Montego Bay: The Capital of filth (Part One)
According to Wikipedia, pop culture's encyclopedia, "The infrastructure of the city is going through a series of explosive modernisations, which once completed, aims to keep Montego Bay as a top destination in the Caribbean and the world." This statement just warms my heart and gives me renewed hope in Montego Bay as this is not a Jamaican perspective per se, but rather what persons outside of our borders know as fact.
All the positive developments should, no doubt, result in an improved way of life for the city's population of approximately 100,000 residents and the many business interests operating in its limits. However, the return on investment is being adversely threatened by rampant disorder in Montego Bay, especially in the centre of the city, where street vendors and taxi operators have seemingly been given carte blanche access to every nook and cranny downtown. Trying to manoeuvre St James Street, Barnett Street, Market Street, Church Street, St Clavers Avenue, Strand Street, Lawrence Lane, Church Lane, and other side streets is like taking on obstacle courses as vendors, the majority of whom come in from Kingston, hang their wares from buildings, take over the sidewalks, and showcase goods in the streets, while errant taxi operators drop off and pick up passengers wherever they please with no regard for other road users, who must understand that they are out their hustling to send the kids to school.
I recently attended a function at a hotel in the city, and while sitting in the lobby waiting for proceedings to get under way, a tour bus pulled up and some visitors alighted and started complaining bitterly about the trip, saying downtown Montego Bay was dirty. "It stinks!" they said. The visitors continued that they had been to other cities and even though Montego Bay's history is richer than most, it's the nastiest place they had seen, and they couldn't wait to return to the hotel. They ended their conversation stating definitively that they wouldn't recommend a tour through the city to anyone. I lowered my head in shame, even though these persons didn't know who I was.
My summation of the situation, though stark, is as real as it gets. In fact, I'm not enough of a creative writer to paint the true picture of what is happening in downtown Montego Bay. Believe me, the reality is a thousand times worse! Some business people continue to dispose of their garbage on the streets; the citizens dump their garbage in the drains, while the authorities are fiddling around. This once beloved city has been abandoned to filth, depression, and squalor. We are now at a point where business operators, some of whom have been operating in the area for upwards of 50 years, are now looking easterly to fairer locales as their operations are being severely affected by the disorder. Some are even being threatened by these boorish street vendors, who block their entrances with their wares.
a den of anarchy
At nights, the city is transformed into a den of anarchy, with even more vendors, including handcart operators, selling from cooked meals to 'fresh' fish and ground provisions along the main thoroughfares. The nights are worse than the days. Under normal circumstances attributing the term 'a city that never sleeps' would be a compliment, but for Montego Bay, it's a detriment as this situation prevents the essential services from carrying out their functions. National Solid Waste Management Authority has difficulty washing the streets and collecting waste from some areas, while even the police are being hindered from carrying out basic operations downtown. The darkness in the city centre paints an even gloomier picture and points to the need for upgraded lighting that will serve to put pickpockets and chain and phone grabbers out of business.
All this degradation is happening against the background of some multimillion-dollar intervention being undertaken by the Tourism Enhancement Fund in the city to benefit citizens primarily.
See Part II next week.
n Davon Crump is a former president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a major player in the local business processing outsourcing sector.