Letters to the Editor

Is our highway deal value for money?

Friday, May 19, 2017

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Dear Editor,The people of Jamaica have already paid for the north-south link of Highway 2000 by contributing some US$150 million in marl gravel dug from our mountains and by contributing land, some 1,200 acres, at an estimated value of around US$220 - US$300 million in value.

The real cost of this Chinese-built highway in Jamaica is actually around US$300 - US$350 million. The land and the marl gravel contributions to building the highway by China Engineering and Construction Company (CHEC) total an estimated value is of more or less US$320 million.

According to World Bank reports, the average cost of building a greenfield highway around the world is US$800,000/km. We paid well over US$10.5 million/km for the north-south link. The 76km Guyaozi-Qingtongxia Expressway (GQE) cost US$357 million or US$4.7 million per km (China), while the 67km north-south link highway cost US$720 million or US$10.5 million per km (Jamaica).

A story 'World Bank lends $250 million to improve roads in China's Ningxia Province' ran on May 13, 2010. The objective of the Ningxia Highway Project for China is to provide high-capacity and quality transport connections between targeted development zones and urban areas in Ningxia autonomous region, as well as develop all-weather road access in selected rural areas of Ningxia autonomous region.

There are three components to the project, the first component being Guyaozi-Qingtongxia Expressway (GQE). The scope the GQE is even larger than the north-south link in Jamaica. It will connect Guyaozi to Qingtongxia on a new alignment bisecting nine major national and provincial highways. “It will also include a bridge over the Yellow River. The highway will connect two major industrial areas at the extreme east and west of the corridor as well as link Wuzhong's and Lingwu's urban areas. These two major industrial areas are the backbone of Ningxia's economy and the engine of its future growth. The second component is the road network improvements programme. Under this component, the bank will finance improvements to national, county and township roads with the aim of improving connections to key industrial and agricultural areas, and improving the feeder network to the existing expressway network. Finally, the third component is the institutional strengthening. Provision of technical assistance to strengthen the institutional capacity of Ningxia in the transport sector through, inter alia: (a) carrying out of a study on road safety, a study for developing an optional long-term strategy for road maintenance, and a study for developing a comprehensive plan for the transport logistics industry in Ningxia; (b) carrying out training on issues related to the transport sector in Ningxia; and (c) acquisition and utilisation of equipment required for carrying out road maintenance in Ningxia.” Sounds like really value for money.

Are we getting that?

Silbert Barrett





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