‘ ’ WE WANT IN­VEST­MENTS AND JOBS

Jamaica Gleaner - - GROWTH & JOBS - Jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

AT LEAST one lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist has hit back at Sally Porteous, cus­tos of Manchester, over her ar­gu­ments urg­ing the Govern­ment’s au­tho­ri­sa­tion of a coal plant for a US multi­bil­lion-dol­lar in­vest­ment into the Al­part alu­mina plant in St El­iz­a­beth.

The Chi­nese-owned Ji­uquan Iron and Steel Com­pany (JISCO) is plan­ning to spend US$3 bil­lion or J$387 bil­lion for the up­grade of Al­part’s alu­mina plant in Nain and ex­pan­sion into a spe­cial eco­nomic zone. More than 3,000 peo­ple are ex­pected to be em­ployed over the six-year pe­riod of ini­tial in­vest­ment.

How­ever, a pro­posal to use a coal-fired plant has an­gered en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, forc­ing the Govern­ment to come out declar­ing that any de­ci­sion on whether to use coal is al­most two years away.

Speak­ing last week at a Gleaner Jobs & Growth Fo­rum in Manchester, Porteous did not hold back.

“While I lis­ten to, and re­spect, the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, I sin­cerely hope that it is not go­ing to be a case of cry­ing wolf and pre­vent­ing an enor­mous op­por­tu­nity for Ja­maicans to get work.

“From what I un­der­stand, they will not be us­ing coal from China, they will be us­ing coal from Colom­bia. The Al­part plant it­self would be run on oil, and the coal they are go­ing to be us­ing for the coal plant will not emit any worst emis­sions than oil,” she added, not­ing that she re­cently met with Chen Chun­ming, the JISCO chair­man.

But Diana McCaulay, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Ja­maica En­vi­ron­ment Trust (JET), said Porteous’ anal­y­sis is not deep enough, and so, too, is her view that coal is cleaner than oil.

“Peo­ple are en­ti­tled to their views. But coal is a 19th-Cen­tury tech­nol­ogy. It is time for us to move for­ward, and it is time for us to take the po­si­tion that we want de­vel­op­ment and we want in­dus­try and we want busi­ness and we want jobs for our peo­ple, but not at the ex­pense of pub­lic health and the cli­mate.”

She added: “Ja­maica is in­cred­i­bly vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change. To say that you’re will­ing to take this risk for some short-term jobs, I find mys­ti­fy­ing.”

Ja­maica has been go­ing through decades of low growth, double-digit un­em­ploy­ment and crip­pling debt lev­els that have cre­ated the cir­cum­stances for a loan agree­ment with the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund.”

NOT FIRST TIME

It is not the first time a lo­cal of­fi­cial has waded into con­tro­versy over se­cur­ing needed in­vest­ment for the coun­try. Last year Jan­uary, in the face of a ho­tel in­vest­ment be­ing de­rail over breaches, Robert Pick­ers­gill, then en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter, in lift­ing a ces­sa­tion or­der re­marked that he took note of the “the sub­stan­tial value of the project to the Ja­maican econ­omy, which out­weighs all other con­sid­er­a­tion”. In Septem­ber, Min­ing Min­is­ter Mike Henry said a de­ci­sion on the coal pro­posal was at least 18 months away. Global en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cacy group Green­peace has said con­struct­ing the plant would vi­o­late the Paris cli­mate agree­ment aimed at lim­it­ing global warm­ing. Porteous main­tained that the Chi­nese in­vest­ment rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity to bring well-needed eco­nomic growth to cen­tral Ja­maica. “This is the cen­tre of the is­land’s only chance for re­vival. We have noth­ing else. We’re not near a beach, the north coast is tak­ing care of it­self very, very well, and I can see very great busi­ness go­ing into Kingston.

“We have the op­por­tu­nity of a life­time with JISCO com­ing to take over that plant,” she said.

The Manchester Cham­ber of Com­merce said it is al­ready tak­ing steps to get the parish ready to claim some of the spinoff ben­e­fits.

“We’re cur­rently in dis­cus­sions with in­vestors to try and lure them and en­cour­age them to come into the de­vel­op­ment of the parish to aid in the de­vel­op­ment of the parish, es­pe­cially as it re­lated to three main ar­eas,” said Michael Gottshalk, the cham­ber’s man­ager of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and pub­lic af­fairs.

He said hous­ing to ac­com­mo­date the ex­pected in­flux of work­ers, en­ter­tain­ment and park­ing are at the top of the list.

Sally Porteous

Diana McCaulay

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