THE launch of the Palisadoes shoreline protection and rehabilitation works, held yesterday on Palisadoes Road, signals the first in a series of activities aimed at stimulating economic activity in the East Kingston area.
The US$65.7-million (J$5.85 billion) project is primarily being financed by the China Exim Bank, which is providing US$55.8 million ($4.97 billion) or 85 per cent of the amount. The Jamaican government is providing the remaining 15 per cent.
Minister of Transport and Works Mike Henry said at the launch that the project, which is being undertaken by the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), would reverse the "vortex of decline" that has characterised the way some Jamaicans view issues of national development.
"The first thing it creates is a different impression on arriving," Henry said of the proposed four-lane highway that will run from the Harbour View roundabout to the Norman Manley International Airport, adding that it would give "an impression of a country moving forward".
CHEC, described as one of the premier maritime contractors in the world, will among other things, lift the Palisadoes Road six to eight feet higher, construct a boardwalk which can accommodate jogging and an entertainment facility, and run underground power cables from the Harbour View roundabout to the airport.
In addition to protecting the shoreline and the Kingston Harbour, where there will also be additional expansion work, Henry said the long-term view of development of the area is to connect it with the remainder of the highway network across the country and generally expand the business community and the possibilities that exist therein. Henry also stressed the connectivity of the Caribbean Maritime Institute and the Gun Boat area.
Some of these developments include the construction of a four-lane bridge over the Harbour View river, an East coast highway to St Thomas and the development of a cruise ship port for Port Royal. This is to be done in collaboration with Carnival cruise lines, the negotiations for which will be finalised by May 11 this year.
The shoreline rehabilitation and protection project will begin work July 1,2010 and is expected to continue for two years. Henry said this is a signal to the local and international business community that Jamaica is a place for investments.
"It will mean business people can come. It much enhances the whole developmental prospects," Henry said, arguing that the project would open up "the gateway to match the development of downtown Kingston".
The transfer of knowledge from the Chinese engineers, recognised among the best internationally, to the local workers who will collaborate on the project was also emphasised by the minister as a notable indication of more development prospects.
The project will employ hundreds of Jamaicans, according to Sun Ziyu, Chairman and CEO of CHEC, who said that among the spin-offs of the partnership is that scholarships will be awarded to 10 local engineers to study in China. Jamaica will in turn provide English language training scholarships for selected Chinese participants.
Henry said this kind of knowledge transfer will be a feature of future partnerships between the countries.