Reasonable people can disagree over whether the Goat Islands, off Jamaica's south coast, should be open to economic development or remain protected and left in their natural state.
Indeed, just such an argument has begun to rage, following the disclosure that the Beijing firm, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), has marked one of the islands as its preferred site for a trans-shipment port and logistics hub.
Environmentalists, or the publicly vocal ones, disagree. They insist that the development of the islands will do untold damage to the natural environment and lead to the loss of marine and related flora and fauna that are critical to the survival of some species and the livelihoods of thousands of people who live in the vicinity of the islands.
There is, too, we fear, signs that this debate could take on jingoistic, if not xenophobic, undertones, which would be unworthy of a country such as ours, which prides itself on ethnic tolerance and a globally inclusive foreign policy.
Ironically, those who might lead the discussion down this potentially sorry path may, inadvertently, be doing just what they have accused others of.
It has been claimed, in some quarters, to be a ploy of Jamaican governments to announce projects for environmentally sensitive areas, ostensibly with the intent of creating jobs. When the projects are opposed, the supposed tree-hugging, light-complexioned environmentalists are cast as being against job creation or jobs for poor black people.
We make no judgment on this allegation, but note the claim in the context of a kind of visceral stereotyping of the Chinese, their approach to business, and Beijing's intention for Jamaica and the Goat Islands in particular.
So our environmentalists may not be prepared to believe that a US$1.5-billion investment in Jamaica by a Chinese firm could employ 10,000. Rather, some are prepared to say that most of those jobs will go to the Chinese. It is, we are told, how the Chinese operate anywhere they invest.
We were prepared to give the benefit of the doubt that this approach to the argument was an aberration. But it emerged into a pattern. Willingness to have a flutter on the question morphed into assertions that "the Chinese will import most of the labour to be employed there, so there will be only a few Jamaican jobs".
Any suggestion that Chinese employment could lead to substantial job creation should be interpreted as the Government "fooling the people with lies and empty promises".
An unintended consequence from the tone of this opposition is for the jingoists and xenophobes to misinterpret the aim, leading to the rise of a crass anti-Chinese sentiment and calls for ramparts against the supposed "yellow hordes".
This newspaper wishes to remind of a set of facts relevant to this debate. In Jamaica, the official unemployment rate is 16.3 per cent, which means that by this criterion, over 200,000 people are jobless. But of 1.1 million who are employed, we estimate that nearly half of them are underemployed or in very marginal jobs.
Apart from people in school full time, perhaps half a million of working age have been out of the workforce, many of them having given up on the prospect of finding jobs. And there are not many people, Jamaicans or foreigners, lining up to invest here.
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