynicism – often terming politics as “politricks”.
Opposing for opposing’s sake is silly, and such expediency does not build respect for politicians and the political process.