The Government has taken the first step towards seeking parliamentary approval to declare the Montego Bay Perimeter Road Project a National Development Project.
Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, on Wednesday (May 5), tabled the Public Procurement National Development Project/Montego Bay Perimeter Road Project Order 2021 and the Public Procurement National Development Project/Montego Bay Perimeter Road Project Order 2021 Resolution, during the siting of the House of Representatives.
Dr. Clarke said the tabling of the Order and Resolution marked the first such, pursuant to the Public Procurement Act 2015, the Public Procurement Amendment Act 2018 and the Public Procurement Regulations, Public Procurement Review and Reconsideration Regulations, and the Public Procurement Registration and Classification of Suppliers Regulations.
He pointed out that consequent on the Government’s recognition of the huge economic benefits that will redound to Jamaica from the Montego Bay Perimeter Road Project’s implementation, Cabinet took a decision in March to declare it a National Development Project.
“It should be abundantly clear that [Montego Bay], in many ways, is the economic capital of Jamaica. Traffic congestion has been a long-standing issue, as there is only one main thoroughfare connecting the east and the west,” he noted.
The Minister further pointed out that even with low visitor arrivals and hotel room occupancy due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the resort city remains congested.
He said it was anticipated that even after the pandemic is flattened and tourism resumes fully, the congestion will worsen.
It is heavily constrained by [the] inability to [seamlessly] move and for persons to get to and from work. The lost productivity is an economic cost and burden to the society, as it takes inordinately long to move… hence the nature of this project,” Dr. Clarke added.
The project, to be executed by China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC), will entail construction of the perimeter road, rehabilitation of Barnett Street and West Green Avenue, and development of the Long Hill Bypass.
A comprehensive drainage study will also be undertaken. “We have seen the flooding that has occurred in Montego Bay and its environs over the last few years with the slightest of rain. Intense rain for three hours leads to flooding in the city,” Dr. Clarke pointed out.
Key stipulations under the Order include the development’s exemption from provisions under the Public Procurement Act, once approved as a National Development Project; recruiting a minimum 90 per cent Jamaicans to undertake unskilled construction work and 50 per cent for technical jobs; and collaboration between CHEC and HEART/NSTA Trust to develop and implement a training programme for the transfer of knowledge and technology to Jamaicans.
“What the Order [also] spells out is that for each foreign worker who is here on a technical assignment for this project, they will be paired with a Jamaican to work as on the job trainees to ensure that we have knowledge and technology transfer,” Dr. Clarke added.
The Order also states that where Jamaican workers are employed, the wage rates and conditions of the project should be in keeping with wage rates that are negotiated by unions in the Joint Industrial Council.
These are the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, National Workers Union, Trade Union Congress and Incorporated Master-builders Association of Jamaica.
The Order further stipulates that suitable and available goods, services and components originating from or made in Jamaica for the project works be utilised.
“This project is expected to advance development in the area, accelerate economic growth, and improve accessibility to places of employment and increase productivity for businesses due to a reduction in work time lost as a result of traffic congestion. I, therefore, recommend the project to the House to be approved as National Development project,” Dr. Clarke said.
Debate on the matter is expected to get under way shortly in the House of Representatives.