The Restoration Economy
Those who get to tour around the island on their own, or with visitors, always come back to one end conclusion,
“What a beautiful island but why is everything so dilapidated, so polluted and in decline?”
Whether it is local monuments, historic houses, mansions, plantations, infrastructure, beaches or national parks, everything is crumbling to pieces, covered under layers of garbage, smirched or denuded from neglect and erosion. With every heavy rain, neglected storm drains turn out to be plugged with debris, causing huge floods and damage. Many locals seem to care little about what the island looks like, or even what their yards show, in spite of constant efforts by schools and volunteers to clean up the garbage. For many, disposing of old refrigerators, televisions, laundry machines, and even cars, means dumping them in the bush-bush, off the cliffs, or in the canyons. Many contractors are even worse; most do not bother to take their solid waste to government designated dumps but prefer illegal sites in the National Parks. Tanker trucks with discharged oil and chemicals also prefer God’s nature, over controlled regulated chemical disposal sites.
The interest in celebrating carnival, at great financial expense, seems of a far higher priority than keeping up repair and maintenance of local private residences. The government is scrambling to maintain historic buildings and monuments, with urgency lists, mostly decennia behind.
The definition of “Restoration” is, the action of returning something to a former condition, making something whole again, or repair, repairing, fixing, mending, refurbishment. Yes, you can make adaptations for new use and destinations.
Well-intended politicians have fought long battles and established ongoing efforts to restore historic sites and houses in Punda and Otrobanda, as well as old plantation mansions in the national parks. Lack of public support, cheap capital, and public participation has turned their efforts into painful treatments of what looks like a chronic decease.
Others have tried to reinvigorate ailing industrial complexes. The “Dry Dock” was successfully leased out, long-term, to “Damen Shipyards.” Recently, the Prime Minister signed an intention agreement with a Chinese company, granting them one year of study and observation of the old oil refinery plant, presently exploited by Pdvsa. The government’s hope is that in 2019, the Chinese will invest in an elaborate restoration plan for necessary adaptions, catering to today’s markets and environmental demands.
The restoration of infrastructure, natural environment, ecosystems, watersheds, fisheries, farms, national parks, beaches, and reefs is pressing. Today's ongoing patch-up jobs do not suffice. Soon a restoration economy could take over the entire island. Essential to success is to offer cheap credit to local entrepreneurs, and expanded social welfare and education programs to all those who are now idling in poverty!!
Only a government with vision can bring about these conditions. Not with graft-ridden and book-cooking state enterprises, but with sensible state capitalism, using the success formula of Public-Private-Partnership, these objectives can be achieved within just a few years. Singapore, the Philippines, and Thailand were able to do it. And even Bermuda had enormous success with Nonsuch Island, which became today, from an environmental disaster, the most magical place of the island of Bermuda.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle