Patricia Green | Enforce 2023 Development Action Plan
“... And explain to me truly what I ask: Why have they built this huge hulk of a horse? Who created it? What do they aim at? What religious object or war machine is it?...” wrote Virgil in the The Aeneid in 29-19 BC. What does this have to do with...
“... And explain to me truly what I ask: Why have they built this huge hulk of a horse? Who created it? What do they aim at? What religious object or war machine is it?...” wrote Virgil in the The Aeneid in 29-19 BC. What does this have to do with Jamaica in 2023, after over 60 years of Independence?
The story is that the Greeks were trying to capture the city of Troy and constructed a huge, hollow wooden horse built by Epeius, a master carpenter and pugilist. The Greeks sailed away pretending to abandon the war. They left behind this wooden horse with Sinon, who persuaded the Trojans to take it as an offering to Athena (goddess of war) because it would make Troy impregnable against break-in or capture. Despite warnings from Laocoon, a priest of the god Apollo who could see visions of the future, and Cassandra, the beautiful daughter of the king, the Trojans opened the city gates and took in this horse. That night, Greek warriors who were hiding inside the hollow of the horse emerged from it then opened the gates to let in the rest of the Greek army and captured the city. Today, the term ‘Trojan Horse’ has come to refer to subversion within introduced from without.
In Jamaica, we wait to hear if Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in his capacity of minister responsible for the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), has confirmed its 2017 Kingston and St Andrew and Pedro Cays Provisional Development Order (PDO). The minister stated that the review includes that developments can take place on lot sizes smaller than half an acre, also greater density and height, among other. Citizens have repeatedly been asking for inclusion in these reviews, a requisite part of the regulatory framework of the NEPA Town and Country Act 1958. Will the upcoming confirmed Development Order retroactively deem ‘legal’ all existing developments on lots below the 2017 PDO allowable area, plus those exceeding 2017 PDO densities and height restrictions?
Connecting back to Troy. Built by ‘Epeius’, working within and without, are huge multifamily developments appearing across Jamaican neighbourhoods, plus numerous multimillion-dollar hotel developments. Through the various changes of government administrations, ‘Sinon’ has been making pronouncements over the years. Jamaicans have heard his voice on how development is sustainable to make the nation impregnable in the war against crime, poverty, and affordable housing shortage for retirees, an emerging generation, and importantly, hotel workers. However, ‘Laocoon’ as the court system has already sent out the warning by ruling a number of developments illegal. ‘Cassandra’, as the ‘Community Advocacy Group’ and the ‘Citizens Rights to the City’, has been crying out repeatedly for the character of existing neighbourhoods to be preserved in accordance with what obtains inside the 2017 PDO in which they all had an input in finalising. Critically, Laocoon and Cassandra have identified a major problem, namely, that the responsible entities and government agencies for regulatory oversight have failed to enforce legal protection over the city.
Against this background, more issues of negligence in enforcement and regulatory oversight are unfolding in the first month of 2023. As in the development sector, similar questions have arisen in the poignant stories surrounding vulnerability of children as wards of the State. This news broke some years ago. Biblically, in the book of Matthew, it is written that if you give children a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you will soon wish you had not. You would be better off dropped in the middle of the sea with a millstone around your neck. Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse on the children because it would be doomsday to you if you do. Why did it take so long to bring a halt immediately over the plight of our girl children? Because this Trojan Horse came with a wealthy benefactor?
The loudest horse has now been disembowelled inside the towers of the financial sector. I first learnt from BBC News of an unfolding story of misappropriation of sprint legend Usain Bolt’s investment account. Alfred Dawes, in his January 22 article ‘Black Boys from Country’, remarked: “... it is again poor oversight that has allowed Bolt, who survived the JADCO debacle, to be robbed mercilessly... .” The Financial Services Commission (FSC) has come under severe scrutiny, and the minister of finance has invited the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist in unravelling details. Were there any warnings coming from the ‘Laocoon’ and ‘Cassandra’ about this Trojan horse? It seems there were because questions were being asked without reasonable answers from Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) for proof of tangible assets against which they were securing their investments.
The question is how to track these missing SSL funds, which The Gleaner January 22 article ‘Tracking the money’ highlighted as having multiple layers to hide funds, creating challenges to financial investigators. Assets tend to be registered jointly or solely in the names of relatives or associates. Interestingly, ‘low-level’ fraudsters typically undertake normal household expenditures, but those involved “... in high-stakes fraud generally seek to acquire assets, including real estate and motor vehicles ...”. Questions loom. Are the rapid pace of the multifamily development projects in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KSA) linked in any way to tangible assets for securities, and/or any ‘low-level’ even ‘high-stakes’ frauds? Is it poor performance on the part of those responsible for enforcement and regulatory oversight of the built and natural environment that allowed ‘stop-orders’ for illegal developments to proceed unchecked? What is the force behind the frenzy of multifamily development projects in the KSA?
Did you know that this Greek mythology inspired the Trojan Horse computer virus defined by Norton as a type of malicious code or software that looks legitimate? It damages, disrupts, steals, or, in general, inflicts some other harmful action on your data or network, and it can take control of your computer. The Gleaner editorial of January 26 argued that the chairpersons and other governors of the FSC who have regulatory oversight of these entities owe Jamaicans a full explanation of their stewardship over the past dozen years. I suggest the same applies to those in the built and natural environment. Let us strive for Jamaica as the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business in 2023 and beyond.
Patricia Green, PhD, a registered architect and conservationist, is an independent scholar and advocate for the built and natural environment. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.