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Samuda labels logistics hub a 'pipe dream'

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, May 10, 2013    

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OPPOSITION Spokesman on Transport, Works and Infrastructure Development Karl Samuda has described as a "pipe dream" plans being promoted by the Government for a local logistics hub.

"If Minister Hylton believes that this will be achieved in the timeframe and scope that he has spoken, then, to paraphrase the Rev Al Sharpton, 'I have a Parliament for sale'," Samuda told the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

"Jamaica is presently out of the loop, certainly as far as Latin and Central America is concerned," he added.

The Opposition spokesman was referring to Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton's recent announcement of plans to position Jamaica as a global logistics hub alongside Singapore, Dubai and Rotterdam, as he made his contribution to the Sectoral Debate.

According to Samuda, the only chance for Jamaica to create a logistics hub was to concentrate on divesting the management of the Port of Kingston to private sector interests, and return to the concept of the Caymanas Enterprise Zone.

"The plan to extend the Logistic Hub to Fort Augusta would compromise any future expansion possibilities of the Port of Kingston," Samuda said.

He explained that land acquired from the Matalon Group and Fort Augusta serve as security for future expansion of the port facilities, and that the idea of using Tinson Pen was overly simplistic, as it is too small and poses severe dislocation for the business travel community

He said the existing Kingston Free Zone is minimal in scope and, at present, is being used on a relatively small scale, and the notion of obtaining large tracks in southern St Catherine, adjacent to Port Esquivel, was too challenging and costly.

"The level of infrastructure required is prohibitive, as most of the land is occupied by private owners. In addition, the port itself is too exposed to bad weather," Samuda said, noting that competition is very stiff in the region.

"As we speak, the entire east coast of the US is busy preparing to accommodate super liners. This includes Miami, The Carolinas and as far north as New York, many of whom have started dredging. The Dominican Republic is going full speed ahead and only recently launched a US$50-million expansion of Caucedo Port. We, on the other hand, are being strangled by bureaucracy," he added.

But, the Opposition spokesman offered some suggestions.They are to:

* divest the remaining free zone properties in all complexes; develop an informatics park at Caymanas;

* sell already subdivided commercial lots to local businesses for renewal and expansion; and

* encourage China to support an 800-acre economic zone, to include hotels, sports complex and facilities for warehouse, showrooms and assembly of Chinese products for the North, Central and South American markets.

He said that the Government should also revisit the possibility of establishing air linkages, through the creation of an airline hub and continue to build-out the road network, in order to complement the increased movement of raw materials and finished goods anticipated through our ports.

Samuda was speaking in the continuing sectoral debate in the House.

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