Columns

Why Goat Islands will not be saved

Mark Wignall

Sunday, May 18, 2014    

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There exists a theorem, implied more than stated, that goes something like this: Developed states can afford the privilege of protecting their environmental spaces and endangered species. Underdeveloped and developing states cannot afford the luxury of protecting those areas.

In the pecking order of development, humans stand out first, or that is the theory. In a country like Jamaica where political decisions have dominated the vast majority of our decisions in forward planning over the last 50 years, whatever chances we had to bring our nation into a fully developed status have been blown, and now, all a politician has to do to scare off the arch-environmentalists is wave around the jobs, jobs, jobs flag and poor people will rise up on his/her behalf.

When the minuscule city state of Singapore was being developed, I am certain that there were many lizards, birds and rare mammals that, had they possessed voices and language that humans could translate, would have raised them loud and clear on their own behalf. Being a small place, had Singapore made a decision to save the species and the spaces it would still be in a backward stage of its development, as Jamaica is today.

The reality is that Singapore is now so well developed that its green spaces and botanical gardens, born out of its very development, would put us to shame. And we are so much bigger in area than Singapore.

The powerful minister of transport and works Dr Omar Davies has been much vilified (and rightly so) in his previous dispensation as the man in charge of the finances of this country. This time around I have been told that he is one of only a small handful of ministers who are unafraid to have bright people around him.

In his recent parliamentary presentation he has pretty much told the nation that the Chinese development on Goat Islands, as a part of what Jamaica hopes to be a huge logistics hub in the region, has been given the green light -- subject, of course, to the environmental noise-makers.

When I use the term 'noise-makers' I am not heaping scorn on this well-needed section of the educated middle class in Jamaica. I am instead saying that their protests will come to naught because the country cannot afford to listen to them and take them seriously. Not at the sorry place where we are now.

We probably could have taken them seriously in the early to mid-1970s if the Goat Islands were on the menu then. At that time the man who created the modern city state of Singapore and in a short time brought it to world-class clout, Lee Kwan Yew, visited Jamaica, saw the socio-economic rot being sold by then PM Michael Manley and knew quite clearly what he would not do.

He must have seen how the thinking class at the UWI Mona Social Science campus degree mill supported Michael's experimentation called democratic socialism and if Lee had copied anything at all, it must have been that in a country where individualism and undisciplined behaviour were almost second nature, those traits had to be brought into some kind of order if they were not to destabilise the common good for the trip over the medium term.

In a country like Jamaica where every 10-year-term plan is faced by the disruptive interventions of elections and reports of corruption, Lee would have known that he would have had to take drastic actions again for the common good, but only if he could have sold his plans and have them bought by all sectors of the society.

As the 'benevolent dictator', he neutered the opposition, the press and the unions and made the country's law-making machine one that worked and had teeth. As I have said in this space before, it must have been a hard sell and was not without its problems.

Most important, it could not have worked in Jamaica. In plain language, as a leader, he read his people and must have known the extent to which he could push their patience before they could see results.

He did just that, and it worked. In fact, the city state is now questioning the retention of some of the very strictures which got the state its successes.

The Chinese are into sabre rattling with Japan and Vietnam, but their one aircraft carrier is not enough to send them off alone on wild adventures on the high seas against the might of the US armed forces. China has invested heavily in the continent of Africa and its footprint in Latin America and the Caribbean is plain. It wants global expansion, and Goat Islands is a small though not insignificant part of that global push.

Jamaica has pushed itself into its present position where its options are somewhere between few and none. Had our leaders scripted a path for us which included strong leadership and workable plans for our development, we would have been much farther along on the path of our overall development. Were our intelligentsia the sort to discern political fluff from economic reality we would be much closer to our ultimate goal.

Poverty and human development are still our calling cards, and it would do us well to grab at the Chinese development on Goat Islands.

The JLP ought to be scared of Paul Burke as PNP general secretary

Although the PNP's Paul Burke is no 'spring chicken', he can hardly be said to be among the PNP's geriatric club where the ideas for development in a fast-paced world have become as calcified as old bones.

In the period leading up the last election in 2011, the JLP were using their people for doing canvassing and not paying them, so they got the quality canvases that they deserved. Also in that period, the JLP were outgunned by the very active PNP enumeration machinery that had been turned on about two years before.

This time around I am informed that the JLP may again find itself out on a limb because it has no active election machinery in motion. With the highly activist Burke on board the PNP train, he is at a spot that, in the public eye, will negate any personal problems that are dogging him at this time.

Such is the nature of our politics. And please, in-between election cycles, forget about items like 'transparency' and 'openness'. Those are just the words coming from politicians, designed to soothe the consciences of the well-heeled, well-dressed (some of whom fought for invitations) as they sit at a ceremony at Jamaica House.

JLP Chairman Bobby Montague has hit out against Paul Burke sitting as chairman of the Social Development Commission (SDC) while occupying the post of PNP gen sec. A part of the press release issued on May 13 reads, "We noted Mr Burke's appointment as general secretary of the PNP, and in particular, the fact that he is now in charge of political strategy and mobilisation of the PNP for election purposes. This is a clear conflict of interest with his role as chairman of a public body specifically charged with responsibility for islandwide distribution of resources.

"Since his appointment as chairman of the SDC we had received complaints of politically branded persons being mobilised for attendance at SDC-supported functions, and already since his appointment as general secretary, we have started to hear of meetings of PNP personnel at SDC locations. Clearly this is wrong, and if allowed to continue, the SDC will become fully and overtly politicised again, as it was under previous PNP administrations, after having had its objectivity and credibility restored under the JLP."

I would have preferred if the press release had even given two examples of the 'objectivity and credibility' of the SDC restored under the last JLP Administration.

The JLP never seems to learn. In the 18 1/2-year run of the PNP it politicised everything. The JLP seems to believe that on a purely political basis, whenever it turns over or cleans up the political errors of the PNP, it is rewarded by the electorate when no such evidence of this reward process exits.

In other words, the JLP exists to create its own electoral demise in a nation where nasty politics is accepted as the norm. Does this mean that I am encouraging the JLP to practiae dirty politics?

No it does not. I am simply saying to the JLP that it must get active in its enumeration exercise and at least match the PNP with something, if not everything.

It is quite obvious that the PNP hopes to win the next elections with Portia Simpson Miller at the helm and have her do a PJ on the nation, that is, leave without being booted and arrange for a successor. Paul Burke is nobody's political fool and he will give full loyalty to Simpson Miller until it is time to turn it over to another man from the east.

— observemark@gmail.com

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