History will judge us harshly if we sit back and allow the environmental lobby to block plans for the transformation of Goat Islands as the site for the logistics hub. Ever since the 1950s, Jamaica has been involved in the discussions of diversification of the economy. It was being said from then that we can't rely solely on bauxite, tourism and agriculture to take us to developed country status. History has proven those who advance this argument to be most correct.
In 2013, we are still having that discussion. Bauxite has taken the combination of a straight jab from high fuel prices and a left hook from the global recession; agriculture has hardly moved beyond cutlass and hoe; and tourism, despite billions in investment and marketing, is on shaky ground.
At this point in our nation's history, we have a golden opportunity to take advantage of our God-given right to benefit from commerce in our region. The expansion of the Panama Canal, which is scheduled to be completed in 2015, presents us with a golden opportunity to secure wealth for our people. Jamaica must exploit its strategic location, as we are located at the crossroads of major international shipping lanes. If we do not take advantage of this, we might as well have dawg for supper.
Well-thinking Jamaicans would be derelict in their duties as citizens if they blight the prospect of the creation of 10,000 jobs which would be generated with the establishment of a China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC)-driven industrial park.
We cannot miss that boat. We cannot waive US$9 billion in potential foreign-direct investment which will come by way of the logistics hub; we cannot allow people who have taken onto themselves the hobby of opposing development to be depriving the country of much needed investment. Even preservationists will admit that omelets cannot be made without breaking eggs; and as long as we keep the chickens alive and healthy, more eggs will come.
We are not suggesting that Jamaica should throw caution to the wind and start levelling Goat Islands. No, far from that. Instead, we are saying that we should put in place all the necessary measures to minimise the effects on the environment that this major development may cause.
Time is not on our side, as 2015 is not far away, and CHEC has less than a year left on an MOU signed with the Port Authority for all the relevant studies to be conducted, including environmental assessments. With unemployment at 16.4 per cent, crime appearing to be an untamable beast, gross domestic product low and debt having a stranglehold on the economy, Jamaica must do all in its powers to facilitate this mega-investment opportunity which could see US$1.5 billion being spent on creating transshipment facilities, a logistics centre, industrial plants, a cement plant and, possibly, a power plant.
Goat Islands, though a protected area, is perhaps the best-possible site for the logistics hub, when one considers the close proximity to the Kingston Container Terminal. We believe that Jamaica's bid to divest the latter could suffer significant setback if Goat Islands were to be ruled out, as the China Harbour Construction Company, which is seeking to acquire the terminal, would have no real motivation to take it if the logistics hub is again reduced to a figment of the imagination.
We have no doubt that a clear, unequivocal signal from the parliament that this dream should not die is necessary at this time. It is time to stop pandering. It's time to commit ourselves to transforming Jamaica for the benefit of its people; it is time for bold action. We must find that delicate balance between development and environmental protection, but for Jamaica's sake, let us not allow poverty and unemployment to be the winner in this debate.
That JADCO controversy
On another matter, if Renée Anne Shirley is speaking the truth in her piece entitled 'An inside look at Jamaican track's drug-testing woe', Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has a lot to answer to concerning the failure of the Jamaica Anti-doping Commission (JADCO) to preserve the integrity of the country's sporting image.
Shirley alleges that Jamaican anti-doping efforts are far from satisfactory and that neither the Government nor JADCO appears seized of the need to correct the maladies in the system. She has pointed out, for example, that JADCO did not have a large-enough staff in place to carry out rigorous anti-doping programmes when she took up the job.
"The Doping Control/Technical Services and the Education/Communications Units had only one junior staff member each, and the director positions were vacant. There was no Whereabouts Information Officer - in charge of keeping track of athletes so that they could be tested out of competition - and only one full-time doping control officer," Shirley wrote.
To add insult to injury, JADCO has not produced financial statements in five years, failing to account to the country for what it has been doing with the taxpayers' money. It cannot be that this very important body continues to operate like a rogue institution by not updating the parliament on its activities by way of annual reports, and failing to safeguard the integrity of the country's sports programme.
Prime Minister Simpson Miller must commit to ensuring that JADCO lives up to its mandate. She must tell Natalie Neita Headley, the Minister Without Portfolio in her office, who watches over sport for her, to spare no efforts in turning JADCO around. The urgency as of now requires that parliament intervenes in the matter.
Maybe, Hugh Buchanan, MP for South West St Elizabeth, who has a very strong sport and physical education background, or fellow first-time MP Keith Walford, also a sportsman, may want to consider moving a motion for the Human and Social Development Committee of Parliament to consider an urgent cure to this untidy JADCO affair.