It may be that San Fernando has been luckier in its mayors or that Port of Spain is a harder place to manage, but the country’s second city is certainly setting an example in efficient and responsible local government.
The San Fernando City Corporation (SFCC) under Mayor Kazim Hosein has been displaying an admirably proactive approach to protecting the environment and upholding liveability in the southern city. Following moves earlier this year against the erection of unauthorised billboards, the SFCC has again signalled a take-charge determination in stopping worrisome, and allegedly unapproved, excavation near the San Fernando Hill. Officials have also been on the road investigating questionable stockpiling of building materials in Marabella, responding to concerns urgently conveyed to City Hall by burgesses.
In a society where corruption is taken to be standard practice in certain kinds of business, this commitment by Mayor Hosein and his aldermen to discharge their responsibilities cannot be dismissed as standard dutifulness. It is all too conceivable, for example, that quarries could have bribed city officials to look the other way while they razed this national landmark, or that the gravel dumper could have similarly passed cash to have the authorities ignore the complaints of the residents. Mayor Hosein’s predecessor, Navi Muradali, had similarly impressed with his initiative to ensure that restaurants were adhering to proper hygienic standards.
Nor is the City Corporation just taking arbitrary action on its own. Involved in the San Fernando protection operations are central government agencies such as the Town and Country Planning Division, the Ministry of Energy, and the Environmental Management Authority. Between all these entities, San Fernando remains mostly well managed in issues large and small, from planning to vending, and where problems do arise as they inevitably must, there is not that usual sense that complaint is futile or action confined to mere promises.
In all this, it is the City Council which is assuming and exercising responsibility, and gaining support and assistance as necessary. Such leadership and performance by the south authorities certainly set an example for their counterparts in Port of Spain, itself beset by planning, environmental, security, management and leadership shortcomings.
This is more than a little ironic, since it is the country’s capital city which gets the lion’s share of infrastructure and other amenities. Apart from crime issues, there is no reason why committed leadership allied to effective management systems cannot repeat in all corners of the country the San Fernando example of service delivery.