Last week some 50,000 people in the Canary Islands (Spain) demonstrated in the streets to protest the mass tourism that has driven up the cost of renting or owning house so much that is now out of reach for many locals. They were not protesting against tourists, the major source of revenue, but to demand a more balanced approach to tourism development. Their quite legitimate concerns should give us pause to consider our own overdevelopment on Provo which is heading in the same direction.

On Provo, the construction of numerous new resorts funded and financed by foreigners has also dramatically pushed the price of rentals and housing for locals. At the same time, the infrastructure, specifically the airport, roads and water supply, is not able to keep up with the current level of development, much less for projects already in the works. Indeed, real estate sales in the first quarter of 2024 show the demand has not subsided even though most of the projects are still one, two or three years from completion. The good news is that the government is taking in tens of millions of dollars in revenue from stamp duty (10%) on condo and villa sales, as well as duty from increased imports. The bad news is that native islanders can’t afford to live in here. As the disparity between wealth and poverty widens, a despairing sense of loss has set in for many.

My article in the winter issue of the Times of the Islands, “Who Gets A Piece Of Paradise,” calls attention to this alarming trend here and world-wide that is finally getting some push-back. What is taking place in the Canary Islands can be seen as one of many bellwethers of what’s to come and the consequent urgent need to adjust policies accordingly. Specifically, slow or stop development now lest it destroy us. Once big resorts blanket the island, there is no going back. Luxury accommodations will give way to mass tourism followed by stagnation that can only hurt the island more. It doesn’t have to be this way if we act now.

Meanwhile, the contrast with Haiti, just 130 miles to the south and on the opposite end of the financial/investment spectrum, could not be sharper. There is no spillover of luxury resort construction from Turks & Caicos to Haiti. The violent gangs who control 80% of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and have put more than a million people at risk of famine (and diseases that hunger aggravates) are not going away anytime soon. It’s easy to close our eyes to this tragic reality as we deal with our own very different challenges. But we should not because our fates are linked by geographic proximity, historical relationships, and population movement. We should also note that while many Haitians seek to flee north to TCI in rickety boats despite the high costs ($1500-$2000 per person) and risk of drowning during the crossing or being intercepted by Marine Police, many more choose to stay. They are the ones striving to create a new and more secure and stable Haiti that looks beyond the seemingly intractable problems of today. Those are the leaders TCI (along with the US, Canada, and other Caribbean countries) should work with, particularly in the north, to enhance economic opportunity while pushing back on the human traffickers and other criminals whose havoc there inevitably impacts us here.