If we go any slower, we'll come to a standstill

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

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One of the most painful realities of life in Jamaica is the snail's pace at which the State moves on matters that are of vital importance.

Projects can take an excruciatingly long time from conception to delivery, especially if expectation of their implementation holds political advantage, or if someone in the public service somehow decides that the mere mortal Jamaican citizen must be made to wait.

Our focus on this issue, again, has its foundation in comments made by Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the recent ground-breaking ceremony to formally begin work on an irrigation scheme under the Essex Valley Agriculture Development Project in St Elizabeth.

More than 700 farmers in southern Manchester and St Elizabeth, we are told, will benefit from this system which is expected to provide relief from the frequent and costly challenge of drought.

According to National Irrigation Commission Chairman Aubyn Hill, at least six wells will be drilled and developed, then a licence will have to be received from the Water Resources Authority, Government procurement guidelines will need to be adhered to in moving different aspects of the project forward, and the road network in the project area will have to be repaired.

All this really means is that the farmers will not benefit from the project before the year 2023 — a project that, amazingly, was conceptualised in 2009, under a previous Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Quite correctly, Prime Minister Holiness made the point that “Sometimes we need to look in the mirror at ourselves, because this project took a very long time to be implemented”.

According to the prime minister, we had the opportunity in 2015 to get the project done. While he accepted that the grant funding of 35,515,000 from the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Fund was not always available to do the project, plus the fact that governments and priorities changed along the way, his general point that, implementation timelines could be shorter is most sound.

We share his exhortation that we have to do better in the area of implementation. “That,” Mr Holness correctly noted, “is where the real deficit is. We are great conceptualisers; no doubt about it. We have the biggest brains, but we need to get some muscles and some strong hands to move quickly to get things done.”

While we acknowledge that there has been some amount of improvement in the ease of doing business in recent times, the fact is that there still exists frustrating hurdles to the creation of new businesses and expansion of those already in existence.

As we have argued repeatedly in this space, achieving that culture shift will require greater focus, as everyone involved in the process of approval must be in tune with the benefits to the country when businesses, after meeting all the legal requirements, encounter a smooth road to investments.

Mr Holness also said that there are many more projects awaiting the completion of the implementation process, and the aim is to ensure that they will not lag. We expect that he will see to that.

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