Utopian Cities?

  • Written by  Marco Cáceres

Before Honduras' political leaders get too giddy over the investment opportunities that could unfold as a result of the proposed "model cities", they should take a few steps back and reflect a bit. The temptation is to see the potential short-term pay off and ignore the likely long-term hazards. Stop and ponder for a moment the totality of what this idea represents for Honduras and the average Honduran citizen. Lots of initial construction work, which will up the demand for and price of fuels and materials such as cement and rebar, as well as wood -- which will mean additional timber cutting, which in turn will inevitably increase the severity and frequency of droughts and flooding (and thus famine, malnutrition and homelessness) due to soil erosion. Lots of unregulated industrial activity, which pollutes and poisons the land, water resources and air, thus exacerbating a wide range of health problems, harming wildlife and livestock, and damaging the tourism industry.

Lots of extra garbage to look at and step over, and hazardous waste sites to avoid. Lots more unrestrained corruption as a result of bribes by foreign governments, industry leaders and investors seeking to escape local government oversight and regulation. Lots of little private fiefdoms with their own unique laws, customs and punishments, and armed militias to keep people out and sometimes in.

 

And all for what? Some new, low-skill jobs that offer maquila-type wages and few if any protections or guarantees for workers. Relatively puny amounts of tax revenue for government coffers... because that would undoubtedly be one of the primary incentives for companies to invest in the first place. Some capital investments in the bridge, road and highway system connecting the foreign-owned production facilities to Puerto Cortés, so companies can efficiently export their goods.

 

Although what is officially envisioned are model cities, there is nothing "model" about what is actually likely to happen. The term has been cleverly adopted for marketing purposes to convey something utopian. But let's be honest, what we are really talking about here are "semi-autonomous industrial parks" run by foreign corporations for the primary purpose of private profit (lots of it), not the social and economic development of the Honduran people. This is no measured and thoughtful vision for Honduras. It seems more an act of desperation and wishful thinking. (5/1/14) (image courtesy Internet)

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Note: The author is the editor and cofounder of Honduras Weekly. He is also the author of the book, "The Good Coup: The Overthrow of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras". His next book, "The Wolf We Feed: Post-Coup Honduras Under Pepe Lobo", will be published in June 2014.

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