I support big ideas, but Bernard Lodge City is not one of them

Thursday, April 19, 2018

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Dear Editor,

While I understand the theme and object of the Jamaica Observer's editorial 'Bernard Lodge City: Ignore the 'againsters' ', published April 12, 2018, I must express my critique on the issue in a general sense regarding the use of public lands by both political parties.

There cannot be change without critique. I am not against mega projects, if those ventures have backward linkages into other areas for processing and also to increasing production for local consumption and export. Some of these mega schemes may produce jobs for the short run, but no long-term productive effect. Short-term jobs are good, but there ought to be the kind of big projects that are connected to increasing production like the Sir John Peter Grant dam on the Rio Cobre. It was a major project not only in Jamaica, but the world in the post-1865 era. Its contribution to agricultural production was immeasurable up to recent years. Let us look at the Kingston Industrial Estate, it was another mega project in recent times, but it failed to pull the rest of the economy or even to restore the failing commercial city, Kingston, to its former greatness.

I am in support of the big ideas and mega projects, but Bernard Lodge City is not one of them. Both political parties, since Independence, have been using public land without proper planning and specified rational use. I share deeply the opposition to the continued the use of prime agricultural lands for housing schemes. It has been going on for too long and has now become a practice. There is the need for a wider public debate on the use of public lands. The major problem is that successive governments do not know what to do with public lands. This is sad!

Transformation and growth must be defined in real terms as opposed to be abstracted in numbers. We must find new approaches to housing development and appreciate that it is not only on level land houses can be built. There must be a new attitude to agriculture in this 21st century. We need to be prepared not only for food security, but also to export so we can live and grow.

We have had great lessons from our history that application of science to agriculture was a basis for the creation of wealth. This was the case of sugar cane, now we must integrate science into all areas of agriculture to create newer wealth. The State must embrace its responsibility to lead. We need a kind of “Operation Restore” to put, firstly, this Bernard Lodge issue as a priority and treat it with utmost seriousness; and secondly, to conduct a land audit of government-owned and leased idle lands with the aim being to put them into production. The countries that have moved from Third World to First World in one generation and in our lifetime were led by the State playing the central role in the development process.

In addition to those cases, our history should help us to define this new path to growth and development. We need houses and jobs like yesterday, but rational planning must be our guide. We need food, exports, and a platform from which we can build a manufacturing entrepreneurial class. We must begin with a new age of intensification of science to agriculture for real growth and real development of peoples and society.

There are lots of lands suitable for building houses. If we continue using fertile lands for housing we will be a land with lots of houses and massive amount of hungry people. Portmore was a promise of a new city. Yes, that came through, but where are the necessary institutions to support this new city? Are we pleased with the level of crime and juvenile delinquency in that mega city? There cannot be change without critique.

Louis E A Moyston


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