ONE outcome of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s trip to China was a report that a major Chinese contractor has committed to building an industrial park at Point Lisas. For such a venture to have a meaningful impact it must be formulated with sustainability in mind. And all stakeholders must come on board to contribute to its success.
Industrial parks present many advantages. They cluster business activities in dedicated areas in order to achieve efficiencies, take advantage of collaborative opportunities and contain negative environmental and social impacts caused by pollution.
All over the world, these parks are recognised as important vehicles for development. Trinidad and Tobago’s experience with the Point Lisas Industrial Estate is a testimony to this.
But the industrial parks of today are not the industrial parks of yesterday.
And the decision by the Beijing Construction Engineering Group (BCEG) presents an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and to ensure development is structured in such a way as to cater to the needs of current and future generations.
There is growing demand for “eco-industrial parks”, with the number of such parks rising from 50 in 2000 to 250 in 2018. Recently, the World Bank Group, United Nations Development Organisation (UNIDO), and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH developed the first joint international framework on these parks to leverage this growth and to push forward the concept.
It should be noted the report of BCEG’s commitment to a park comes amid a wave of Chinese investment in industrial parks all over the world.
Over the last few weeks, it has been announced that China Fortune Land Development International will actively promote the construction and operation of industrial parks in India; the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation will complete a park in Ethiopia and a new park in Belarus is designed to promote trade cooperation between China and Europe. China’s role in stimulating the development of global markets should be capitalised upon.
However, it is important that we also take stock of more recent industrial park ventures, such as the Eteck project, in order to ascertain what works and what does not work for our economy and society.
Doing so will allow us to apply what we have learned to future ventures, increasing the likelihood that they will generate employment not only during construction but in the years to come.
We also have the potential to develop alternative energy and industry focusing on modern technology. To help realise this potential, downstream development must be a part of any planning for the future.