Caribbean Ghost Towns: It Could Happen…Again

Go Lean Commentary

The Caribbean is in crisis today; but even more so, if left unchecked, the crisis gets worst tomorrow (near future). We are at the point, and have been here for some time, where we are completely dysfunctional as a society; we are at the precipice. How else would one explain why citizens from the most beautiful addresses on the planet are “breaking down the doors” to get out, either through legal means or illegal ones?

“Things will always work themselves out” – Popular fallacy.

There is no guarantee of our survival. Communities and societies do fail; success is not assured; the work must be done, we must “sow if we want to reap”.

The reality of ghost towns, in the Caribbean and around the world, is a reminder to failing communities of where the road ends. Consider the definition of ghost towns here:

A ghost town is an abandoned village, town or city, usually one which contains substantial visible remains. A town often becomes a ghost town because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as floods, government actions, uncontrolled lawlessness, war, or nuclear disasters. The term can sometimes refer to cities, towns, and neighborhoods which are still populated, but significantly less so than in years past; for example those affected by high levels of unemployment and dereliction.[1]

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Some ghost towns, especially those that preserve period-specific architecture, have become tourist attractions. Some examples are Bannack, Montana; Calico, California; Centralia, Pennsylvania; and Oatman, Arizona in the United States; Barkerville, British Columbia in Canada; Craco in Italy; ElizabethBay and Kolmanskop in Namibia; and Pripyat in Ukraine. Visiting, writing about, and photographing ghost towns is a minor industry. A recent modern-day example is Ōkuma, Fukushima, which was abandoned due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. (Also see Battleship or Hashima Island in the Appendix-VIDEO below).

There is a ghost town that is an incumbent de jure capital: Plymouth in the Caribbean island of Montserrat*. This city was abandoned in 1997 due to volcanic eruptions and is now part of an Exclusion Zone.

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(Source: retrieved February 11, 2015)

The book Go Lean … Caribbean stresses reboots, reorganizations and general turn-around of failing economic engines in favor of winning formulas. The book quotes a noted American Economist Paul Romer with this famous quotation:

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”.

The encyclopedic reference of ghost towns continues:

Ghost towns may result when the single activity or resource that created a boomtown (e.g., nearby mine, mill or resort) is depleted or the resource economy undergoes a “bust” (e.g., catastrophic resource price collapse). Boomtowns can often decrease in size as fast as they initially grew. Sometimes, all or nearly the entire population can desert the town, resulting in a ghost town.

The dismantling of a boomtown can often occur on a planned basis. Mining companies nowadays will create a temporary community to service a mine site, building all the accommodation shops and services, and then remove it as the resource is worked out. A gold rush would often bring intensive but short-lived economic activity to a remote village, only to leave a ghost town once the resource was depleted.

In some cases, multiple factors may remove the economic basis for a community; some former mining towns on U.S. Route 66 suffered both mine closures when the resources were depleted and loss of highway traffic as US 66 was diverted away from places like Oatman, Arizona onto a more direct path.

The Middle East has many ghost towns that were created when the shifting of politics or the fall of empires caused capital cities to be socially or economically non-viable, such as Ctesiphon, (a once great city of ancient Mesopotamia; today’s modern-day Iraq, Kuwait, and the northeastern section of Syria).

The Go Lean book posits that many Caribbean communities suffer from a mono-industrial complex (Page 3), therefore the risk is high for the same ghost town eventuality like so many other towns have experienced. Yes, ghost towns could happen in the Caribbean … again.

In fact, the 2nd city in the Bahamas, Freeport, on the island of Grand Bahama is experiencing a sharp decline in it’s economic output – where tourism is the primary industry – calculated at 66 percent decline from 2004 to 2013 for air arrivals. They are now near a failed-city status.

CU Blog - Caribbean Ghost Towns - It Could Happen - Photo 11Freeport’s tourism, which used to top over a million visitors a year – with air arrivals and cruise passengers – has considerably diminished since 2004, when two major hurricanes, Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Jeanne, hit the island; then the following year (2005), Hurricane Wilma reiterated more destruction to Freeport’s economic engines – many hotels shuttered their doors for good. Since then, several cruise ships also stopped their weekly visits to the island. Much of the remaining tourist industry is centered on the seaside suburb of Lucaya; in fact the city is often promoted as Freeport/Lucaya. Most remaining hotels on the island are located along the southern shore in Lucaya. The primary shopping venues for tourists used to be the popular International Bazaar near downtown Freeport, but now the focus has shifted to the Port Lucaya Marketplace, an outdoor mall-like complex near the beach-side hotel-resorts.

What of the current disposition of the International Bazaar in the downtown area? Unfortunately, the adjoining hotel-casino-resort, Royal Oasis, closed after the above hurricanes and never re-opened.  A local Bahamas photography magazine thusly dubbed the International Bazaar as a “ghost town”. (Retrieved February 11, 2015; article entitled: “The International Bazaar – The Lost Shopping Mecca”):

What happened to this marvelous structure? I do not know. What is its fate? I still do not know. What I do know: it is a sad day when one of the Bahamas’ greatest attractions has been reduced to a ghost town.  What I can tell you is that it seems as if the excitement has moved from the Bazaar to Port Lucaya. It is now the New Shopping Mecca of Grand Bahama.

Photo Caption: Freeport’s International Bazaar in it’s “Hey Day”

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Photo Caption: Freeport’s International Bazaar Ghost Town Today

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See comments of disappointed visitors:

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In fact, many more comments abound on the internet with “ghost town” comparisons for Freeport.

Freeport must now reboot, or face the eventuality: Ghost Town!

