Environment vs Development
I am a 19-year-old man who is ecstatic about the development projects China wishes to pursue with Jamaica, strengthening our strong diplomatic relations with China which stretch back to the 1970s.
It is quite interesting, however, the public outcry from environmentalists regarding the proposed plan to use parts of the Portland Bight Protected Area to build the trans-shipment hub.
I believe that we all, Government and citizenry, have a responsibility to protect the environment. However, I hold dear to the view that it is a responsibility of our Government to pursue development in our country that will result in a better socio-economic outlook for our people. And so I must express my deepest concern with regards to the statements that have been made against the proposed development of the Portland Bight Protected Area.
To calm our fears I believe the Government must carry out a series of actions. First, they must undertake to establish an environmental oversight committee, like that of the economic oversight committee. However this committee must be given teeth so as to execute the proper protection of the environment, coupled with the careful inclusion of development. I recommend that the minister of environment and the Opposition spokesperson be co-chairs of the committee. Also I recommend that Jamaica Environment Trust CEO Diana Macaulay, and Peter Espeut -- both champions of the environment -- be drafted as members of the committee. Also NEPA, which is charged with protecting the environment, must be given committee membership.
Next the Government of Jamaica must have town hall meetings to inform the citizenry of the proposed plan and its impact. These meetings must indicate the number of persons to be employed and also the terms and conditions of employment. The Government must also state in these meetings the number of Chinese nationals to be employed, and what will be the ratio to Jamaicans who will be employed. We must, with great speed, increase maritime training in the area of shipping logistics, and other areas that will play a pivotal role in the execution of this project. The finance and education ministries, through Cabinet instructions, must give clear guidelines to the agencies such as Students' Loan Bureau to give preferential loans to faciliate the training.
I humbly urge the Government to take into consideration the proposals, as I undoubtedly believe that, with the inclusion of all stakeholders, our project can be achieved.
I urge all Jamaicans to lend support to the Government. However, I urge the Government to ensure that, at all times, dialogue is had with all stakeholders. I refer the Government to a document it once pushed while in Opposition -- The Progressive Agenda -- which outlined some very good principles of participation in governance, especially the PAR principles, which includes participation accountability and responsibility.
Jamaica is poised for greatness in this our 51st year of Independence. Let us all hold hands as we cross this bridge to economic development.