JaRistotle | Where do we go from here?
The last week gave rise to three things of importance for me: the decision by the Prime Minister (PM) to heed the petition regarding the preservation of the Cockpit Country; the assignment of the Contractor General to monitor the $630-million island-wide road repair project; and the catastrophic flooding in Montego Bay. Consider the following:
For decades there has been a general view that successive governments, given their economic agendas, have not paid sufficient attention to the environment and that sustainability has played second fiddle to development. The truth is, if the tables had been turned, other people would have been upset because growth and jobs would not have been given priority. I accept that it is a delicate balancing act.
It appears that the PM is taking care not to initiate what could be a significant environmental catastrophe and, given the many unknowns and reasonable assumptions regarding the importance of the Cockpit Country to our environment, good thinking has prevailed. The decisions to restrict mining, establish boundaries and designate it a protected area are far-reaching and positive. Question is, where do we go from here?
There is a saying that the sins of the parents often come to haunt the children and that is where we are as a nation today. Unregulated urban development has pitfalls, as witnessed in Montego Bay with the flooding. Some may argue that it was an exceptional occurrence. Maybe so, but the end-results speak for themselves. Clearly there was a capacity issue with the drainage system, exacerbated by the infrastructural development that had taken place within the hard-hit areas. Where do we go from here?
Montego Bay is not the only place of concern. You may recall a similar occurrence of flooding and mud slides in Ocho Rios in 2008. As with Montego Bay, unregulated infrastructural development in and around the town was a prime cause. I am sure that back then many asked the question, 'Where do we go from here?'
Let's not ignore the continued proliferation of unregulated housing within flood-prone areas, namely along gullies and river banks. We have witnessed numerous tragedies in these areas and no doubt many a person asked the question, 'Where do we go from here?' Will it take a catastrophe for us to stop pussyfooting with this issue and implement no-build, no-live zones and mandatory evacuations when disasters loom?
Jamaica has a rich but abused marine resource base. Our beaches are mere samples of what they used to be and our marine life is being rapidly depleted; grim prospects for our marine eco-systems and tourism product. Will the PM continue his positive thrust and address these troubling issues within the marine environment, or wait until Jamaica drops off the chart as a tourist destination of choice?
I am putting my money on the PM to remain on the positive path. His tasking of the Office of the Contractor General to provide oversight of the upcoming island-wide road repair programme, with a free hand to ensure sound contracting practices and to assist in the inspection of work, is incentivising.
However, knowing us Jamaicans, there are many with an apathetic view, saying 'same-old, same-old, nuttin nah change'. Let me put it to you this way, if the big man put him neck pon di chopping block like this and den mek him fellow politicos and technocrats mess up things, den him nuh have nobody fi blame but himself. Mi nuh think him ready fi commit political suicide, so mek wi see where it ah go from here.
Access to employment, housing and food are 'in your face' issues that many of us have to grapple with on a daily basis. It is 'pure wickedness' when public money is repeatedly channelled away from the needy to knowingly pay for substandard work and thereafter for the remedial work.
Prime Minister, please bear in mind the ever-diminishing returns on short-sighted and politically expedient decisions wherein the fundamental problems do not vanish, but are merely postponed whilst we waste precious resources in applying Band-Aid solutions to chronic issues.
Let not the question continue to be asked, 'Where do we go from here?', but whilst offering fledgling congratulations that you having shown a willingness to make the RIGHT moves, hopefully we can later say 'gwaan driver'!
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