Bosung ‘ginnegogs’ make Patterson wait
Western Bureau: Up to yesterday, Bosung Engineering’s senior executives had not arrived in the island for a highly publicised June 1 meeting with Prime Minister P J Patterson to discuss problems affecting the stalled North Coast Highway project.
Last month, Patterson had told guests at a function in Lucea, Hanover that he had
“summoned the ‘ginnegogs’ of Bosung to come to Jamaica” for a meeting on June 1.
“We are going to have discussions with them … We have legal rights about which we are very, very conscious and which we are determined to protect. We also want to get the road completed in the shortest possible time,” Patterson had said.
According to programme manager for the Northern Jamaica Development Programme, Garth Jackson, the Bosung bosses was unable to make the June 1 meeting because of a scheduling conflict; and they have now suggested an alternate date of June 12. However, he was unable to say whether the government had agreed to this rescheduling, and several attempts to get a response from the Ministry of Transport and Works were unsuccessful.
“The Koreans have indicated some conflict in schedule which prevents them from being able to attend a meeting as was expected on the first of June, or (some time) this week,” Jackson told the Observer yesterday. “Hopefully we’ll reschedule as soon as a convenient date can be worked out.”
In an April 18 letter, the South Korean contractors asked the government to consider releasing them from the contracts of the two biggest infrastructural projects in the western end of the island — the North Coast Highway and South Gully Drainage Improvement projects.
They contended that financial problems within their country and company, the slow land acquisition process for the highway project, combined with a claims dispute with the Jamaican government, had all led them to rethink the viability of the projects.
On April 24, they suspended work on both projects for 60 days, and maintained that during that time they would review the projects and submit a proposal of how they could be completed without them.
But in a subsequent Parliamentary address, transport minister, Peter Phillips, said Bosung’s request had been rejected, and he warned them to continue working or risk being fired.
With the Koreans’ no-show for the June 1 meeting, questions have been raised about the future of the projects, and just how much longer the tourist resorts of Negril and Montego Bay would be marred by the chaos created by the incomplete work. Questions have also been raised about whether the working relationship between Bosung and the government has been irrevocably damaged.
According to an Observer source, up to quite recently there was a cordial working relationship between the South Korean contractors and the Patterson administration, despite the problems being experienced on the projects. But whether that relationship remains cordial depends on Bosung’s next move.
“Their relationship had not broken down before they said they couldn’t meet,” said the source. “We assumed they had difficulties but were still prepared to talk. But if they don’t come (and meet) the relationship would break down and the government would have no alternative but to terminate the contracts.”
But termination, which would lead to lengthy delays while the projects are re-tendered, would be the last thing the government would want.
The South Gully project, with its long history of problems and delays, has been a thorn in the side of the Patterson administration. And the highway project, which was launched by the prime minister with much fanfare, has also been a source of embarrassment.
According to an Observer source, the government is now prepared to work more closely with Bosung to get the projects completed.
“They want to find a way to work together,” the source said. “They can’t leave Bosung to continue as they want, so they would be prepared to go down there and work more closely with them.”