Letters to the Editor

Consider a Cuba, Haiti, J'ca co-hub

Monday, January 27, 2014    

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Dear Editor,

The poor management of Jamaica's economy over the last 50 years has left our leaders desperate for major economic opportunities. Their objective now is to compensate for decades of bad policies. This approach is flawed as it does not reflect an appreciation of the reasons for the current economic problems.

Dr Damien King, head of the Economics Department at UWI, asked two fundamental questions at the Logistics Hub Symposium held at UWI on November 9, 2013. These were: 1) What are the reasons for Jamaica's economic failure over the last 50 years? And 2) Will the hub address the reasons for the failure or compound them? Upon reflection, it is clear that corruption, tribalism and bureaucracy will not be curtailed by the introduction of the hub.

The Simpson-Miller led administration is promoting Jamaica as a prospective hub destination to international investors without the benefit of a comprehensive assessment of Jamaica's carrying capacity. The Government is focused on economic growth and development, however, for sustainability to be achieved, economic, environmental and social forces have to be in dynamic balance within the particular context (balance is dependent on context). Determining and reconciling trade-offs are key considerations in achieving that balance. For example, can Jamaica support the forecasted level of development over the long term, taking into consideration implications related but not limited to degraded land and seascapes, coastal engineering, air pollution, possible chemical spills, ballast water disposal, invasive species proliferation, and other coastal and marine based phenomena?

Another important question at this time is how will the hub impact Jamaica's resilience to climate change? This question puts sharply into focus the value of ecological services provided by wetlands, coral reefs and forests; the significant role protected areas play in climate change adaptation; and the cost of environmental protection versus engineered interventions. Additionally, there is the related issue of funds already spent to establish the Goat Islands as a refuge for endangered biodiversity, and the impact on funding opportunities the development would have on ongoing and future environmental programmes by the Government, local NGOs and academia.

As stated by James Moss-Solomon of Mona School of Business and Management at the symposium, Jamaica was once a booming "hub" in the days of Captain Henry Morgan. Its success was due to geographical location and favourable port conditions. Taking into consideration these factors, the country's economic quagmire, and the possible development opportunities, a "trade-off" position is a co-hub between Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti. This approach would lessen the impact on Jamaica's environment. In Jamaica, the Vernam Field site should be developed, with a seaport and manufacturing zone in close proximity. The Goat Islands should be used for environmental protection and ecotourism. In addition, an alternative site for the proposed Caymanas component should be considered based on its risk of severe earthquake and flood damage. The preferred option is no development of the hub.

The balance of sustainability should be met using a compatible mode of economic development, for example, the establishment of a medical marijuana industry, which has positive spin-offs for cultural and health tourism as well as employment. In the end, no matter what course of action is taken, transparency and inclusive decision-making must be guiding principles.

Dr Kwame Emmanuel

kwame.emmanuel@uwimona.edu.jm

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