Early last week, Alex Char held a press conference where he laid out his performance since having taken mayoral office. Referring to his first 100 days in office, the mayor of Barranquilla gave a very high-level overview of the programs and activities underway to improve the city’s infrastructure, health, economy, and perception.
Work in Barranquilla is progressing at a rapid clip; anyone with a pair of eyes can clearly see the new buildings, the waste-water channeling and all of the new park spaces. According to City Hall, the work that is being done will make the city more competitive and in turn, will lead to substantial human development by reducing poverty and improving the overall standard of living in the city.
The first item on the agenda was the preparation of the 2016 – 2019 Development Plan, which the city entitled Barranquilla, Capital of Life. The basis of the plan is a framework of a model city which, if realized, would lead to substantial gains across the board generating prosperity and sustainable social development throughout all socio-economic structures.
The construction of the Capital of Life plan was a massive collaboration of citizens, organizations and government departments which included 11 town meetings and several special councils to ensure the voices of all demographics were heard and counted including those of children, the elderly, the disabled, and ethnic minorities. Also consulted were significant associations such as Probarranquilla, Camacol, Universidad del Norte, the Barranquilla Chamber of Commerce and the ANDI, all of whom contributed in some capacity.
Next up was a discussion of work underway to manage infrastructure in the city, with the primary focus on the most dangerous arroyo sections. All up, some sixteen kilometers of storm-water drainage will be channeled at a cost of 665 billion pesos. Meanwhile, the city has almost completed a project to install another ten kilometers of channel in the south end of the city.
Mayor Char then touched on the progress of the Puerto de Oro convention center, noting that the central government has delivered the 60 billion pesos necessary for its completion. He also mentioned work to be completed on the banks of the Magdalena including a massive seawall which will extend from Siape to La Loma.
The presentation then moved to health-care where there was, unfortunately, no discussion regarding the quality of medical care in this city, an issue which has lately been on the forefront. Instead, Mayor Char spoke about the recent outbreaks of Zika and triumphantly noted that Barranquilla had been chosen for the implementation of a research project by the well-known American organization, Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Next, Mayor Char touted three schools as having had masterful performance on par or better than the rest of the country. He did not, however, mention the performance of the rest of the schools in the district. He went on to say that some 1400 computers had been purchased along with almost 3000 tablets though it isn’t clear how exactly this latter technology will match with the current syllabus within the schools. We’ll look into that in a future article. Additionally, an impressive 200 billion pesos has been earmarked for the construction of almost 800 new classrooms across 37 institutions.
On the social front, the city has been rolling out special programs for the elderly and the homeless, offering both subsidies and grant payments through Colombia Mayor. The mayor also mentioned that over a thousand students have received transport subsidies as part of the Social Transport Stimulus program which was launched last year.
From an environmental perspective, the municipality has so far invested almost fifteen billion pesos in the recovery of fifteen parks around the city and Mayor Char has set an impressive goal for his administration of delivering one million m2 of green areas to the citizens and planting 250,000 trees.
Next we heard how 235 billion pesos have been set aside to prepare the region for the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games. According to the mayor, plans are underway to carry-out major improvements on several existing facilities including Coliseo Elias Chegwin, Estadio Edgar Renteria (the old Thomas Arrieta) and Estadio Romelio Martínez. Meanwhile, the city is conducting feasibility studies at Coliseo Humberto Perea, Parque de Raquetas, Estadio Moderno, Complejo Deportivo Metropolitano and finally, at the city’s aquatic complex,
Finally, the discussion came to the topic of security. According to Char, more resources are necessary to fight the problem head on and so he has authorized joint police/military patrols in high-crime regions of the city. The municipality has also purchased 800 additional police motorcycles and has been improving and building new CAI stations. The solutions the mayor has offered all focus on stopping crime through force; there was unfortunately no mention of programs to manage the root causes of violence through education.
Overall, the ‘100 days’ conference was positive and touched on many topics and projects at a very high level. The presentation involved many personalities, was uplifting and quite well received by those in attendance.
It would be interesting to know where all the money is coming from to fund Barranquilla’s growth. Just in this conference alone, the mayor mentioned the use of an incredible 1.17 trillion pesos (1,170,000,000,000).