Friday, August 20, 2010

the slippery slope

The Liberian Daily Observer editorializes against squatters who live around Monrovia's Ducor Intercontinental Hotel and are resisting government efforts to evict them. The squatters recently demonstrated at the hotel, brandishing sticks and broken bottles as well as chanting slogans and holding placards, the newspaper reports.

The key to the paper's argument:
Those who are resisting government's efforts should know that it is government's responsibility to give and assure protection to its people. It is also government's obligation to seek enabling conditions for economic growth and development. Mamba Point and the Ducor area have long been set aside as prime areas for hotels, embassies and restaurants. Should it now abandon its plan for economic development to satisfy squatters and liars? ... No government worth its salt should surrender to cabal of stick-wielding humbugs. They must be made to see the wisdom of government's plans and what social and national benefits will accrue there from.

This is trickle-down economics at its worst. It's simply disingenuous to say that social benefits will result from luxury redevelopment of the area. There may be some small economic advantage for the nation (though the redevelopment effort is likely induced through government subsidies that negate any real contribution to the national or local treasury), but luxury development simply engenders more luxury development and eats up an inordinate amount of government services.

The history of the site demands more. The Ducor closed in 1989 due to instability and violence in the country. It was occupied by squatters for better than a decade, as were the areas around it. Fairness for those who were most battered by Liberia's 14-year-long civil war demands that the government seek out a middle ground. Perhaps the squatters can be given the tools to rebuild on an area near the hotel. Or the government can provide relocation housing near enough to the center of the city for the squatters to retain their jobs.

Summarily evicting people who have lived there for better than a decade is not a development policy. Expecting that people quietly accept their annihilation is inhumane.

No comments: