KINGSTON — There has never been a programme more transparent than the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP), Transport and Works Minister, Hon. Michael Henry, said yesterday April 27 at a press briefing at Jamaica House.
Mr. Henry called the briefing in response to a walk-out of Parliament by Opposition members during last week’s examination of the budgetary allocation for his Ministry, by the Standing Finance Committee, on the grounds that there was a lack of information on the US$465 million road development programme.
The Transport Minister told journalists that the Opposition does in fact have copies of the relevant documents that lay out how the programme is being financed, the criteria for the special buyers’ credit from the Export/Import Bank of China, as well as a list of the roads and bridges, which are to be rehabilitated across the island, under the initiative.
He pointed out that the Opposition chairs the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) and Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and “they have asked numerous questions in the House that have been answered and have demanded an audit on one level, and therefore they are fully versed and can at any time demand what information they want."
Meanwhile, Mr. Henry informed that “from Negril to Morant Point, works are either underway or are on the way” under year one of the programme for which US$60 million was allotted in the 2010/11 budget.
Among the areas are: Havendale and Hughenden, St. Andrew; Garden Hill to Kentish (completed), Point Hill to Reynolds, and the roadway from Bamboo to Worthy Park in St. Catherine; Sunset Avenue, Gloucester Avenue, Queen’s Drive, St. James; and Cane Shop to Skull Hill, Manchester.
Meanwhile, work is being carried out on retaining walls in a number of areas, including: Jack’s Hill Road, Papine, Red Light in St. Andrew; Comfort Castle and Alligator Church, Portland; Woodford to Maryland Square, St. Mary; and Fairview, Zion Hill to Tulloch, St. Catherine. Work has begun on the Rio Grande Bridge in East Portland.
The Minister said he will be visiting a number of communities, to see firsthand, the progress of activities, with tours of Havendale and Portland this week.
Minister with responsibility for Information, Telecommunications and Special Projects, Hon. Daryl Vaz, also emphasised the wide-reaching benefits of what he said is the “single best infrastructure programme in the country’s history."
“This was an innovative financing that was put in place,…on the basis that the infrastructure was so bad in Jamaica, that had we waited on the cess (from the Road Maintenance Fund), year by year to fix roads, we would probably have a complete shut-down of productivity in Jamaica, because of the road conditions. So, basically, this was devised to ensure that we would get this money up front, through a loan, in order to deal with the major infrastructural problems – bridges and roads,” Mr. Vaz asserted.
The Government is providing a portion of the funding for the JDIP, and has negotiated a three per cent interest rate loan facility with the Chinese government through the Export/Import Bank of China.
The programme, which is being carried out over five years, started in 2010, with Chinese firm, China Harbour Engineering (CHEC) as the contractor. The majority of the labour has been sub-contracted to local companies.
“In fact, China Harbour is only doing four of the many projects under the JDIP, because the Jamaican Government negotiated in the best interest of Jamaican labour and expertise,” Mr. Henry pointed out.
The National Works Agency (NWA) is now implementing the programme, which is expected to create close to 7,000 jobs for Jamaicans.
Some $100 million has been allocated in the 2011/12 Estimates of Expenditure, to fund the programme in its second year. This is inclusive of works, which have been brought over from year one.
By ALPHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter