World Bank aims to cut building permit approval time in Jamaica by half

Friday, May 09, 2014    

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THE World Bank aims to slash the approval time for construction permits in Jamaica by half in order to facilitate business.

It takes about 135 days for local approval compared with the regional best performance indicator of about 40 days.

Cutting the time by half would position Jamaica to offer even faster approval than Singapore.

"We want to focus on construction permits because that is a key obstacle for both foreign direct investors and local firms to invest in Jamaica," said Sophie Sirtaine, country director for Latin America and the Caribbean speaking at a press conference earlier this week at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston. "We have a target of reducing the time it takes by about 50 per cent."

Other areas of business will also be addressed by the World Bank without aiming for a specific rank.

"We do not have targets for Doing Business. We are focusing on substance," she said. "We want to work on those areas that are really key obstacles and of course it will impact on the ranking. The impact will not be high this year but probably next year."

The country ranks 94th globally in the Doing Business in 2014 report compared to 91 a year earlier.

Businesses need to complete eight procedures to receive a construction permit which take 135 days and costs 207 per cent of income per capita, according to data collected by report published by the IFC, the finance arm of the World Bank.

It's an improvement from 145 days a year earlier and 240 days in 2006 but the country still trails the best countries in the region.

In fact the annual report indicated that the last reform measured in this category in Jamaica occurred five years ago. In 2009, the Government introduced a statutory time limit for the issuance of building permits, reducing the time to build a warehouse by 80 days, stated the Doing Business report.

The report outlined that it takes some 120 days to receive approval of a building plan from the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Council and some 20 days to obtain approval from the National Environment Planning Agency.

Last week, the World Bank board of directors endorsed a new four-year country partnership strategy for Jamaica 2014-17 which proposes to lend up to US$510 million to support conditions for growth.

A number of businesses experience project delays due to the onerous permit process. Two such projects, which are currently under way, are the Courtyard/Marriott hotel in Kingston, which took three years to get approval, according to shareholders Pan Jamaica Investment Trust. The Jewel Hotel water park based in St Ann took six months, according to the developers at the Sagicor Group.



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