Give Credit Where Credit is Due
Contribution of Honduras to Bay Islands is not Always Appreciated

September 10th, 2011
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] v9-9-My VoiceSome people suggest, mostly islanders and some foreigners, that Tegucigalpa and Central Government has done nothing for the Bay Islands, and is just sucking taxes out of the island businesses. That is simply just not true. The reality is much more complicated.

While the relationship between the Bay Islands and Tegucigalpa is dysfunctional at best, still the island department is not alone as Honduras is full of neglected areas and departments. There are plenty of places in Honduras that had no Central Government interest or investment whatsoever. Departments such as Lempira or Gracias a Dios have no paved roads whatsoever, and no chances of getting attention of Central Government except for an occasional drug bust.

Over the past several decades the Honduran Central Government has contributed some major infrastructure to Bay Islands. The first roads were paved in the 1980s. The 1990s were a decade where the Honduran Central Government invested in Bay Islands the most: all three islands received a paved airport landing strip, Roatan got an airport, a cruise ship dock in Coxen Hole, a road from West Bay to Oak Ridge. In brief, contribution of mainland government depended on the time, president in power and financial situation of the country. It also depended on the ability of Bay Islands’ congressmen to lobby the government to invest here.

Some people expected renewed Central Government interest in Bay Islands as the current president is a cousin of Roatan’s mayor. That did not happen and likely will not. During the presidency of Pepe Lobo, its best and most productive first two-and-a-half years, almost nothing was done in the Bay Islands. “There was money in the bank. We [Honduras] were broke,” said Congressman Silvestri arguing that president Pepe Lobo’s government spent the first two years reestablishing the country’s position in the international arena.

Another myth and blame game repeated all around the island is that in the Bay Islands “mainlanders are only thieves, robbers, and unskilled laborers.” Another overlooked contribution of mainland Honduras to the Bay Islands is the hundreds of professionals that moved here with their university degrees and will to work: lawyers, banker, engineers, educators, doctors and managers. Many mainlanders also are doing jobs no islander wants: they are operating garbage dumps, sweeping streets, painting cars, etc.

Islanders are not victims of mainland Honduras, but if anything of their own greed and short sightedness. The greatest influx of unskilled mainland laborers came here because island businessmen wanted to keep their employee costs down, and were unwilling to spend the time and effort educating and training islanders to do these jobs.

Tegucigalpa, while intermittently, also provides salaries for all public teachers, and all medical staff working on the island. The Central Government paid for the construction of most public schools, hospitals, police stations and many health centers around the Bay Islands. I’ve seen many an islander traveling to Tegucigalpa to receive surgery, courtesy of the Honduran health care system. Few people know that all Honduran municipalities receive a quarterly, five percent national budget subsidy based on their population.

Other than looking of how else to blame Central Government for their situation, islanders need to take responsibility for charting their own course into the future. That is increasingly important as today islanders are already a minority in their island department. Most of people living in the Bay Islands today have been born on the mainland of Honduras. [/private]

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