BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor -- special assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
PRIME Minister Portia Simpson Miller has made it clear that her Administration will be pressing ahead with the proposed multibillion-dollar logistics hub, despite mounting criticisms.
"As it relates to discussions about a port for logistics operators, we will do everything in our power to secure the investments that will expand our economy, always remaining aware of the importance of our environment for sustainable development," Simpson Miller told jubilant supporters crammed inside the National Arena in Kingston for the public session of People's National Party's (PNP's) 75th annual conference Sunday.
Following an announcement last month by Environment Minister Robert Pickersgill that the Goat Islands — located off the coast of Old Harbour Bay, St Catherine — are being seriously considered for the site of a logistics hub to be built by the Chinese Government, environmentalists have been up in arms about the plan, arguing that any form of industrialisation of the islands will have a devastating impact.
But yesterday, Simpson Miller emphasised that a number of Jamaica's important landmarks, including the two international airports, the National Stadium, New Port West, the cruise ship pier in Trelawny, Montego Bay Convention Centre and Portmore housing development, would not have been built had the Government of the day listened to the critics.
"We are taking the environment into consideration, but at the same time we are going to be lifting the standard of living of the masses of the Jamaican people," she said.
Securing more than $150 billion in investment, she insisted, is nothing to scoff at. Instead, she noted that it is all part of a grand design for growth and development.
"No matter what, this Government, this party, will be going for growth and development," she said.
Simpson Miller said the global logistics hub remains a priority of Government and party. She noted that it has received broad support from a wide cross-section of the local business community as well as multilateral agencies.
She explained that although major projects are important planks of the hub, it is not an initiative created only for participation of owners of big capital, but that the Government will ensure inclusion of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.
"We know that development will only come if we set the right conditions for businesses in Jamaica and we want to create jobs to improve the quality of life of our people," she noted.
Announcing that Jamaica's credibility has been restored, Simpson Miller said renewed interest is being shown in the island once more and everything will be done to secure investment to expand the economy.
In her more than hour-long presentation, Simpson Miller pointed to what she described as the party's "unchallengeable record of achievements", which included implementing policies that gave Jamaicans a stake in their country that they never had before.
"The PNP has always been and will always remain a party of progress, innovation, and party of performance," she said.
Outlining achievements such as the establishment of the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme, the increase in the number of beneficiaries under the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, minimum wage and National Insurance Scheme benefits, Simpson Miller said the party has done all it can to help the poor.
"Whoever says we have done nothing as a party we need to continue to mash down the lies," she told the supporters who cheered in agreement.
Simpson Miller, while admitting that things are not where they should be, given the lack of jobs and high food prices, promised that better days are ahead.
"Rome was not built in a day, and you can't plant corn and want to reap it in one day. And so, we still have hard days ahead, but we are pressing ahead with confidence," she said.