PM defends decision to partner with private investors

Saturday, May 20, 2017

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness has defended Government's decisions to partner with private investors on major developments arguing that within the right parameters this is the best way to maximise the development of the country's assets“Divesting assets is not a bad thing for Jamaica if it is done correctly if you find the right partners, and if you have the right framework in place Jamaicans benefit.

“[These are] assets that we would not be able ourselves to utilise because of the fiscal constraints that exist… and in the utilisation of those assets, Jamaicans get employed. So we have to put in place the framework with which private and public sector can work together to have the full utilisation of assets,” Holness told a press conference yesterday at the offices of Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited (KFTL) following a tour of expansion works being carried out at the ports by the company, which is the local subsidiary of French shipping giant, CMA CGM.

The prime minister said the US$456-million investment in the refurbishing and expansion of the port was significant as the Government would not have been able to provide those resources.

“The Government of Jamaica made an investment in building out this port 30 years ago (and) at the time… but a lot has changed in 30 years, and not only has the shipping industry changed and the size of ships that can carry cargo changed, but in the course of time the assets would have depreciated and needed re-investment. We could not leave the asset there to become irrelevant as other ports are developed and the shipping industry moves forward with new technology,” he stated.

Holness stressed that the divestment had been a “very intense and in-depth process” and that the Government had chosen “the right partner”.

The Port Authority of Jamaica finalised a 30-year concession agreement with KFTL in July 2016 for the company to finance, develop, expand, and operate the island's main trans-shipment port — Kingston Container Terminal — and then transfer the port at the end of the concession period.

“It is a significant investment. It's not just that we are in a better position to take advantage of the changes that are happening in shipping and logistics, but as a result of the divestment employment of Jamaicans has increased,” he pointed out, noting that close to 200 Jamaicans have been employed by KFTL.

The first phase of the works include the dredging of the harbour, deepening of the basin, the instalment of new equipment, and the strengthening of the berths at the south terminal, sited at Gordon Cay.

Chairman of the Port Authority of Jamaica, Professor Gordon Shirley told journalists that the first half of the south terminal will be finished by November, and the second half in 2018, which means that by November the channel will be able to accommodate the mega ships that come through the Panama Canal.

He also indicated that plans are being firmed up to build out logistics facilities on the lands adjacent to the terminal, but noted that Prime Minister Holness would make those announcements.

The Kingston Container Terminal is one of the region's leading container trans-shipment ports comprising three terminals – North, South, and West — with a cargo carrying capacity of 2.8 million 20-foot equivalent units.

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