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Government is in discussions with 12 blue chip companies interested in investing in the Caymanas Economic Zone, which is being established in St. Catherine.

Making the disclosure at a press conference at his Ministry, New Kingston, Thursday (January 6), Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. KarlSamuda, said that the companies have all expressed an interest in acquiring plots of the 200 acres which have been subdivided to stimulate local investment, and give local companies the opportunity to relocate and expand.

“We have entered into preliminary discussions about pricing, location and so forth it has taken a bit longer than we had anticipated,” Mr. Samuda acknowledged.

However, he said that by the end of next month, the government will know the exact cost of infrastructure, and will be able to enter into contracts with investors. Construction of roads, drains and other infrastructure is slated to begin by July 1, and the process of handing over the lots should start by December.

The companies, which are among the top 10 enterprises in the island, represent a number of sectors including construction, manufacturing, communications, food and beverage, service delivery, hospitality, pharmaceutical and agro processing.

On the wider aspect of the Caymanas Economic Zone project, which involves some 1,000 acres, Mr. Samuda said that following discussions with China Harbour Engineering (CHEC), at the highest level, the government is now awaiting word from them.

“They have taken a thorough look at our proposals, and they are now to return to us with their findings and deliberations. So, we are expecting to hear from them, and I suspect it will be favourable,” he said.

Mr. Samuda explained that negotiations with other investors had not realized any fruit, as there were certain conditionalities that the government could not meet.  

“Those conditionalities revolved around the acquisition of our port as a pre-condition for any movement forward. We could not arrive at a position with that and, as a result, those discussions have come to an end,” he stated.

The multi-sectoral effort incorporates agencies such as the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Transport and Works and the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce which has responsibility for coordination and management.

The economic zone will cost US$2.5 billion, and will transform some 1,000 acres of land into factories and warehouses for the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry, the services industry, manufacturing and agro-processing.