THE EDITOR, Sir:
The size and isolation of the small island, its ready access to deep-water channels and proximity to Kingston Harbour, make it a quite easy first choice for the Chinese investors. Finding another site with similar attributes on or off the Jamaican coast may not be easy. That said, I think the country, with its high unemployment and low growth, would be foolish to let such a large investment walk away without a serious attempt at finding an acceptable solution for all the stakeholders.
My solution consists of two very simple components. First of all, those in favour of development of Goat Islands should begin the conversation with a bit of honesty, by acknowledging that a development of that scale will cause significant environmental impact to the island.
The second piece of my solution entails ensuring that the environmental interests walk away with a net-plus. To create this net-plus condition for the environmentalists, do these few things:
1) Identify a suitable location and designate it a sanctuary, where most of the animals and some of the important plants can be relocated. The developer should set aside an agreed amount to facilitate this.
2) The developer should commit to minimising the environmental damage to the island and its surroundings during construction and operation of the facility.
3) Sweeten the deal for the environmentalists by kicking in some additional money to enable them to fund a couple of other small environmental projects.
Many will consider such a compromise a pay-off of the environmentalists and they may even be accused of selling out, but that is how responsible development is done across the world. At the end of the day, I think if this simple approach is taken, all the stakeholders will come away with a win-win.