Urgent Need For Infrastructural Development Due To Population Growth

Nassau, The Bahamas – Urbanisation and increased population demographics raises the need of significant Government investment, for upgrading the nation’s infrastructure.

“The growth in population, the demands on infrastructure, and limits on Government revenue require us to plan and to invest carefully to secure our future quality of life,” said Environment Minister, Earl Deveaux.

“The urbanisation event, which is more evident globally, is being played out in The Bahamas most directly in the form of the growing demands of energy and other infrastructural services.  The trend is putting unprecedented pressure on the national infrastructure, especially water, waste disposal, and our energy systems.”

On December 3, 2010 the Bahamas Society of Engineers convened at the Engineering, Design and Construction Conference Luncheon, held in New Providence at the Sheraton Cable Beach Ballroom.  They listened to the nation’s leaders remark on Government’s future plans for development and networked in technical workshops.

The demands of population growth require the Government to keep pace with development, by investing heavily in infrastructure, and accommodate the smooth operation of airports, ports, and public utilities throughout the country.

According to estimates by KPMG Regional Head of Corporate Finance, Samuel Townsend, some $2.3 billion will be needed to fund infrastructure projects over the short and medium term in The Bahamas.  $500 million will be needed for education and healthcare, $400 million for airports, $200 million for government accommodations and alternative energy, $100 million for seaports and the prison, and $50 million for solid wastes.

“I can add $100 million for water and waste water systems.  But whether you accept the numbers or not, the principle of significant investment required to build new infrastructure and the need to rehabilitate existing infrastructure is not debatable and will require focused attention,” said Dr. Deveaux.

“The Bahamas can expect greater diversity of the people travelling to our shores, which will confront our social condition and challenge us to respond.  How we respond will greatly affect our success as a nation.”

Dr. Deveaux reminded the audience of the government’s many ongoing projects.  He mentioned the limitations the population boom posed on expanding gainful employment opportunities in the construction field.

“The Government has undertaken significant multiple infrastructure projects throughout the country, among the most notable are energy in Abaco, Bimini, and Eleuthera.  In New Providence, [we have the] Sir Lynden Pindling International Airport, the Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project and the harbour dredging.  In Ragged Island, [we have the] the docks and roads and the airport.  In Eleuthera, [we have] the roads, and in Long Island, [we have] the docks,” said Dr. Deveaux.

The population of The Bahamas is growing, although it has slowed down compared to the previous census.  Growth in the three major population centres of New Providence, Grand Bahama, and Abaco increased by 18 percent, 10 percent and 27 percent respectively.  The Exumas and the Cays boomed with an increase of 105 percent.

“The preliminary results of our census indicate that the population of our country has increased by 16 and a half percent over the past 10 years and currently stands at 353, 658.  The census result reveals an interesting trend,” said Dr. Deveaux.

He scaled the population of New Providence at 70 percent of the national population and compared it to Andros, the largest Bahamian island, which accounts for at least 45 percent of the 100,000 square miles of the entire national land and sea boundary.

Andros Island is home to only two percent of the Bahamian population, which is projected to increase to 430,000 by the year 2050.  The National Insurance Board reports the median age as 31 years in 2006.  It is expected to grow to 44 years in 2066.

Globalisation researchers predict four major demographic trends in the world will impact the Bahamas in the future.  As populations in major world economies begin to recede, emerging economies, such as The Bahamas are advancing.  An added global trend known as climate change, is also expected to significantly impact vulnerable, low lying states, such as The Bahamas.

“The relative demographic weight of the worst developed countries is dropping.  Those countries labour forces are ageing and declining and the population of the poorest, youngest and most heavily Muslim countries are growing the most.  For the first time in history, the world is becoming more urban than rural.  Japan, the world’s second largest economy, is facing significant decline in its population and is expected to shrink over the next 50 years to levels not seen,” said Dr. Deveaux.

“The Bahamas raffles with the availability and the price of energy, the need to expand capacity on multiple islands, while embracing innovation and this problem is exacerbated by a fifth trend recognised globally called climate change.”

By Gena Gibbs
Bahamas Information Services