Thank you for your assurance, Prime Minister
After our editorial of March 12, 2017 asking “Is there sufficient Jamaican involvement in Chinese constructions projects?”, we are very reassured by Prime Minister Andrew Holness’s subsequent statement on the issue.
Mr Holness on Friday said definitively that the plans for a new parliamentary complex at National Heroes’ Circle would draw on “the expertise of all relevant local skill sets”.
The size and scope of the parliamentary complex will make it undoubtedly one of the biggest construction projects in recent times and, we believe, will help to define the leadership of Mr Holness and his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration.
In his statement from Jamaica House, Mr Holness gave the unequivocal commitment that — to quote his exact words — “purposeful efforts will be made to include Jamaicans in the design and execution of the project”.
He also insisted that this was always the intention of the Government.
“We are at a preliminary stage currently, and I wish to reiterate, as I said at the MOU signing (with China Construction of America - South America Division), that local expertise will be essential to the design and execution of the project,” the press statement said.
For those who might have missed it, the planned design and construction of the parliamentary complex is to play a major part in the rejuvenation of downtown Kingston, which has been yearning for development in order to realise its long-delayed potential as the largest shopping and business district in the English-speaking Caribbean.
Under the plan outlined by Mr Holness, the complex will feature a new Parliament building on 50 acres of land, as well as the use of 240 acres to construct several buildings for Government ministries, agencies and departments. It will also house commercial and residential areas, leading — critically — to the revitalisation of existing residential areas.
We are happy for the reassurance, because it has not always been clear that Jamaican expertise has been maximised in the major construction projects undertaken by the Chinese — which is not to downplay our gratitude to the Chinese who have shown themselves to be a happy example in international and economic co-operation.
Yet, if we are to benefit as a developing country, we need to make the most of such major infrastructural projects which offer great opportunities for technology transfer and job creation.
A new Parliament has been on the cards for a long time but has always faced political resistance, including from past JLP Opposition.
If Mr Holness can make this project a reality, it will stand as his legacy, in much the same way as Emancipation Park and Highway 2000 immortalise Mr P J Patterson.
Mr Holness’s vision is of a project that will bring great pride to Jamaicans by reflecting “our history, struggles, triumphs, and overall journey”.
Like the south-east coastal highway, we can’t wait to see the completion of the proposed parliamentary complex.