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Columns

If we build the logistics hub they will come

Franklin JOHNSTON

Friday, April 11, 2014    

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We are on the cusp of greatness. We now have mega projects in the pipeline which may fuel our drive to growth. Our foreparents were unwilling workers when "sugar was king", but rushed to Panama for a back-breaking mega canal project; what will we be? History says seize the time, it is a winner's story, so let's win and write ours. Sport and entertainment never built an economy, yet our leaders big up minstrels while producers suffer red tape. Now China beckons, and we must free-up the bureaucracy and use their penchant for mega projects to our advantage. China built the Forbidden City; mounted global forays into the 15th century; culled the exotica of the world; regaled its dynastic courts with fauna and flora; its naturalists sailed the seas curating the minutiae long before Darwin. They did well. The violent Hebrew myths served us under the slave system but did not make us caring or prosperous. Let us now open our minds as free men to Confucius' calm. We are captains of our fate, so embrace a new partner!

The conversation about our environment and China is a no-brainer. Mega projects can change our reality and our future. Jamaica is a natural beauty, but this is not bread on the table. The Tainos lived with the land and Xaymaca developed sustainably -- a paradise. We do not need military works as the USA did at Goat Islands, but major civil works may fuel prosperity so we must make stark choices and, if possible, compromise, but it's people first! The environment was pristine before we got here and may be so after we depart; let us use its assets wisely to make a life, as in the long run we are all dead.

Europe invented environmental degradation. The planters prospered and made garbage. And, guess what? They re-invented themselves and got on the "high horse" as defenders of environment. Things look different when you slash and burn yourself to the mountaintop. Well here's the thing Busha, we will make our way, not rapacious as you did, but with balance and equity; eyes firmly fixed on prosperity.

The link between mega projects, national identity and development is known. The so-called "seven wonders of the world" are tribute to man's ingenuity at scale -- from "ginormous" Easter island heads, Chichenitza, Taj Majal, Eiffel, Rushmore. Our British legacies are few and underwhelming. We were a plantation. Big shots did not live here so their detritus are our monuments. Sugar factories were big structures to Africans; Hermitage Dam, Spanish Town cathedral too; we scrapped the hydro electric complex in Bog Walk Gorge for oil -- wrong move! The Royal Botanical Gardens at Hope and Bath, St Thomas -- holding on. Gone is the railway system; light rail trolley for urban transit which shamed many big cities. We chose minibuses -- wrong move! We created no iconic structures, now China is our ticket.

The Jamaica logistics hub is a tribute to insightful Jamaicans... "if you build it, they will come!" The Hub is not a normal turnkey project; predictive investments which capitalise on "location, location, location"! We must upgrade our transport assets -- air, sea, land, data -- to get the world in and out; prepare workspaces for them, rip out all red tape and educate our people -- mastery of English, work ethic, positive values, a "can do" spirit. All else is in books, on the Internet and we self-educate. Teachers and students must learn English so listen to BBC radio and copy them. China built a Great Wall in pre-history to protect its people. We build a police force, but we should have built morality as our enemies are within. More Chinese are learning English than any others, and more of their students are in foreign countries. The Chinese are a great, historic and eclectic people, we can trust them to build well. Can we trust us?

A China-Bog Walk gorge dam is exciting; a micro dam to their Three Gorges. We lack vision in the built environment it's a shame. Which are our inspired works? Our houses are brutal; no monolith raised to the "martyred slave". The dam may lift drought and will lift our souls by iconic engineering, breathtaking sensible quantities, six lane roads, viewpoint rising from Crescent falling in Linstead; grand aspect across the south coast. Tourists and "staycationers" gawk; the Grand Gorge Hotel & Spa, Gorge Village with casino, tourist shops and Damhead cottages offering rowing, fishing, boating; daisy chain villages in the hills strung out toward Ocho Rios offering peace on earth. So we are again beneficiaries of another man's vision, design, largesse -- nothing new. So what of Goat Islands? Another mega project?

A China-Goat Islands ports complex is visionary. A Cabinet protected Goat islands for good reasons and a Cabinet may now make it productive for good reasons. I have no problem with either; life is change. Snapper may one day be protected as salmon in rivers abroad. You head through the channel, hugging the coastline for comfort, the calm of Wreck Reef round Cabarita Point and spot the target. The Goat is desolate scrub; soldier crabs and black ants are thriving; no Garden of Eden. Coal burners cut down every sapling (if the State can't protect people what do you expect?); the odd pile of waste; fisherfolk do not go toward Goat Islands so the shoreline tiki-tiki are merry. Portland Bight, north of Pigeon Island into Galleon Bay, is a marine industrial park of several thousand hectares and boasts a bauxite ports complex in the south west, a mile in a Feed Mill Port Complex and in the Galleon, a power-generation ports complex which discharges hot water, kills all fish, but provides warm salt water baths for me and my friends from schooldays. Some 99 per cent of us have never been there, but things may change if China gets in and the flotilla of floating restaurants, casinos, nightclubs, garbage scows in the balmy bay may need traffic lights. Let's see development plans and those for the compensatory environmental investment.

A China nuclear power complex is my wish. We are poor but trendy -- look at our women at the Kartel protest...see the hair? the outfits? We had early electricity, seaplanes, car dealership, bullet-making machines; we get respect. Some 160 new power reactors are planned; UK, Japan, Sweden, Germany, France, USA are building reactors; India seven new ones and Spain -- Wow, we are worth it! We "batta-batta lang time wid coal". We want clean, cheap, cutting-edge energy. Prof Emeritus "Bunny" Lalor at UWI operates a nuclear facility and most do not know because we do not read. Let's expand nuclear!

Iconic built environment projects can get us jobs, growth and prosperity. Look at the old Panama Canal, Crystal Palace, now the Burj Dubai, Palm Jumeirah and Jebel Ali man made islands. We may never see the Gordon Town to Pt Antonio Cable Car, but tour buses paying the tolls to see iconic nodes fuel the economy; the fleet of coastal cruisers doing day trips; the floating enterprises, casinos; day and night clubs; exotic Cabaret Venetian style will boost the real music industry -- you can't wine, dine, roll the dice to dancehall. I guarantee the tourism minister 10 million visitors by 2020. Stay conscious, my friend.

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education. franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com

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