HAPPILY, the discussion on the proposed development of Goat Islands has become less noisy and more enlightening, which is how we need to proceed at a time when productive ideas are a premium.
In our view, preservation of the environment and the profits from economic activity have to be balanced in the interest of any country's economic development. This is particularly important in a small developing island such as Jamaica. Ensuring that there is a pragmatic and sustainable balance between preservation and profits is the difficult but essential patriotic responsibility of the Government.
In some situations, pragmatic decision-making, accomplishing preservation and profits, can be achieved by patriotism. Such was the case with the sale of the heavily indebted Wallenford Coffee Company to the Michael Lee-Chin owned AIC International Investments for US$16 million (J$1.6 billion).
We congratulate and praise Mr Lee-Chin for his patriotism. He has invested millions of US dollars in the land of his birth when he could have chosen to invest anywhere in the world, given all the uncertainties. We are pleased that these investments have been profitable.
Arriving at a pragmatic blend of patriotism and profitability is not always possible, as sometimes preservation has to be sacrificed by making very painful decisions. The sale of Air Jamaica to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is one such example. Financial pragmatism made the decision inevitable, but the pressure of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) turned it into a fire sale.
There are times when a Government feels it must put patriotism before profits, notably when it operates a public enterprise at a financial loss because it is deemed an essential public service, for example, public transportation in the form of a bus service. These types of decisions are not confined to Jamaica. In these circumstances, it is best to abandon the fallacy that the public enterprise is going to turn a profit or break-even.
The dilemma of the development of the area around Goat Islands is a conundrum which has no easy answer. The decision on the development or preservation or some combination is a case for pragmatism. The country desperately needs economic growth, yet this short-term urgency must not be at the expense of sustainable long-term development. The decision-making process must be careful and based on a comprehensive multi-faceted study. It should not be rushed out of fear of losing the interest of the Chinese, because if they are serious they too will need the study to make final decisions before investing hundreds of millions of dollars.
We believe that a proper decision-making process, as outlined by Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies, is essential if a pragmatic decision is to be achieved which adequately weighs patriotism, profits and preservation.