A national agenda as we start third decade of 21st century


A national agenda as we start third decade of 21st century

Sunday, January 03, 2021

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The new year 2021, which is the start of the third decade of the 21st century, is clearly going to be a difficult year, with the economic and public health fallout of 2020 continuing relentlessly in the first quarter.

During the prolonged austerity, due regard will have to be paid to balancing life and livelihood, even while restraining public expenditure. It is therefore important that Government gives priority to short-term objectives without sacrificing long-term development objectives.

Obviously, long-term development projects require money. However, there are several projects which do not require money at this point in time, but decisions need to be taken to lay the wicket for quick take-off when the time comes.

Among the projects that have been delayed for want of decisions are:

First, the decision to change from a constitutional monarchy with The Queen as Head of State to a republic can be achieved without a costly referendum, requiring only a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament.

Neither the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) nor the People's National Party (PNP) will resist the change.

Second, if the decision is to have a referendum to determine republican status, then that should be twinned with the issue of whether or not the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) should replace the United Kingdom Privy Council.

Third, one of the so-called Millennium Projects announced in 2000 was the retrofitting and conversion of the former US airbase at Vernamfield into an international airport handling passengers and cargo. This is necessary because Jamaica's two international airports in Kingston and Montego Bay are only a few feet above sea level.

Almost any natural disaster, especially a hurricane or earthquake, could put the airports out of operation at the very time when they would be needed to receive emergency supplies.

Fourth, bringing to a conclusion the discussion about the construction of a performance centre/concert hall in Kingston which dates back to the early 1970s. Jamaica is the source of a global music genre, reggae, and Bob Marley and a legion of music legends, yet with no suitable performance space.

What we have is the decrepit Ward Theatre, the Little Theatre which is just that, a little space, and the even smaller Philip Sherlock Centre at The University of the West Indies, Mona.

Fifth, a decision needs to be taken to relocate the National Library from its vulnerable location at the waterfront of Kingston which is too close to the sea air. For far too long the debate has dragged on as to where it should be located.

In addition, a suitable building has to be constructed with adequate size to facilitate the preservation of Jamaica's heritage. The National Library building, when vacated, can be used to expand the Institute of Jamaica.

As Jamaica enters the third decade of the 21st century let us make the decision about the projects and issues left undecided from the previous century, some of which we as a country have been talking about, in some cases for over 50 years.

This could be the basis for a national agenda as we count down to 2030.

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