This sad reality of Montserrat and Freeport is an omen for the rest of the Caribbean.

The book Go Lean … Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). The CU is structured to turn-around failing Caribbean communities; it is proffered to provide economic, security and governance solutions for all 30 member Caribbean states, including Montserrat and Freeport. This mandate is detailed early on in the book’s Declaration of Interdependence, as follows (Page 12 & 13):

xii. Whereas the legacy in recent times in individual states may be that of ineffectual governance with no redress to higher authority, the accedence of this Federation will ensure accountability and escalation of the human and civil rights of the people for good governance, justice assurances, due process and the rule of law. As such, any threats of a “failed state” status for any member state must enact emergency measures on behalf of the Federation to protect the human, civil and property rights of the citizens, residents, allies, trading partners, and visitors of the affected member state and the Federation as a whole.

xix. Whereas our legacy in recent times is one of societal abandonment, it is imperative that incentives and encouragement be put in place to first dissuade the human flight, and then entice and welcome the return of our Diaspora back to our shores. This repatriation should be effected with the appropriate guards so as not to imperil the lives and securities of the repatriated citizens or the communities they inhabit…

The Go Lean book posits that failing Caribbean communities can be rescued, that if “we do what we have always done, we get what we have always got”. Therefore Caribbean communities must adopt different community ethos, plus the executions of key strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to bring about change, empowerment and turn-around . The following is a sample:

Community Ethos – Economic Principle – Economic Systems Influence Choices & Incentives Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principle – Voluntary Trade Creates Wealth Page 21
Community Ethos – Job Multiplier Page 22
Community Ethos – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Help Entrepreneurship Page 28
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact Turn-Around – Recycling and Demolition Industries Page 33
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Mission – Foster Local Economic Engines to Diversify the Economy Page 45
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Tactical – Tactics to Forge an $800 Billion Economy – High Multiplier Industries Page 70
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Meteorological and Geological Service Page 79
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Self-Governing Entities Page 80
Implementation – Steps to Implement Self-Governing Entities Page 105
Implementation – Ways to Re-boot Freeport Page 112
Planning – Big Ideas – Virtual “Turnpike” Operations to Ensure Continued Relevance Page 127
Planning – Ways to Make the Caribbean Better Page 131
Planning – Ways to Improve Failed-State Indices Page 134
Planning – Lessons from East Germany Page 139
Planning – Lessons from Detroit – Model of City needing Turn-around Page 140
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Better Improve for Natural Disasters – Volcanoes and Hurricanes Page 184
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Emergency Management – Casualty Insurance to Rebuild Page 196
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Main Street Page 201
Appendix – Job Multipliers Page 259

Natural disasters are an inevitability in the Caribbean: earthquakes, volcanoes and hurricanes. We must insure and assure the business continuity of our communities’ economic engines. To recover, rebuild and reboot communities like Montserrat and Freeport after disasters, the burden or heavy-lifting should be spread across the full region, as leverage for all 30 member-states.

In order to avoid the pitfalls and eventuality of “ghost towns”, communities must diversify their economy. The Go Lean book also describes this heavy-lifting effort to facilitate this goal. The book describes the turn-by-turn directions for all the community stakeholders to follow to reach this goal, categorizing the effort as these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion and create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines.

In summary, ghost towns abound throughout the world, (see Appendix-VIDEO below), and can happen again here in the Caribbean region. A mono-industrial economy is bad; disaster  remediation and mitigations are good; diversity is good!

The CU will take the lead … for optimizing economic, security and governing engines. (Starting with a diversification from tourism). Everyone is hereby urged to lean-in to this CU/Go Lean roadmap to make the Caribbean a better place to live, work and play.  🙂

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


Appendix*Plymouth, Montserrat

Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory located in the Caribbean. The island is located in the Leeward Islands chain of islands.[2] Montserrat is nicknamed The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean both for its resemblance to coastal Ireland and for the Irish ancestry of some of its inhabitants.[3]

Plymouth was the capital of the island of Montserrat. For centuries it had been the only port of entry to the island. On 18 July 1995, the previously dormant Soufrière Hills volcano, in the southern part of the island, became active.  Eruptions destroyed this Georgian era capital city and two-thirds of the island’s population was forced to flee.[6] The town was overwhelmed and was abandoned. The volcanic activity continues, even today, mostly affecting the vicinity of Plymouth, including its docking facilities, and the eastern side of the island around the former W.H. Bramble Airport, the remnants of which were buried by flows from volcanic activity on 11 February 2010.

An Exclusion Zone that extends from the south coast of the island north to parts of the BelhamValley was imposed because of the size of the existing volcanic dome and the resulting potential for pyroclastic activity. Visitors are generally not permitted entry into the exclusion zone, but an impressive view of the destruction of Plymouth can be seen from the top of Garibaldi Hill in IslesBay. Relatively quiet since early 2010, the volcano continues to be closely monitored by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

A new town and port is being developed at Little Bay, which is on the northwest coast of the island. While this construction proceeds, the centre of government and businesses rests new Village of Brades in the northen extremes of the island.

(Source: retrieved February 11, 2015)


VIDEO: Battleship Island: Japan’s Ultimate Ghost Town –

Uploaded on Dec 30, 2011 – This island – also known as Hashima Island is among the Japanese chain – sits 9 miles off the coast of Nagasaki. It was the administrative and residential base for undersea coal mines. As a ghost town it serves as a filming location for many projects, including serving as the inspiration for the external filming sets for the film Skyfall  – James Bond 007. For more stunning images of this Holy Grail of all industrial ruins, see:


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