Businesses ready to explore opportunities from new highway link
THERE are already great expectations among business interests and state officials that Jamaica will benefit significantly from the North/South Link of Highway 2000, which will provide a shortened journey between Kingston and Ocho Rios, St Ann.
Construction of the 66-kilometre highway is being undertaken in three stages by China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) at a cost of US$730 million, and is financed through loans provided by the China Development Bank, with additional inputs from CHEC Americas.
Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) President Francis Kennedy told JIS News that the anticipated increase in commercial and residential infrastructure development consequent on the highway should serve to further strengthen Jamaica's economy. Additionally, that it is expected to boost the Government's proposed Logistics Hub Initiative, he said.
He said that cruise ship passengers should find it easier to travel between Ocho Rios and Kingston, adding that it will further "open up Kingston's tourism (product)."
In order to maximise this prospect, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association (JHTA) has commenced collaborative work with the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), Kingston Metropolitan Resort Board, and the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).
"It presents wonderful opportunities for twinned marketing of Kingston and Ocho Rios. It affords persons the opportunity to make an easy day's trip, and to see two sides of Jamaica, on a vacation package," JHTA President Nicola Madden Greig said.
"There is a focus on Kingston (as) we have the ability to attract a different kind of traveller. City tourism is growing, and the new millennium traveller is one who is attracted to a city destination, and Kingston has all the amenities and services to attract that visitor."
Madden Greig noted that the city travel concept has boosted the economies of many cities globally, adding that Jamaica is developing its own brand.
The highway is deemed as one of several signal statements to investors that Jamaica is open for business, Industry, Investment, and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton said.
"It is of central importance to the vision of creating a logistics hub, and a logistic- centred economy," the minister added.
For his part, Minister of Transport, Works, and Housing Dr Omar Davies noted that support for the project has spanned two different administrations. This, he contended, "is a clear signal to investors that while there is intense competition between the political parties during elections, there is consistency across successive administrations with projects such as this".
He further stated that it will present unprecedented opportunities for
further investments by entrepreneurs, and encouraged those stakeholders to "seize the moment".
Opposition Spokesperson on Housing, Water and Infrastructure Dr Horace Chang, who also spoke at the opening, declared that the highway can be a "foundation for sustainable development in Jamaica".
Mayor of St Ann's Bay Councillor Desmond Gilmore, meanwhile, said that business operations will definitely benefit from the decrease of the time it would normally take to travel between the south and north coasts.
With the recent completion of the Linstead to Moneague leg, spanning St Catherine and St Ann, travel time has been reduced by 40 per cent.
It is expected that when the overall highway — which will include two additional legs — is complete, the journey between Kingston and Ocho Rios, which currently takes approximately one hour and 45 minutes along the regular route, will be reduced to approximately 45 minutes.