Columns

One man or one good idea can make a huge difference

Wignall's World

Mark Wignall

Sunday, December 16, 2012    

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Alexander Graham Bell, the telephone; Thomas Alva Edison, the light bulb; Alexander Fleming, Penicillin; Albert Einstein, E=mc squared.

Gandhi, Indian independence at a time when the colonials in Britain were ill-prepared for his mode and level of defiance; Nelson Mandela, the soul and conscience of South Africa; Winston Churchill, who led the first chapter of the fight against the supreme evil that was Adolf Hitler; Martin Luther King, who allowed the United States to tap into that redeemable part of itself; Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore.

Individuals — often on a lonely and selfless journey and the game-changing ideas that spring from the fertile, ever-ticking clocks inside their heads — have been honoured throughout history. Some have amassed enormous fortunes, reflective of the commercial impact their inventions and innovations have had on our daily lives, while others have made our existence that more rich because they dared to believe that people were better and capable of more than what they thought they were.

In the 1950s when, as Jamaican premier, Norman Manley spearheaded the reclamation of swamp lands in the western end of the island, he was ridiculed by many. We now know that his actions gave birth to tourism in Negril.

In the 1960s when Eddie Seaga, as minister of development and welfare, sanctioned the reclamation of land at Kingston's west end and its development, there were some who thought the idea was crazy. Newport West, Port Bustamante and our transshipment port were given birth as a result.

But of course, Jamaica remains a great enigma — with so much potential but always seeming to trend towards economic backwardness.

Ever since we mined the first ton of bauxite in the 1950s, to Independence at the dawn of the 1960s, to the present time, effective political leadership has shown up only occasionally, and when it has, it has been drowned out by the voices and the actions of those pandering decidedly to the wrong ideas and the hijacking of state power for the personal empowerment of political insiders and their cronies.

That political stance is a corrupt one, but having practised it for so long it has become the norm. Over time, most of the country's resources are directed to a maintenance of this corrupt state (political power). The corrupt state eventually falls into ruin and in crucial areas like public education, resources become woefully inadequate.

The big crime perpetrated in this process is that, as a result, we have deliberately undereducated our people to such an extent that ignorance in Jamaica is worn as a badge of honour. Because of this, our brightest and our best can find no space here to enjoy a viable existence. They leave soon after the completion of tertiary education, do quite well abroad, always ache to return home, but to do so is to walk back into the same dank morass of ignorance, incivility, lack of opportunity, stifling government bureaucracy, and, of course, runaway criminality.

It is all connected. The politician is only effective to the extent that his policies and the management of them channel state resources to himself and his cronies. Sections of the civil service share in this money rush.

Businessmen needing state approvals on projects must pay way beyond what is invoiced. The people, that is the voters, know the game, and at election time they make corrupt demands of the politician on the stump, as from their perception, it is the politician who heads the stream of corruption.

Dr Lloyd Cole's dry dock and allied facilities at Jackson Bay will prove, when the project is up and running, that one man can make a difference.

One reader lamented the stumbling blocks to development in Jamaica. "As usual, your articles generate some thought. However, when we keep hearing the same things year on year from our 'leaders', there comes a time when Jamaicans must wake up and realise that those we elect to run our affairs are totally without vision. They and the private sector are only interested in their personal advancement and care very little about the people of this island.

"So, for over 20 years we have plans for a forward-thinking dry dock facility. For 20 years also we have plans for the restoration of downtown Kingston and Port Royal. And we do NOTHING.

"In 1990, a railway company from the UK sent a senior engineer who spent two years in the island. Had we gone through with their proposal (funded by the British firm, all they required was the infrastructure [tracks]) then we would have a world-class railway service throughout the island. The project was scrapped because of local arguments about who should be on the board and run the show!

"We do NOTHING.

"One needs to take a look at the legalisation of ganja in light of the US learning to cultivate their own home-grown stuff with a high THC content. Now they are doing so and again, we do NOTHING.

"So we can write and write, and still we do NOTHING.

