Holness sees need for critical infrastructure development
PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says his Government’s growing interest in investing in potentially critical infrastructure across the island will eventually mushroom into successful towns and cities.
The prime minister was speaking Friday as he sold the idea of developing Port Royal’s basic needs — including access to water, roads infrastructure, and electricity as well as sewage and Internet coverage — for its development.
“The investment in these critical infrastructures offers development all around our cities. Once you put in place water and road infrastructures, electricity and — in today’s context — sewage and Internet [capability], you are going to see residential, commercial, and industrial development mushroom — in an orderly way,” he said.
He was the guest speaker at the Port Royal Pipeline Replacement Project’s ground-breaking ceremony in the middle of the historic town’s celebration of a six-month-long project to bring water to the drought-stricken town and its shipping port, as well as the Palisadoes Strip, and benefit 263 metered accounts for the approximately 1,300 residents.
This forms part of the third phase of the upgrading works which are already being undertaken by the National Water Commission (NWC) in Port Royal through Ashtrom Engineering International Company Limited, which started partnering with Jamaica in 1969 with the incorporation of Ashtrom (Jamaica) Limited.
Work on the Port Royal Pipeline Replacement Project is being done by Grupo Caribe Construction Limited, a Mexican subcontractor, and this final phase will cost the Government $433 million.
Holness said that his Government came to office “seized of the importance of building out infrastructure”.
“If we do build an infrastructure, we want to be able to properly provide the housing, industrial and commercial developments that we all want,” he said.
“So, I make it a priority of the Government to invest heavily in infrastructure. In fact, I can say without any contradiction that this Administration will be voted in history for the investments it has made in infrastructure development,” he stated.
However, the prime minister noted that infrastructure development cannot be undertaken without financing.
“There is a notion of some of our minds that the Government can just build roads, lay pipes, build houses, put in sewage plants, and there is no connection to the fact that it has to be paid for,” he remarked.
“It has to be paid for, either now or to be amortised as an asset, or you have to pay for it as you use it. Where does the money come from to pay for it? It comes from your taxes, largely, and in the case of the NWC it comes from your water rates,” Holness said..
“Some of it, however, comes from borrowing. And the saddest thing about it — in the Jamaican context — is that for the last 40 years we have borrowed to finance development. In fact, if you look at all the infrastructure development that we have done, 90 per cent of them are within the last 40 years and would have been financed by borrowing or some deferred expenditure,” he stated.
“In fact the NWC is a case in point. Most, if not all of its infrastructure development is undertaken by borrowing to the point where it would have imperilled the balance sheet as a business growing in concern — meaning that, at some point in time the NWC would have been classified as close to bankruptcy, in financial peril, and the Government would have had to step in and take those loans off their balance sheets and put it on the public’s balance,” he said.
After the speeches the prime minister and Senator Matthew Samuda — minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation — walked with a group of residents and journalists to the turning on of the new pipes by Grupo Caribe’s operators.
Samuda earlier said that Holness had articulated a vision for the development of Port Royal, “and not just a vision — he has shown action and commitment in the investment in the future of Port Royal”.