Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has a compelling argument that should be heeded, lest things get out of hand.
Indeed, she echoes a position previously articulated by this newspaper. Except that Mrs Simpson Miller understates the risks.
"If we continue to have the discussion this way," Mrs Simpson Miller warned in her parliamentary remarks on Tuesday, "the question I want to ask is whether we want to say to the Chinese, do not invest in Jamaica."
The prime minister's reference was to the unfortunate tone of the debate, led primarily by environmentalists, but to some degree echoed by the political opposition, over whether the Chinese firm, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), should be allowed to develop the Goat Islands, off Jamaica's south coast, as a port for mega-ships, industrial site and logistic hub.
These islands fall within the larger Portland Bight protected area, and it was always understood, and since confirmed by the Government, that any accession to CHEC's request would be influenced by the necessary environmental and related studies.
This development, costing upwards of US$1.5 billion, is, as Mrs Simpson Miller acknowledges, one of several proposed large projects the Government hopes, over the next several years, will jump-start Jamaica's ailing economy.
Some environmentalists, however, argue that developing the Goat Islands would do irreparable damage to spawning grounds for fish and destroy the delicate diversity and bring to ruin endangered species. They should be left in their current state.
This newspaper has no quarrel with a debate along these lines. The issue is one over which reasonable people, and even science, can disagree.
Our concern, as we said previously, is the jingoistic and xenophobic character that the debate has begun to assume, and the surprising quarter from which it is being led. The issue is edging away from the logic of environmental protection to the supposed business practice of Chinese generally: not specifically CHEC.
The Chinese, we have been told, for instance, "will import most of the labour to be employed" in their enterprises, so that there be only "few Jamaican jobs".
So, the claims of significant job creation flowing from an investment of the kind proposed for Goat Islands could only mean the Government "fooling (poor) people with lies and promises". This, even if unintended, ad hominem attack and inductive illogic comes, ironically, from persons who believe that the Government casts environmentalists as light-skinned, tree-hugging people who reflexively oppose projects to provide jobs for poor, black people.
Of course, with official unemployment at 16.3 per cent, the huge numbers of Jamaicans who are marginally employed and three-quarter million having opted out of the workforce, Jamaica is in dire need of economic growth and jobs. That requires investment. But few are lining up to dump capital in Jamaica - except some Chinese firms.
Mrs Simpson Miller, therefore, is on firm ground in telling the cynical gripers to put up or shut up. With a debt of J$1.8 trillion, whose servicing consumes nearly 44 per cent of the Budget and approximately half of the taxes, the Government, as the PM noted, "does not have the money (to invest)".
Further, some making those xenophobic utterances are old enough to remember what happened to Jamaican Chinese during the Rodney riots of 1968.
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