Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie said yesterday that crime in this country is holding back development, and specifically, the development of East Port of Spain communities.
Speaking at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of a newly paved road and retaining walls in Upper McKai Gardens, Belmont, Tewarie said criminal activity in the area will continue to be a deterrent to investors, no matter how much infrastructural development work the government tries to do.
The project was part of an infrastructural development programme commissioned by the East Port of Spain Development Company.
"The Ministry of Planning has a serious strategy for the development of the area, but not until East Port of Spain embraces peace and enshrines the role of the community in its development," he said.
He said for too long, discussions have been focused on crime, criminals and violence, but not the community: "Unless the community says no to criminality, there will be no development."
Tewarie said he did not come "to give ole talk" but encourage the people in the McKai community to think seriously about the impact of crime to development.
He praised the people in the community for their "effort, energy, enthusiasm and desire to build their "unplanned community". Now, he said, he believed the government can make East Port of Spain its own geographic development zone, like Chaguaramas, for investment opportunities—but only if crime is controlled.
He added that there was a population 90,000 in East Port of Spain "the equivalent of Grenada " and 19 communities that cannot continue to grow in an unplanned way.
"How can you manage the risks of safety and security, where even if you put in infrastructure people can come into the area and invest and work without always having to look over their shoulders," he said.
Also at the commissioning ceremony were Member of Parliament for the area Patricia McIntosh, San Juan/Laventille Regional Corporation chairman Nafeesa Mohammed, contractor Richard John, and councillors Kenrick Prudhomme and Roger Celestine.
Prudhomme said it had been 23 years since he was appealing to the authorities to fix the road—up until completion just a dirt track.
John, a resident of the area, said he was proud to do the work for his community, and even though the terrain hindered completion by four months, it was done within budget. He also boasted that at its peak, he employed 45 people, all from East Port of Spain, and the entire process was "violence-free". Infrastructural works at Manda Terrace, St Francois Valley Road, Belmont were also officially opened yesterday.