Minister of Transport and Works, Hon. Michael Henry, has dismissed claims of political victimization in the Government’s roll-out of the US$400 million (J$36 billion) Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP).
At a press conference he called at the Ministry, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston, Friday (September 17), to clarify the issue, Mr. Henry provided a chronological explanation of the steps government had taken to involve the Opposition at every parish launch of the Programme.
He pointed out that the programme had been endorsed by Opposition MPs at some of the launches, while their representatives have not showed up at others. To date, launches have been held in St. Catherine, St. Thomas, St. Elizabeth, Manchester, Trelawny, Portland, and St. Ann.
“We decided that we would launch the programme in every parish, to touch as many roads as possible to reduce that (complaints of victimization), to sensitize the contractor and, hopefully, get a responsible Opposition (to) accept the fact that the roads are in the worst condition, and if you wait on the cess to flow, and you continue with the RMF (Road Maintenance Fund) alone, you will never catch up,” he explained.
Minister of Transport and Works, Hon. Michael Henry arriving at Friday’s (September 17) press conference, which he called at his Ministry, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston, to clarify issues raised by the Opposition about the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP).
Mr. Henry said the government has advised the contractor for the project, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) Limited, to limit the number of foreign contractors and to use local contractors, instead. He stated that this has been complied with, and a decision taken to sensitize both the nation and the contractor through the launches.
Mr. Henry said that, politically, he had no involvement with contractual arrangements, “except to give the parameters of where we go”.
“I imparted that to the Opposition Spokesman on Transport and Works (Robert Pickersgill), who attended the first launch (in) St. Catherine, who spoke at the launch, as the decision was wherever we go in the constituency in which we would launch, the MP, and or the choice of the Opposition, would speak,” the Minister said.
He noted that the criteria for road selection included: roughness index; traffic count; where communities have been cut off due to damage; key roads in relation to schools and health centres; population density; and connection to critical industries. The Programme also encompasses all main roads that flow around the north and south coast.
Mr. Henry cautioned that the Opposition should be responsible in its pronouncements, as a broadside could jeopardize the government’s relationship with the Chinese, as it relates to the JDIP. He confirmed, however, that he has not received any complaints, or had any discussion with the Chinese on that issue.
In a release issued Thursday (September 16), the Minister reminded that the ongoing and prospective investments in the country by the Chinese were critical to the nation’s growth and development. He noted that the concessionary loan funding for the JDIP from the Export/Import Bank of China was at three per cent interest.
The JDIP is major undertaking by the Government of Jamaica to significantly improve the island’s road and bridge network, with a view to stimulating economic development and enhancing the quality of life of Jamaicans. The Programme is being undertaken over the next five years in collaboration with the Department of Local Government, and implemented by the National Works Agency (NWA), with financing from China’s ExIm Bank and the Government’s Road Maintenance Fund (RMF).