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Sectoral Debates 2008 - The Hon. Mike Henry

Release Date: 
Tuesday, May 6, 2008 - 13:45

THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT AND WORKS

Providing Security and Dignity in Transportation and Infrastructure

THANKS & ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

After waiting in the wings for 18 years, the last eight months have involved a lot of focus being placed by me on seeking to identify and correct a ‘jungle’ of inadequacies, many of which I had advised against. There had obviously been questionable actions and clear lack of vision in terms of planning, which had apparently become endemic features of the political direction of both the country and the ministry. Clearly, inertia was an obvious feature, and this was preventing the ministry from getting things done.

I am thus happy to have arrived at a point where some of the ministry’s portfolio areas are now on course to deliver a cohesive, pragmatic and positive contribution to the national development agenda. This relates to the public’s right to expect transportation with dignity on good quality road surfaces, with efficient travel or transportation connections within a broad, multi-modal plan to create a network of transport involving air, sea, road and rail.

Within this period of time – eight months - we have been seeking to re-channel our collective efforts in the direction of global first world standards, some of which are already being realised, in stark contrast to the many stagnation-plagued years before. These successes and improvements, in no uncertain measure, are being achieved through commendable support and input from the central leadership team and the supporting staff at the ministry. They who are now being all fused along a central path aimed at ‘Providing Security and Dignity in Transportation and Infrastructure’. This is being done with Jamaica’s interest being foremost as the point of focus. In this endeavour, I must also recognise the critical leadership and support personnel of the many agencies and entities within the overall portfolios of transport and works.

A hearty ‘thank you’ to my Minister of State and the Permanent Secretary as head of the ministry’s management team, along with the team leaders, the policy officers and the general staff. Similarly, I hail the leadership of the Heads of Agencies and applicable Entities, along with their team members, and likewise, the new Chairpersons and Members of the new Boards for which the ministry has responsibility. I thank those who have served in the past. Thank you to the present team members for your input so far, and I am looking forward to your continued support, as we seek to analyse, learn and implement. In some cases it will be almost immediately, in others, within a two to five-year timeframe, with the creation of permanent jobs as a focus, including new areas of employment in the maritime and aeronautical industries.

Of course, I must make special mention of those most immediately around me on a day-to-day basis – including my wife, Dawn, the rest of my family, my assistants, advisers and direct support staff, whose dedication has been extremely commendable and useful in helping me to quickly take hold of the portfolios and begin to chart the course towards purposeful, progressive and forward-thinking stewardship of the ministry, lifting fifth world thinking to a first world outlook.

To the Prime Minister who charged me with the major responsibility of piloting the ministry’s contribution to the national developmental agenda, I take this opportunity to record my gratitude. Likewise, I thank my Cabinet colleagues for their support and advice, as we collectively seek to bring prosperity to this land which we all love so much, and with a focused driver to chart the new course.

I also take this opportunity to thank the Speaker of the House and the Parliamentary Staff for the courtesies they have extended to me and the patience and understanding that they continue to demonstrate.

To have returned to Gordon House last September meant continuing to hold the faith of my Constituents in Central Clarendon, whom I again thank for their trust and understanding. To them and my Constituency Executive, my Councillors and my Constituency Workers, your respect is ‘concrete’. We can all look forward to the Constituency Development Fund, which this fiscal year, will be focused mainly in the areas of early childhood education and the development of economic and production centres, namely in the Effortville and West Park communities

In concluding this acknowledgement, I thank Jah for having guided me to the ministry, and for paving the way for the levels of improvement that have been realised so far, with so much more to come. As one family within the ministry, we intend to move forward in this new fiscal year, during which we are confident that we will be able to further raise the bar of service in our collective quest to succeed at Providing Security and Dignity in Transportation and Infrastructure, all in Jamaica’s best interest. In this we will have to do much with little, being fully cognisant of limitations placed on us as a nation by the global crisis in terms of oil and food staple prices.

OPENING REMARKS

Mr. Speaker, the Transport and Works portfolio covers a broad network of systems and facilities which either transport or facilitate the general movement of our people or relate to their convenience in terms of the creation and maintenance of many critical public amenities. These include the transport network, namely transportation by land, sea, air and rail, with the ministry also having responsibility for public works, traffic management and flood water control. In this regard, I must note very early, our movement towards fulfilling our election manifesto promise to establish a single road authority nationally.

In all this, it must be recognised that as Shadow Spokesman for Transportation for quite some time, I opposed and supported various initiatives of the previous administration, as was felt necessary in protecting the nation’s interest. So I learnt a lot from the outside then, and now I am learning much more from the inside. This allows for more precise analysis as we focus on planning for implementation, as against seeking to reinvent the wheel. Already we are up and running in terms of delivering on some of the needs of the people, but it must be appreciated that others will take more time to be properly addressed. So in this regard, I seek the understanding of the public in giving us the necessary time to deliver, in some cases, within a year, in others, between two years or up to the end of our present five-year term in office. It is very important for me, Mr. Speaker, to seek this understanding and appreciation from the public, as we work diligently to deliver on our overall mandate. It’s not all a quick-fix. There are some major challenges which I will outline later, that we will have to work steadily at over the next few years to overcome. But together, with mutual trust, hard work and determination, we will succeed. In all cases, however, it will be promise made, promised fulfilled, as has been the case, for example, in meeting my timetables to give fare increases to the various groups of operators within the transport sector.

