Barry Wade, Guest Columnist
The Government has designed and is now offering a high-level course in how not to go about establishing a logistics hub in Jamaica.
The course is intended for all citizens, but really only those who can think and act logically which, it supposes, rules out most Jamaicans, like those who can't read or reason out things for themselves, or environmentalists (tree huggers?), environmental scientists (the professionals), or fisherfolk, or camp followers of no political party, or anybody else, for that matter.
The course is being offered in 10 modules:
Module 1: What is a logistics hub? How to keep the public in the dark about this.
The Panama Canal is being expanded.
Module 2: What are its benefits to Jamaica? - Ask the Chinese.
Everyone knows that Jamaica needs foreign investments, and the Chinese are the best bet to give us these. Forget about anyone else. If the Chinese say they will pump US$1.5 billion into the logistics hub, that's all we need to know. And just don't let anyone scare them away. Let's get on with it. And remember, no awkward questions, please.
Module 3: Five days in China will seal the deal - Who needs Omar and Anthony? Let Bobby do it.
So let's hurry up and go to China to seal the deal. We won't need the minister of transportation there.
But the minister of the environment, the one given the responsibility to protect the country's protected areas? Yes, we will take him along, for when it comes out of his mouth that the protected area is about to become unprotected, everyone will want to hail him up for his astute insight as to why the protected area should really not be protected. Does this make sense to you? Certainly not to me, but those meddling people back home won't have to make sense of it anyway. If a so it fi go, a so it wi go!
Module 4: Why that useless piece of real estate known as the Goat Islands is perfect for the Chinese? - Ask the Chinese again.
Goat Islands are ideal for the Chinese, and if they are ideal for the Chinese, they must be ideal for Jamaicans. Simple! But have they looked at other possible locations and with what criteria? Have impact assessments and cost-benefit analyses been carried out by the Government of Jamaica, acting in our best interest, on all options?
Has the National Environment and Planning Agency provided terms of reference for evaluating all potential sites? Or are they in the dark like the rest of us?
Module 5: The Sin of Protecting the Unprotectable - A sermon by the reverend with a little help from a clueless politician.
Enter a minister of religion. He has a direct message from God and from the powers that be. Jamaica's sin is that we want to protect too many of our natural resources and our heritage. Come on, give the Chinese a break. All they want is a small chunk of our richest fish nursery ground, and a swathe through our coral reefs, and a total loss of biodiversity on the islands, and the integrity of one of our most important protected areas.
The fishermen won't care, and it won't matter if they do. Too bad about those super-rich, idle boat owners who only want to save the Goat Islands for their Sunday afternoon cruises, or the tree-huggers and iguana lovers who don't believe in change, even at the peril of their lives. Even, the opposition MP agrees and wants to see all the naysayers go to hell. The reverend and the MP have set us up nicely for our next module.
Module 6: Riling up the environmentalists - Jobs for the poor versus a home for the iguanas.
Too bad the reverend, the MP, and significant persons in the Cabinet appear to be clueless about some basic environmental concepts. They can't seem to understand that the real issue is not about the Goat Islands, or iguanas, or even jobs, as it is about Jamaica's sustainable development, environmental integrity, optimum productive yield, economic and environmental costs and benefits, due processes for environmental
Module 7: The logistics hub is all about a seaport. Let's not confuse the issue with talk about airports and air linkages, ground transportation and linkages, business developments, human settlements, or other such side issues.
The Chinese say they need the Goat Islands for their purpose. Mike Henry and others have been saying that
Module 8: Professor Shirley will fix everything - That's why we've hired him.
From the hallowed corridors of the University of the West Indies, the Government has hired the best brain available to fix everything. He will know what to say to the economists, the ecologists, the sociologists, the fisherfolk, the environmentalists, the Mike Henrys of this world, and just about every one else. Just talk the right talk, and it will be all right.
Omar, Anthony and Bobby, be prepared to kneel at the feet of the new czar. The question is this - will the czar be kneeling at the feet of the Chinese? Done deal? Most people seem to believe that it already is.
Module 9: Father forgive us - We just don't know what we are doing.
OK, let's be practical. We've never done a logistics hub in Jamaica before, so if we make a few mistakes, don't let the masses hold it against us. We are confident our Heavenly Father will forgive us, for we really don't know what we are doing.
Module 10: It's just another nine-day wonder. Jamaicans will soon forget about it.
When everything else fails (maybe even the forgiveness of the Father), we will take comfort in this.
Am I alone in imagining all these musings coming out of Jamaica House? I hope that I am.
Barry Wade, PhD, is chairman of Environmental Solutions Ltd. Email feedback to email@example.com.