"Years ago I was asked to stop smoking ganja at a manufacturing plant in Kingston. I hesitated and spoke to a very senior and respected individual, who said calmly that if the masses of Jamaica ever stopped smoking ganja, then the authorities would not be able to cope with the anarchy that would exist. There would be a revolution. I agreed with this elder's opinion.

"And still, we do NOTHING."

Another reader is of the view that the dry dock project should include a coal-fired plant. We know, of course, that our environmentalists would go berserk on this.

He writes,

"I really do like the fact that you keep pushing this issue.

"This single project could take our dearly beloved country places. It doesn't matter what happens in the world, trading will always take place, so ships will be moving, hence the required maintenance will be needed for these vessels.

"Not sure if the Chinese would want to take up that project because it could be seen as taking away business from China, which by far, handles the most dry docking work in the world. Yes, the US Gulf has dry docking facilities, however (due to cost), these facilities are mainly used for emergency work.

"Most times they just do enough work so that the vessel can get to dry dock in China.

"I currently work on the Mississippi River, in the shipping/coal industry, so I am no stranger to this industry. Prior to that I had worked in the bauxite/shipping industry in Jamaica.

"Speaking of coal, this is another thing that could save Jamaica billions of dollars in revenue with regards to energy production. It is the cheapest way out and it is nowhere as bad as what it is being made out to be. Honestly, the only thing that one has to worry about is ash from the coal. And this problem comes in only if the ash contains radioactive material.

"If there is no radioactive material in its contents, then it can go directly into the cement industry.

"They have developed scrubbers and other ways of cleaning up the gases from the actual burning process, and we could get good quality cheap coal from Colombia.

"I say build a coal plant down in Clarendon close to that proposed dry docking terminal."

The reader says he works in shipping and speaks to what he sees as only 'emergency work' on vessels at dry dock in the US Gulf.

Surely, if Jamaica integrates Dr Cole's dry dock plans into the logistics hub, the facilities in Jamaica would be all-inclusive, able to handle all matters relating to ship repairs and the moving and storage of freight. It probably would suit us to have the Chinese as one of the main investors to ensure added viability of the venture (reduced competition).

Another reader wrote: "I wrote a friend last week asking the question: Where will the big idea come from for Jamaica? I read your article this morning and I was awed by the specifics of this dry dock facility.

"I hope for the sake of every child in need, or under-resourced school or hospital, that we move on this quickly as international capital is out there. Yes, these unions need to change their approach and they have to do so quickly. I suspect that UTech is a more suitable place for a Chair. Mona lacks the expertise in engineering and UTech has both business and engineering. Do we have persons with the expertise in shipping law?"

Minister Tony Hylton (industry, investment and commerce) is gung-ho on the dry dock project, but he must first be convinced in his mind that many politicians before him have talked, talked and talked. From the pages of the PNP's Progressive Agenda, the ministry seems set to go full steam ahead on the logistics hub and the general information is, investors are lining up. That is splendid news.

Jamaicans here and abroad must be involved via public offerings and I expect to hear more on this soon.

McKeeva Bush a Jamaican favourite

It is my understanding, from Caymanian sources, that recently arrested and bailed premier of the Cayman Islands, William McKeeva Bush, has Jamaican connections as his great-grandfather was Jamaican.

It is also my understanding that Bush has awaiting him, on his arrival back from Jamaica, a hero's welcome in West Bay in Cayman.

"He's a most charming and well-liked man here in Cayman. He's especially liked by the Jamaicans, wealthy and not-so-wealthy. It is my belief that the charge against him for importation of explosives will not stick but, one never knows."

Frankly, I had no idea that a politician could be arrested on SUSPICION of various matters. That one is new to me. Should that judgement be applied to our politicians, most would be behind bars, both deserved and innocent. Yes, there are politicians in Jamaica who are decent, but maybe they are just the foolish ones.

I wish Mr Bush well and look forward to his responses in the Caymanian Courts.

observemark@gmail.com

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