Quick Reflections- Seminar Beijing, China (May-July, 2017)

Below is an excerpt of my reflections on a training seminar in Beijing, China.

Represented sector- Land Development; Urban Planning and Research &Development (Informal Settlements and Indigenous knowledge)
QUESTIONS*
1. Overview, general comment and impression of this SEMINAR
The above named seminar was structured to fulfil the main purpose of assisting Jamaica in developing a sector around bamboo. The weekly schedules all consecutively flowed into each building a knowledge base and enhancing the capacity of the country representatives. All culminating into the practical application and demonstration afforded us by the three (3) well thought out weeks in YongAn, Fujian Province.
2. Professional knowledge you have learnt from this SEMINAR, including lectures and field trips. You can talk about this combined with your working experiences.
Having spent almost twenty (20) years in various capacities spanning Central and Local Government as well as in academia, I have learnt that LEARNING DOES NOT STOP. As a professionally trained Urban Development and Environmental Planning practitioner currently involved in projects and programme implementation, I understand the challenges involved in transferring knowledge into tangible actions that directly help the poor and vulnerable in the Jamaican society. Bamboo (and specifically the specie indigenous to Jamaica) can be used as a medium to alleviate some critical issues in Jamaica among which- reducing youth unemployment; providing low cost housing for the 30+% of the population who live in sub-standard housing and fuel the entrepreneurial efforts taking shape in the private domain.
3. What suggestions and comments for this SEMINAR? Are you satisfied with this SEMINAR?
Professionally, I satisfied with the organization of the lectures, cultural experiences and the opportunity to live in Fujian Province- one of the bamboo ‘capitals’ of China. My expectations for a seminar, as named above, were mostly met and many were EXCEEDINGLY met. I would suggest the following:
(a) Condensing of the first four weeks to three and perhaps a lengthening TO four (4) weeks in Fujian and,
(b) Reducing the final two weeks to one- this is all that is needed to wrap up the seminar.
With these two suggestions the duration would be two full months representing one week of savings.
4. Difference and shared things on Forestry and Bamboo in academics and industry. Specific examples are welcomed.
As a graduate of a College of Environmental Science and Forestry in the US, I have always noted the deliberate efforts to have comprehensive Forestry Management Plans (FMPs) in the US and paucity in Jamaica. Observing a similar approach in China especially as it pertains to bamboo plantations has made this deficiency very clear. Further the fact that project driven activities drive afforestation efforts in Jamaica is also a concern. Working on some – namely the CIDA- Ridge to Reef and the USAID- PARC projects highlights the vulnerability and unsustainability of the Jamaican forestry sector. Bamboo itself had been viewed as an invasive species so, much work is needed to remove this stigma and to begin to coalesce all the ground work thus far into a formal, national industry. Much work to be done.
5. Overall impression of Beijing and China
Personally, I know I have not begun to see even the ‘tip of the iceberg’ into the full essence of China-the country. However, what I have been able to see surpassed my dreams and ‘bucket listing’ of this country. Despite some inter-group issues- there was nothing that was allowed to diminish the beauty and appreciation of the experience. Being a city dweller and a professional Urban Planner I recognised the common issues of large urban areas and have even documented some of them. Overall, the best part of this first visit to China was the three weeks spent in YongAn, Fujian Province. The encapsulation of the rural-urban juxtaposition and the precision of the organization of the tours to offer demonstration and application of bamboo uses were absolutely impressive.
6. Possible cooperation idea between China and Jamaica in Forestry and other disciplines.
Many opportunities exist, a multi-sectoral, inter-agency approach is needed (LOCALLY) along with a multi-national partnership(INTERNATIONALLY) at certain stages of concrete milestones along the development cycle. Notwithstanding, Jamaica would need to either produce the resource in large volumes or directly manufacture value-added bamboo products (under viable financial conditions). Jamaica has a high national debt including huge import bills and the latter options would have to be done with several subsidies. Subjected to a tight fiscal space such subsidies may be hard fought. For the opportunities to be realized many activities have to occur concurrently and /or simultaneously. For example, a fast tracking of a policy (Central Government) inclusive of the full range of applicable standards (BSJ’s role).
*Questions provided by Facilitators – July 13, 2017

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‘Give us Vision less we perish….’

