The University of the West Indies and Caribbean Maritime Institute today hosted an all-day forum on the proposed logistics hub.
I couldn’t make all the sessions, but below are some points made by the speakers I heard, and from the session I chaired.
Richard “Dickie” Crawford, Jamaicans United for Sustainable Development:
– It’s important to ensure an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) is done as soon as possible.
– We need to move to a situation where there is a 24-hour environmental lobby, not closing the gate after the horse has gone.
– If the environmental lobby has been left out of the action team, now is the time to put them in.
– We need to pick a winner and use the investment from that to build on other aspects
of Jamaica’s unique economy, eg health tourism and medical marijuana.
– One of the most important steps is communication and inclusion of people in the process.
Dr. David Smith, Institute of Sustainable Development, UWI:
– EIAs come too late in the process. In this case we are involved relatively early. If the plans are not written yet, we can ensure that important points are dealt with,
– We tend to keep secrets. We need to use the logistics hub to share information in a holistic way. Bring in the best minds in the country. If you vilify some, you cut off expertise that could help you decide how to do the job better.
Karen Adair: Caribbean Maritime Institute:
– There is much precedent in how logistics hubs are planned (in other areas of the world).
– We don’t pitch environment versus development any more, we don’t say either or.
Michael Witter, Economist, University of the West Indies:
– We are hearing a lot of concern, fear and uncertainty.
– What is causing this unease is that we have a history of export development that has
been unfriendly to the environment and has provided low-paying jobs that have made poverty endemic, eg sugar, bauxite, and tourism which has created these apartheid all-inclusives next to squatter settlements.
– The Falmouth pier has excluded a lot of people, for example, despite the promises.
– Will MSMEs (micro, small, and medium sized enterprises) get a chance to participate in the economic zone?
– In a sense we need affirmative action if we are going to use MSMEs to break the cycle of endemic poverty associated with these mega-projects.
– Should we target high productivity labour instead of cheap labour going forward?
– What are the logistics to involve the farmers and fishers?
Damien King, Economist, University of the West Indies:
– When we hear special economic zone it means an enclave of no taxes that everyone else will have to pay taxes for.
– We need to know why Jamaica has had the worst performing economy for the past 40 years so we can know if a logistics hub will solve the problem.
Diana McCauley, Jamaica Environment Trust
– There are no objections to the logistics hub, the strong objections are to the Goat Islands as the location for the transshipment port.
– The problem with the scoping study is the order in which things are occurring, scoping study to inform Cabinet, then Cabinet is to take a decision, then EIA is to be done.
Dennis Chung, Planning Institute of Jamaica:
– I heard, when divesting Air Jamaica, that would be the end of tourism, (instead) air traffic went up after that.
– We need to change the conversation, when capital hears environmentalists confronting development, capital gets confused.
Alfred Sangster, former university executive,
– We should say to CHEC (China Harbour) that we want your development but we have a better place to put it.
Conrad Douglas, Conrad Douglas and Associates, author of scoping study:
– The entire protected areas system in Jamaica needs to be reviewed.
– At this time there is no description of the proposed project.
– The debate in the media is premature as there is no basis for objective analysis.
– The scoping study is not an EIA so any conclusions about the project at this time are unfounded and fraught with the potential for error.
Brandon Hay, Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation CCAM), managers of the fish sanctuaries in Portland Bight Protected Area:
– This is not about iguanas versus development, we are not against development, but
developments have to be located in optimal areas.
– There has not been proper analysis of the alternatives to the Goat Islands, we have been given no information.
– The fish sanctuaries in the Portland Bight area are already showing signs of improvement but data is not yet available.
– The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has not lived up to the terms of its delegation agreement with CCAM (agreement delegating to an organization the authority to manage a protected area).
– CCAM is the only delegation authority that has received no funding from NEPA.