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Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding confirmed last night that the Government has received a substantial offer for the purchase of the Forum Hotel in Portmore, St. Catherine to be used as a medical facility and nursing school.
The Prime Minister disclosed that the offer was from a group led by a Jamaican resident in the United States.
“They have actually made an offer, it is a substantial offer. We have asked for a verification of the financing available, before we can refer the matter to the privatisation committee for consideration,” he said.
Mr. Golding, who was addressing the crowd at last night’s (May 26) second in the series of Town Hall Meetings to explain the 2009/2010 Budget to the public, at the Portmore Heart Academy, urged the community to let the Government hear their views on the matter.
“It would be good to get some ideas as to what your views are about that,” he said.
The Prime Minister also explained that the interested group has a track record in the health business, as he has visited a major medical facility operated by them in Orlando, Florida.
The divestment of the hotel, has been in the news recently with the Government’s Urban Development Corporation (UDC) announcing, earlier this month, that it had identified a buyer for the property, which has been like a sore thumb on the limbs of the community for over two decades.
The 200-room hotel, which also has 57 self-contained cottages, sits on over 15 acres of land, most of which is covered with refuse. It was built in the 1970s, but ceased to operate as a hotel before the end of that decade and, although taken over by the UDC in 1982, has continued to decline.
Several previous attempts to dispose of the property failed because of the lack of good offers, but both the UDC and Mr. Golding appear confident that the latest offer has only one hurdle left, which is the verification of the financing.
The planned divestment of the Forum Hotel was one of several improvements for the Portmore area addressed by Mr. Golding at the meeting.
In addition, he announced plans to relieve the community’s sewage disposal problems, by converting the current waste water treatment plant into a pumping station. It will collect the sewage and pump it into the Soapberry Sewerage Plant, which treats waste from the metropolitan area, and will eventually have a capacity to manage 20-80 million gallons of waste per day.
Mr. Golding also spoke about the proposed Caymanas Special Enterprise Zone, which is expected to create approximately 10,000 new jobs, at an estimated cost of $200 billion, in the next three to five years, on prime real estate lands in Ferry, St. Catherine.
He said that the proposal is to focus on two main areas of production: information technology; and creating a logistic centre for the flow of trade between the Far East, primarily China, and South America.
The Prime Minister conceded, however, that there were tough times ahead for all Jamaicans.
“I’m not here to tell you that we can insulate you or inoculate you from the impact of this global crisis, all of us are going to feel it, all of us are going to be impacted by it,” Mr. Golding said.
However, he suggested that Jamaicans, purposefully, focus on the period beyond the dilemma and look at the possibilities that will follow, after.
“Then, I do believe that we can see a brighter tomorrow and I believe we can build a foundation that can create a better quality of life for the people of Portmore,” he said.
The large crowd also included Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness; Mayor of Portmore, Keith Hinds; and a number of representatives from the Opposition, including Members of Parliament, Fitz Jackson and Colin Fagan.
Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Karl Samuda, and Minister of State for Local Government, Hon. Robert Montague, also addressed the meeting. Mayor Hinds gave the welcome. It was hosted by Tony Patel.