Is Jamaica held in CHEC?

So, the good Dr. Omar Davies, Jamaica’s Transport, Works and Housing Minister, gave us some of what for which we had been longing. He told Parliament about the preliminary stages of plans, by China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC) to develop a logistics hub on the Goat Islands. The Port Authority of Jamaica will be responsible for project development and implementation. The Minister called this preliminary thingy an Initial Framework Agreement (we may call it ‘IFA’…IFA this…).

The project is expected to create 2000 jobs during construction; 10000 jobs will be there at the end. The government will negotiate ratios of Jamaican to Chinese workers. What kind of jobs, sir? Wait boy! There will be jobs.

We were ‘warned’ that Jamaica is not the only ‘game in town’. CHEC is ready to mate with other suitors, though Jamaica has certain ‘advantages’ (unspecified). I wonder if it’s our wonderful jerk chicken or maybe some of our other greenfield developments sprouting in our countryside.

CHEC can go ahead and conduct geotechnical studies and engineering surveys. A technical feasibility study should be completed by April 2014, then preliminary designs of phase 1 will begin and completed by end-June 2014. Then CHEC will present to the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), to seek terms of reference for an environmental impact analysis (EIA). At completion of the EIA, the project will be ready for presentation to Cabinet. Phew!

Oh, I nearly forgot. CHEC want to develop a coal-fired power plant on the Goat Islands. Imagine them not wanting to pay the current rate of US42 cents a kilowatt-hour.

If people were nervous about the whole development before, I think they are super worried now. “Look at that, Cheryl! Jamaica dun got itself some smoke stacks way off in the yonder that used to be blue.” Did I hear someone mention China’s record on pollution on coal-powered energy production? Turn up the gramaphone, dear. I love that song ‘Smoke gets in your eyes’.

Is there any chance the Chinese developers will produce some extra electricity to sell to other Jamaicans at a lower rate? That would be interesting to set aside current discussions on a 360 megawatt plant. What? Mega What!

Jamaica’s environmental lobby, mainly the Jamaica Environmental Trust (JET) has already raised its concerns about the whole concept of developing on the Goat Islands. Their CEO, Diana McCaulay, has already been quick to raise that “Coal is the dirtiest of all the fossil fuels, so there are emissions of mercury, arsenic, ash, a long list of them, and it is also the main greenhouse gas; the main gas that causes global climate change.” Will the ‘fight’ over this project also have to get dirty and dusty?

Johnny Nash was a great Jamaican singer and he had many songs still memorable today. I feel that his time may be coming again, after the little expose we got yesterday. There are more questions than answers.

The more I find out, the less I know.