Editorial

Bernard Lodge: What's with this palpable fear of big ideas?

Thursday, October 31, 2019

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Jamaica has more than its fair share of pseudo-intellectuals who, loving to hide behind the freedom of every one to criticise anything under the sun, have never seen a big idea that they didn't want to cut down to (their) size.

No major development project in Jamaica has ever escaped the wrath or opposition of these people who seem to have little or no ambition for Jamaica. The list of major projects that might never have seen the light of day, had they been allowed to frighten off visionary leadership, is long and illustrious.

A top 10 compilation of the projects they fought covers the National Stadium; National Arena; Greater Portmore; Emancipation Park; the North-South Highway and toll roads; the Trelawny Stadium; the logistics hub; the Caymanas Estate development; the Morant Bay Town Centre; and now the proposed Bernard Lodge development near Portmore, St Catherine.

In the case of Bernard Lodge, they have been loud about not converting precious “agricultural land into concrete” on grounds of food security and not displacing small farmers. What they never do is talk about the dilapidated and ruinate state of the Bernard Lodge lands, since the dramatic demise of king sugar.

Romantic ideas of how sugar could be revived on Bernard Lodge, among other estates Monymusk and Frome, have been proven to be pie-in-the-sky. Even the mighty Chinese have had to abandon their Complant purchase of Bernard Lodge et al. Still, the critics persist.

Six years ago, the then People's National Party Administration unveiled a failed plan featuring a $5.6-billion public/private development based on 1,584 housing units on 295 acres of land in the area, with space for commercial activities, a police station, and a basic school on Bernard Lodge lands.

Last year, the Jamaica Labour Party Administration, saying it wanted to do away with the piecemeal approach to developing Bernard Lodge, outlined a town plan to involve 17,000 housing solutions at a cost of $9.5 billion, with commercial offices and light industrial facilities, as well as space for agricultural production. In short, the largest development project undertaken in St Catherine since the construction of Greater Portmore in 1992.

If the objections about Bernard Lodge were based on real issues, such as unjustified relocation, loss of economic activity, disruption of water resources, hazard vulnerability, hydrology, coastal dynamics, and air quality, they could be taken seriously. But since their problem is about perceived agricultural disruption, we would have expected to hear massive applause of the proposed $11-billion plan by Mr Gassan Azan's Lakes Pen high-tech agricultural venture.

The 400 acre-venture is to be rolled out across several phases, beginning with a 100-acre farm, akin to a 'mother farm', that will comprise 20 acres of greenhouse facilities for the production of a range of vegetables, 50 acres for orchards, and the remaining area dedicated to open air cultivation. Some of the surrounding farmers will be invited to enter production agreements with Lakes Pen Agri-Ventures Ltd.

The stark 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.

Let the applause begin.


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