Now get on with the Bernard Lodge Development Project, please
RADA is said to be engaged in the valuation of crops and livelihood lost by farmers at Bernard Lodge, as a prelude to a settlement which will make way for urban development to proceed.

It was quite encouraging to hear news last week that infrastructure development on lands at Bernard Lodge, St Catherine, is slated to begin soon, after agreement was reached between the Government and farmers who had resisted the use of their farmlands for urban development.

Last Wednesday's edition of the Business Observer reported that negotiations between the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), representing the Government, and affected farmers had been successful, with each farmer to be paid for land based on estimates of production lost.

There are obviously some nitty-gritty issues to be sorted out — as with all such negotiations — but agreement with the farmers paves the way for that proposed development to move ahead. That can't come too soon.

The Greater Bernard Lodge Development Project (GBLDP) represents one of the biggest and most promising in the area in recent times. We were worried that the Government would get cold feet because of opposition from quarters which have not yet offered a useful alternative.

Earlier this year, the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) indicated that the divestment of lands under the GBLDP would be undertaken in three phases, comprising residential (detached and townhouses) and light industrial blocks; an urban town centre; and agricultural production on 1,330 acres.

The divestment process, which is being managed by both Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings and the DBJ, is being guided by the Greater Bernard Lodge Development Master Plan (GBLDMP) — a long-term project which covers 5,397.02 acres.

The estimated aggregate investment value of the development is more than $19 billion. All projects are expected to commence construction by 2024.

However, the project slowed somewhat after farmers complained about the prospect of losing their land. They were joined by a motley crew of people we call "againsters" because all they seem to do is oppose for opposing sake.

We are growing tired of these people who passionately speak of the urgent need to create jobs and improve infrastructure, exciting everyone, until we reach the part about how these jobs are to be created, only to be grossly disappointed about their striking paucity of ideas.

Regrettably, no major development project in Jamaica has escaped the wrath or opposition of these people who never seem to have a workable solution for even the smallest problem. Unless we are only interested in a handful of poorly paid jobs that cannot be sustained, we have to go for major projects that can employ a sizeable number of people over a sustained period of time.

The bald fact is that Jamaica is not likely ever to move away from the average one to two per cent growth in the economy if we don't undertake some major projects along with the many small ones we now have.

Farmers in the Bernard Lodge area have complained in the past about the lack of demand for their produce. The againsters have nothing to offer them but hot air. If we continue this way, poverty will always be our lot.

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