PM: I get things done
PRIME Minister Andrew Holness, intimating that he is a leader who gets things done, said Wednesday’s groundbreaking for a climate smart park in Portmore, St Catherine, is a testament to his Government’s penchant for completing the former Administration’s initiatives that get stuck in the pipeline.
Holness was making reference to the on-again, off-again park, now being rebranded the ‘Portmore Resilience Park’ which had been promised to residents from as far back as 2011.
“This park in particular has been the subject of many starts and stops. Thankfully, none under me. I find myself having to divide my time into completing what others started but did not finish, in addition to carrying through the things that I have started,” he said as he addressed what is to be the second and final groundbreaking ceremony for the park at its proposed location on Wednesday.
The prime minister further argued that while everybody has thoughts, “good leaders are able to see the good idea and implement”.
“I am happy to officially commence the build-out of the highly anticipated climate smart park spanning 21.5 acres,” he said, noting that the facility to be developed at a cost of $4.4 billion, is expected to be completed within 18 months.
The project, which is expected to begin on February 5, is scheduled to be completed in September 2025.
In another apparent jab at the previous Administration for failing to get the park going after many years, he noted that a deliverable of the project was that 160 trees were to have been planted around the perimeter, yet he is “searching for one”, adding that the commitment for pairing with a sister city internationally also did not materialise.
Still referring to the undelivered project, Holness said: “It’s very good to talk rhetoric, promises, glowing words, but the real test [is] who delivers, who gets the job done. That’s what it comes down to,” he said.
He added: “The flaw in the political economy of Jamaica is how we make decisions; we celebrate the lovely words, we celebrate the rhetoric… we celebrate the announcement and then having given of ourselves to promises, when we are disappointed we turn away from the system and say ‘cho, mi cyaa bother’, when what we must do is… take down the psychological and mental blocks, listen very carefully to what is being said, fact check it, contextualise it, put it against your own values and principles, and if it doesn’t align then you make your decision,” he said.
Mayor of Portmore Councillor Leon Thomas, in his address, explained that the idea of the park was born out of discussions involving late former mayor George Lee in 2011. He said the plan for the project was formulated in 2012, presented in 2013, and ground broken on August 26, 2015. It was to have been a shared arrangement with the city of Hagen in Germany for the Portmore/Hagen climate change park
“In reality, the park was significantly under cost at $66 million and given the nature of the land, after a review project, was cost for $176 million. Our partners were not prepared for the additional cost associated with the development of the park, and as such, they were unable to continue to provide funding,” he said.
He said he was happy the Government is now able, with the assistance of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), to fund the development of the park.
“I am also thankful that the UDC has seen it fit to continue with the original model of the park and has forseen the benefit to be derived from it,” he said.
In his contribution to the State of the Constituency Debate in the House of Representatives late last year, Member of Parliament for St Catherine South Eastern Robert Miller had promised that the stalled Portmore Climate Change Park would be transformed into the Portmore Resilience Park and that ground would be broken for the project later that year.
“It has been too long. The citizens have been waiting for years; rest assured, I will get it done,” Miller said then.
In 2015, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was entered into with the Portmore City Municipality (PCM) and the German city of Hagen to fund the development which was intended to include the planting of several trees, a running/walking trail, a pond, monuments, wind turbines, an observation tower, areas for small indigenous animals, a public awareness component, and other elements.
The development of the parcel of land was, however, mired in controversy for a number of years, with Miller being at the centre of the dispute in recent times over his claim that the PCM spent $160 million on the establishment of the Portmore/Hagen Climate Change Park.
In the meantime, providing details on the proposed layout of the park, Holness said the development of Lot 26 at the Portmore Town Centre, will see the establishment of a multifaceted recreational and wellness park catering to the people of Portmore.
He said it will also feature soft and hard landscapes, sporting facilities, event spaces, commercial spaces, public restrooms. In addition, it will also utilise green and smart technology with solar power throughout the facility.
It will also have sufficient parking and electric vehicle charging stations. Also, the park will have a 700-metre jogging trail to be constructed out of 70 per cent recycled materials.
“A large part of the park will be educational. So right around the park, you will have signs and interactive equipment that will give you information about climate change, about conservation, about recycling, and so on,” Holness said.
“The intention is to use the park to change attitudes of Jamaicans toward waste disposal protecting the environmnet and increasing the understanding of climate change. There is no doubt that this park will create significant economic activity in Portmore and it will increase property value of all the properties around the park,” he added.
The prime minister said it is also expected that the park will create about 400 jobs and 200 indirect jobs during its construction phase; during its operational phase, there will be about 70 direct jobs and 30 indirect jobs.