No Economy without Ecology
I need to begin this week by making a most comprehensive and unreserved apology to the the Fiesta hotel and to the readers of this paper. Last week the caption to my picture of the Fiesta hotel at Lucea made a false statement. The groyne pictured was described as illegal. It isn’t. The operators have a licence for this construction from NEPA – I have been assured. I would like to know however, whether the rest of the caption is correct. There seems to be a visible plume of pollution from limestone in the sea to the west of the groyne. If this is not limestone dust, what is it?
That said, I wish to make it clear that my opinion of the hotel still holds. I think it is a graceless assault on the landscape of Lucea harbour and of Jamaica.
A few days ago The Gleaner has carried one of it fairly regular doom-burdened stories about Jamaica putting off investors. This one was serious
“Spanish Investors Shun Jamaica.”
I am amused.
"We need to have regular contact between Government and the investors and to ensure that the government is still backing Spanish investment," Spanish Ambassador Jesús Silva told The Gleaner.
According to the ambassador, the current atmosphere has to be improved, because the Spanish are operating honest companies, of good quality and the best environmental practices.”
Which suggest of course that any criticism of the Spanish investors is mean-spirited, mistaken and motivated by malice, a suggestion made none too subtly by the advertisement last week in the Gleaner which implied that Butch Stewart and the Observer are out to get the multi-billionaire Spaniards.
I knew Butch had clout, but this is ridiculous.
The real story comes from Majorca, home of some of the Spanish hotel chains. According to a recent story in a Dominican Republic newspaper “Adviser for tourism to Mallorca's Chamber of Commerce, Antoni Munar explained: "Four of the world's top hotel groups come from Mallorca and of these four, two, namely Riu and IberoStar, have hotels in Jamaica. Right now the Baleares Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera) is saturated – there is no more space for hotel development so many hoteliers have to look outside of Spain. Jamaica is a very good market. It has developing infrastructure, close proximity to North America, a strong brand that is recognised throughout the world and has both a mid market and high-end market component. Jamaica makes good business sense."
The Spaniards are not going anywhere. Their investment decisions are governed by the the US recession, by the unhealthy state of the world economy and by their liquidity.
Meanwhile, led by their egregious Ambassador they are targeting Jamaica’s environmental activists among whom I count myself.
The Jamaica Environment Trust and the Northern Jamaica Conservation Association have been the special enemies of the Spaniards since they objected to what was happening at Bahia Principe. JET is supposedly in Butch Stewart’s pocket!
"There is nothing wrong with the environment. The problem is something maybe with the procedure inside the environmental agency”, Mr Felipe Castellanos, project manager for the hotel. He was right about NEPA; but I took some pictures published in this paper last year showing a beach full of faeces next to the hotel. When I showed this picture to an employee of the hotel at the so-called EIA presentation last year I was told that they “knew about that”.
And of course they will improve on nature at Pear Tree Bottom. The Ambassador himself, Mr. Silva”said the Pinero Group has made plans to have the indigenous turtle population of the area placed under the guardianship for a future tourists attraction, Furthermore he said much of the coastline would be enlarged and restored.”
Now! How about that!
Perhaps we should ask them to do a makeover on the whole island and make all our wildlife (me included) into a tourists attraction. On second thought, that may be exactly what they have in mind.
The idea of chain-ganged turtles laying eggs on concrete seems a tad outlandish, though.
Threats to the Environment
In Jamaica the major threats to the environment are:
1 Ignorant politicians
2 Ignorant bureaucrats
3 Arrogant developers
4 Climate change
5 Soil erosion
6 Sand-mining and the destruction of mangroves and corals.
7 Large land ownership - latifundism.
8 Unemployment & homelessness
Most of us do not know that of mainland Jamaica’s 488 miles of coastline less than 50 miles may be described as beach. Thirty years ago this was split almost evenly between public bathing beaches/fishermen’s beaches on on side and privately licenced beaches on the other. The UDC’s programme of beach-stealing has changed the balance decisively against the public interest.
In a place like Barbados, smaller than the parish of St Andrew, there is more beach frontage and all beaches are public There is no human interaction problem in Barbados because the population is integrated into tourism. All of Negril was intended to be public when Norman Manley opened the first road there fifty years ago. I was present and heard him speak about protecting the amenity and beauty of the area by restricting the elevations of hotels to no more than the height of the coconut palms. The UDC put paid to all of this in its frenzied attempt to atone for its failure of mission by becoming a property developer.
The threat by the Spanish to concrete the coastline of Jamaica by putting up 20,000 or more rooms should make every Jamaican cringe with horror. The modus operandi of the new investors is to use the hotel to wall off the beach and in the case of Bahia Principe to lay down a concrete substrate on top of which sand is placed. Since mining of beach sand is illegal in Jamaica they must be importing the sand legally from some foreign country. They must, mustn’t they?
And since the legal deficiencies such as exist are the fault of Jamaicans, we should remember the Spanish Ambassador’s threat last year when he warned the parish councils to behave themselves or face unspecified consequences. Shamefully, the then government spokesman Donald Buchanan, minister of information, added insult to injury when he too cautioned the public servants of Jamaica to give foreign investors a 'bly' to treat them with kid gloves and not to require too high a standard of compliance from them in relation to the laws and regulations relating to the environment. (vide: building applications en Español)
The present Minister of Tourism seems keen to put a hotel on every beach because the investment is huge and thousands of Jamaicans will be employed
The people of Jamaica are entitled to know what sacrifices are to be demanded of us to get these marvelous blessings.
How many Jamaican jobs in the hotels and at what level of wages?
What is the Prospective tax revenue return to Jamaica by the hotels?
Who will build the housing for these workers and where?
In a world of increasing drought where will we get the water to supply these hotels?
What quantum of food is to be supplied by Jamaican farmers?
I don’t believe Mr Bartlett or anyone else can or will answer any of these questions.
Others can however point with pride to the crime and disease ridden slums which surround every hotel district – in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril, and which make the real argument for all exclusive hotels.
The Spanish Ambassador should be asked by the hotel industry to give a lecture on the current state of hotel construction and de-construction in Spain. to explain the meaning of the phrase ‘Costa del Concrete’ and, explain to them why Spain’s Environment Minister led the European Union in decreeing a compulsory 100 meter setback for all construction on European coasts. Such an assignment would surely keep Mr Silva out of mischief for a few days.
In the meantime we should be asking ourselves whether we want to turn the whole country into a Spanish Free-Zone, fit only for package tourists – like Majorca or the Costa del Concrete. Those Majorcans who don’t work for tourism can relocate to other places in Spain. Where would we go?
Copyright©2008 John Maxwell