MONTEGO BAY, St James — Coming on the heels of Friday's official opening of the $1.3-billion world-class Harmony Beach Park, transformed from the popular Dump Up Beach in this second city, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced the brewing of other major projects for the resort.
“There are other major projects to come,” the prime minister stated. Holnesss cited an oceanarium as one such project in the offing for the city.
An oceanarium is a saltwater aquarium for displaying marine animals and plants, particularly oceanic, pelagic, fishes and mammals. It serves as a centre for public entertainment and education, and scientific study.
“One plan that I am happy about is the development of an oceanarium, and that is planned for Montego Bay. This would be a living museum of the ocean. We have several protected areas in Montego Bay and we want to bring those areas to life. But more than that, it creates another attraction. This is something to come to Montego Bay to see and experience, not just for foreigners visiting, but for schoolchildren who want to understand what is under the sea but will not be able to dive under the sea. So it is also educational and it would be probably the only one of its kind in the Caribbean when it is done,” Holness declared.
“It is not a small undertaking, but the UDC [Urban Development Corporation] is growing in strength and ambition and is undertaking these projects, which is not at its 'hand reach'. It will have to do some tipping to reach it but that is how you grow and get stronger so I am very happy to see that the UDC is now fulfilling its true mandate – which is to spark development in Jamaica and in particular urban areas.”
The prime minister was speaking at Friday's opening ceremony of the multimillion-dollar beach park which was financed by taxpayers' money and $600 million from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF). Ground was broken for the UDC facility in February 2019.
“Government has invested $1.3 billion to develop this 16-acre beach park for your free use. It might be free to the user but it is not free to the taxpayers of the country,” the prime minister pointed out.
Re-emphasising that there were other projects in the making for Montego Bay, the prime minister also announced that this year the Government plans to invest another $328 million to continue the protection of the coastlines in building “more groynes and protective structures”.
“...To ensure that the same land we had dumped up years ago, we don't lose it [in] years to come and that the beach that has been naturally created in some instances, we don't lose those beaches. So we are making the investment in the capital infrastructure around these lands to protect them because there are other projects to come,” underscored Holness.
The prime minister bemoaned that there were many agencies in Jamaica that hold lands, buildings and other assets “and sometimes they are just there languishing on balance sheets not being utilised”, adding that sometimes the unutilised assets become stumbling blocks for other developments.
In light of this, he said that he has charged the UDC to maximise the utilisation of all the lands and assets it owns.
“This [Harmony Beach Park] was one such asset...there are several pieces of lots of lands right across the city of Montego Bay, and you will be hearing more about the various plans for those assets,” Holness teased.
He added: “We have lands in Kingston on the waterfront, you will be hearing more about those as well.”
Speaking at the same function, Godfrey Dyer, chairman of TEF, suggested that like Emancipation Park, the National Housing Trust [NHT] should be asked to maintain Harmony Beach Park.
“...It therefore leads me to call upon the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Montego Bay chapter of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, to join hands with the advisory committee of the UDC and approach NHT because, when I checked, contributions from Montego Bay and the west is a lot – and I am sure [National] Housing Trust would want to be associated with this park,” Dyer suggested.
“As beautiful as this park is, a very important thing will be its maintenance. If it is not maintained, we have no park. I was doing some checking around recently and I gather that that beautiful park in Kingston is maintained by the National Housing Trust since inception. And the [National] Housing Trust is to be congratulated for that.”
Holness promised to bring Dyer's suggestion to the NHT board to find out if it is an undertaking that it can afford.
“This park must be maintained. A suggestion has been put on the table that the maintenance of it should fall to the NHT. I will have to hear what the NHT board thinks about that. I am the minister for the NHT but I will have to hear what the board thinks...I will have to be advised as to the finances of the NHT as to whether or not it could assist,” he stated.
For his part, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Horace Chang said: “After today [Friday], we can say we are not only the best resort but the best in the region with Harmony Park.”