Where do we want to be and who are the real beneficiaries?
A country is normally classified into three main categories namely, developed, developing and underdeveloped countries.
A developed country is a country that has a high quality of life, the economy is well developed, and the technological infrastructure is well advanced. A developing country is one where the quality of life is medium to low, the economy is less developed than a developed country, and industrialization is not significant in comparison to their population. An underdeveloped country is a country that is not developed but in the process of developing. The quality of life is very low and faces greater poverty and infrastructure challenges and underutilization of human resources.
Of all the three categories, what category do you think your country falls into? I believe my country; the Turks and Caicos is a developing country. Of course, this was not always the case. During the era of my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents and even when I was growing up, the Turks and Caicos would fall into the category of an underdeveloped country.
I never imagine the Turks and Caicos would be the home to so many high-rise hotels and we continue to attract more developers to the country. However, the question for many is who is benefiting from this development and should we put a temporary stop to the development.
Are we developing too fast?
In comparison to many other Caribbean countries, we are behind in terms of physical development. I am not convinced that any Government will discourage any development in the Turks and Caicos. Most of the development is taking place on the island of Provideniciales where our main beach Grace Bay is full of condominiums/hotels. With the recent planning approval of another 12-storey hotel on Grace Bay, there is a mixed reaction from the residents. Some say it does not make sense and we should not entertain any more hotels. There are also some arguments as to why other islands other than Providenciales are not experiencing this type of development.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the truth is tourism will be our main industry for many years to come and personally I don’t see anything wrong with more hotels coming to Providenciales. After all, it is our industry. The problem I have is that there is little or very few Turks and Caicos Islanders who are owners of these hotels. Another issue is that we must ensure that we maintain a balance of development with the protection of our climate and coral reefs.
I think we must encourage and ensure that our human resources are utilized fully and participate in this development. I know many locals are now building villas for short term rentals which is a good thing.
The thing is all of us depend on tourism and if it continues to grow through the addition of more rooms, ultimately all of us should benefit. However, many locals continue to be at the bottom of the scale. Our country continues to lack so much infrastructure. The Government needs to use the extra funds to improve our roads, build new roads and highways and fix our drainage systems. We need to modernize our schools and the public sector. Furthermore, the Government should insist that the developers do more in terms of their contribution to the economy. Building a hotel is not enough. After all, they normally get all the condos sold even before they open. Government should not be granting any more concessions. The government should request some of these developers invest in our public and private schools and ease the burdens on the Government and parents.
The other islands
I know there is a cry for the development on the other islands. Perhaps we need to be careful with this cry. Maybe we should develop Provo to its fullest and leave the other islands for locals to develop and maintain the island’s feel and look. With that said, a big shout out to the locals who have developed and are developing small hotels on the other islands.
We should also focus on other industries on the other islands rather than targeting tourism for all the islands.
I really don’t know if we are developing too fast. There is so much to be done in our country and hopefully with the development that is taking place, we can use the capital resources to enhance our physical and human resources. It is critical that the people play a significant role in the development. Otherwise, we may ask why develop at the rate if the people are not being developed.