The title of this blog entry is one of the lines from the national anthem of Jamaica which always resonates with me.

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Negril, Jamaica sunset. Photo: Hilary F. Smith, 2012.

As a trained Urban Planner,  Environmentalist and Policy Analyst and last but by no means least lover of all things historical, I love the idea and in fact see the necessity of having a vision which lays the foundation for a plan of action. So I have taken the time to understand, in a concise way, just exactly what is the vision for my country. After all the line above indicates that we intercede to the Most High God for such and therefore this must be in place and executional. I have spoken with and done numerous review and it is  a conclusion that what exist is the VISION 2030. Many have stated that this is BOTH a vision / strategic document as well as a national development plan. I had some misgivings about this but have not allowed myself to dwell on that here. It was a very ambitious undertaking and resulted in voluminous  documents as the product of such. So much so that a ‘popular version’ was produced… a shorter more compact version aimed at easy promulgation. As a result of my self study the following gives a quick and dirty synopsis. It is helping me with some much needed professional direction and perhaps it is also timely for revisit by many in decision making at this crucial time of refocus on the country’s development.

VISION 2030- Jamaica’s National Development Plan

Jamaica’s comprehensive long term National Development Plan that seeks to position Jamaica to achieve developed country status by 2030. The long-term development plan is based on a comprehensive vision ‘Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business,’ and on guiding principles which put ‘people ‘at the centre of Jamaica’s transformation.

THE GUIDING PRINCIPLES 

Vision 2030 Jamaica is based on the Guiding Principles listed below.  

  • Jamaica’s transformation must have PEOPLE at the centre of its development. 
  • Transformation should be directed by an over-arching VISION for the society, buttressed by strong, extra-ordinary LEADERSHIP and guided by a cohesive and comprehensive development PLAN. 
  • Sustainability – integrating economic, social and environmental issues 
  • Fostering balanced development in rural, urban and regional areas
  • Equity – ensuring that the Plan facilitates equality of opportunity and equal rights 
  • Social cohesion and partnerships

These Guiding Principles prioritize the elements which are absolutely critical for enhancing the quality of life of all Jamaicans and for the country’s achievement of world class standards in specific or predetermined areas.

STRATEGIC PRIORITIES

In order to achieve developed country status, Vision 2030 Jamaica will give priority attention to the following key areas of national development: Developing Human Resources, Effective Governance, Environmental Sustainability, Gender, Culture & Values, Health, Infrastructure, International Competitiveness, Law & Order, Population, Regional Development, Science, Technology & Innovation and Social Protection.

COMPONENTS of VISION 2030 JAMAICA

There are three (3) components:
The Integrated National Development Plan: this is the overall plan for Vision 2030 Jamaica that integrates all the sector plans into a single comprehensive plan for long-term national development. It includes the National Vision, the four National Goals and the fifteen National Outcomes, and the fifteen National Strategies necessary to achieve these goals and outcomes.

The Medium Term Socio-economic Policy Framework (MTF): a three yearly plan that summarizes the national priorities and targets and identifies the necessary actions to achieve those targets over each three year period leading up to 2030.

The Thirty-one Sector Plans: these sector plans cover economic, social, environmental and governance sectors relevant to national development. At this level Vision 2030 will be implemented through strategic frameworks and action plans for each sector as detailed in the individual sector plans.

Well this sure helped me to get an handle on Vision 2030. My aim, in the not too distant future, is to undertake a comprehensive review instead of the intermittent perusals of selected sector plans in the past…wish me luck.