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Reshaping Lives: The Work Of Proud - December 20, 2004

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Reshaping Lives: The Work Of Proud

Good Morning, Saint Lucia, I hope you had an enjoyable weekend and that you are already feeling, the good cheer and goodwill that are part and parcel of the festive season.


In my address last week, I spoke of the silent revolution taking place in the provision of health services for all Saint Lucians. In fact, upon quiet reflection, I have come to realize that there are several other silent revolutions taking place in this beautiful country of ours. The images of these projects and programmes never find pride of place in the busy headlines of our commercial media. Today I want to share with you some facts and developments about another silent revolution which is already having an impact on the lives of many individuals and families in some of our communities around the island. I speak of the Programme for the Rationalization of Unplanned Development, more popularly known as PROUD.


PROUD was established by this Government in April 2000 in response to the problems of squatting which had become rampant in Saint Lucia over the past few decades. These unplanned settlements were naturally creating tremendous problems for the present and future physical planning of these areas. Besides, the major public services including fire and rescue, ambulance and the police were finding these “chok-an-blok” communities totally inaccessible. The main service companies which provide water, electricity and telephones, constantly complained that working in these areas was unsafe and dangerous. Notwithstanding these problems, the response of this administration however, was driven by the need to provide affordable land and housing to the vast majority of Saint Lucians, particularly the poor. I believe, passionately, in the need to provide access to land, and most importantly, the economic necessity of owning land.


PROUD was established as a separate Unit with the Ministry of Physical Development, Environment and Housing. There is a small team of six well qualified, appropriately skilled, exceptionally dedicated individuals who have for the past four years moved steadfastly and meticulously to implement the various components of the programme. They have approached their work with the kind of resolve that this challenge demands.

In addition, an Advisory Committee has also been set up comprising representatives of the Ministries of Physical Planning, Social Transformation, Communications and Works, the National Housing Corporation and the National Development Corporation. Representatives from the targeted communities, the Parliamentary Representative, and the coordinator of PROUD also sit on this committee. This project is an excellent example of the engagement of people in decisions which affect their lives. PROUD responds to needs, not wants. You will recall that during all my constituency visits in the last three years, the housing needs of community residents particularly those living in conditions of squalor, always came to the fore.

The work of the Unit is demanding. In every community technical studies are first conducted to assess those needs. Upon the completion of the surveys, plans are developed; land is valued and offered to the occupants. The price paid for the land is based on a number of factors including the period of occupancy.

A discounted price is offered if the occupier has resided on the land for years or generations. In the course of its work, the PROUD Unit holds regular meetings with the members of the communities explaining to them the complex issues such as surveying of the land and the allocation of lots, to the not so complex issues as the keeping children away from the sites where the drains and the footpaths are being constructed. In addition, the staff carefully assesses and monitors the effects of the ongoing construction on existing property of the residents, including crops, fences and existing drains. Persons receive compensation for any damage to their property. All of this work is being carried out with extreme sensitivity and a high level of professionalism, away from the media spotlight.

The work of the Unit is supported by an independent consulting firm which has been endorsed by the Government and the Caribbean Development Bank which jointly fund the project.


You may be asking, how we as a country hope to benefit from PROUD. To date boundary surveys have been completed in most of the communities - 1128 land lots been surveyed, eighty-seven (87) title deeds have been completed and thirty-four (34) are in process. Over thirteen hundred feet of foot paths and eleven and a half thousand feet of box drains have already been constructed in the eleven communities. By the end of June 2005, all the infrastructural works would have been completed in all the targeted areas. The figure for new roads is even more impressive – 11,862 feet of new roads have been completed. The communities which are targeted in this first phase of the project are La Ressource, Derriere Morne, and La Tourney in Vieux Fort, La Croix in Laborie, Piaye Perdu (Garrand), Des Barras, Ravine Poisson, L’ Abbayee, Cendre de Feu, Sarrot and Bexon.

The PROUD team has informed me that whenever and wherever the offer is made most persons are keen and excited about the prospects of having their own lot, and in many cases they quickly approach the local financial institutions for money to acquire the property.

In communities where all occupants cannot be offered land on the site they occupy equally beneficial arrangements are made for their relocation to nearby areas.


PROUD is not only about land titles. In these communities which I mentioned, residents are already enjoying the comfort of new roads, yes, new roads. There are some of the best networks of drains and foot paths and other services including electricity, water and telephones, some of which did not reach their unplanned settlements in the past. The construction is being undertaken by contractors and workers from the targeted communities. They really “run tings”. The residents have also been quietly sharing their new quality of life with friends from other communities. The PROUD team in the meantime quietly continues to deliver on their targets and meet their goals with a high level of commitment and efficiency.

In my conversation with a young man from one of the communities, he recalls always having to stop near a stand pipe to wash the mud off his school shoes, as he navigated the mud trenches from his home to school. He was overjoyed as he carefully watched workers from the community cast concrete footpaths, and what seemed an unending stretch of camber drains in preparation for the road works. Today he is a father of four and life has already changed for his children.

For some of us who are used to these facilities and conveniences in our communities, a drain may seem a trifle to shout about, but for the hundreds of persons, who for years have squeezed their way to work through zinc fences and jumping over mud gutters, the result of the quiet revolution brought about by PROUD is quickly changing the quality of life.

The rationalization of illegal and unplanned settlements will transform our areas into well structured communities with people taking pride in their surroundings.

One of the special features of the Project is the establishment of open spaces to be used by the entire community for recreational and educational activities. The PROUD team is also ensuring that such practices as proper waste management are introduced and followed. Some advisory committees have already been established in the target communities to continue working with government officials.


What is likely to happen after April 2005? It is intention of this Government to continue its programme of the rationalization of unplanned settlements. All new settlements to be targeted will be declared Special Enforcement Areas in order to facilitate the efficient and thorough survey and division of these areas. Penalties will be imposed on those persons who initiate any illegal developments within this Special Enforcement Areas. We will ensure that the Development Control Authority will be extremely vigilant, and police these areas to ensure continued orderly development. Government will continue to allocate resources to the programme. I am determined that the poor people are given a stake in their country.


As usual I want to end my Conversation today with an appeal to all Saint Lucians to play our part in the development of our country. Every time you pass near one of the communities targeted by this PROUD project, spare a few moments to see for yourself, the changes which are taking place. I urge you to spare a few additional moments to speak to the residents to share in their own achievements, their joy and to assist them in realizing the opportunities which their new status present. Government will continue to do its part and remain firmly committed to our promises as stated in the Contract of Faith and the 2001 Manifesto.

Until next Monday, walk good, have a wonderful week and a peaceful and enjoyable weekend. You deserve it!


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