Mr. Speaker, it should be recognised that prior to the change in political administration last September, the Ministry of Transport and Works also had the portfolios of Water and Housing, which have since been assigned to a separate ministry. Further back, it was once the Ministry of Construction and Housing; Water and Transport; Local Government and Works; Public Utilities and Transport and probably another if you think hard enough. Over the 18-year period of the People’s National Party (PNP) government, a number of ministers held portfolio responsibilities for Transportation and/or Works. With so many changes along the way - a clear sign of lack of continuity and consistency, it is no wonder that relatively little success was achieved over that very long period.

In speaking of Transport and Works now, I will first attempt to outline the circumstances in which I found these aspects of the former ‘Super Ministry’ of latter vintage, on assuming leadership for the two portfolios areas. I say attempt, because there is so much that could be said in this regard, but, you know, some people will tell you that certain things are best not said at certain times of the month.

Mr. Speaker, when you become the Minister of Transport and Works for the country with the second most dense road network in the world, and you inherit a situation in which over 51 per cent of the island’s roadways have been declared to be un-maintainable, it tells you in no uncertain manner the magnitude of the problem. It also tells you that some ministers – perhaps some more than others – were seemingly not working at any time of the month for more than a decade, to have gotten us into such a mess. In touring road after road since last October, it has become more and more evident how sadly lacking the planning was, which has left us in a quagmire. This has caused me to ask the questions over and over, just how could we have failed so badly and what was going on at the various ministries holding the Transport and Works portfolios for over 18 years? It’s no wonder we can’t stop talking about changing the course, as this ministry was evidently on no clear course for so long. The big problem appeared to have been the political leadership, which generally failed to adequately inspire and direct the very competent and hardworking staff that’s in place.

Mr. Speaker, back to how we found the portfolio areas last year, it is no secret that we lost many roads and road surfaces because of:

    The widespread use of over-laden trucks
    Lack of focus on rural and community roads
    Woefully inadequate river training
    Flooding (like in Ocho Rios recently), due to rampant squatting and deforestation under a ministry that you will remember, included both the housing and water portfolios.
    Failure to ensure that rural roads were protected from landslides etc.
    Cutting the cloth to fit the budget, not the needs, in terms of road construction, maintenance and rehabilitation
    And simply badly designed and engineered roads

Looking at the Highway 2000 corridors, these we supported as opposition, but we supported the totality of the project, which also had an economic corridor of development. But in this case, the then government failed miserably to effect stable, long-term arrangements to produce the economic activities the highways were projected to generate, to ensure the continued viability and expansion of the project. None of the proposed developments which should have driven these roads, which were all promised and heavily touted by the previous administration, has ever emerged. That failure effectively entombed the residents of Portmore in the highway arrangements, and the headache has become mine, not the former ‘super minister’s’.

The Highway 2000 economic development plans included the:

    The Vernamfield Cargo Airport
    The New Town housing development
    The development a stadium in Clarendon by the government.

Neither have we gone anywhere near realising the economic value of the highways from the ‘user pays’ approach. So under the previous administration, we only seemed to look pretty travelling on the highway, but, indeed, we did not, nor have we seen any real and tangible economic benefits from these facilities, which I am now committing to realise in a planned development over three years. This includes the Vernamfield Cargo Airport, a New Town and the Herb McKenley Stadium.

All of these will contribute to increased use of the toll roads and reduce the onerous burden that was placed on Portmore and its residents. For having not been realised before, it’s been negotiation after negotiation by me and my team since then, to get to the kinds of arrangements which will make the toll roads the engines of growth they were meant to be. We will be bringing broad economic opportunities through the creation of corridors of development around the communities through which the highways run.

In terms of transportation, while some planning was done by the previous administration in developing the concept of, and leading the implementation of the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre, it has been a major challenge to begin realigning all the confusion we inherited as a public transport system.

The Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), a good move by the former administration, had come almost to a halt, with limited use of the service by commuters. This was while route taxis were being allowed to impinge on the city’s public transportation arrangements, through political decisions which were contrary to the law. Mr. Speaker, some areas were abandoned and for questionable social reasons, official route licences were granted to people to operate without consideration of whether they had the legal right to do so, based on existing franchise agreements.

This was while the JUTC had to:

    • Write off over 212 buses that had been cannibalised over a five-year period
    Another 100 buses were out of operation for various reasons and are just now being refurbished.
    The company had a significant amount of excess spare parts, some of which it was not known exactly what they were for. They had apparently been bought for the wrong buses and those parts were not needed. But interestingly, some of the parts were assigned a value of only $1 each on the company’s books, making over $150 million in spare parts carry a book value of only $10 million. That sounds somewhat like a certain car deal that I recently heard about.
    It was also discovered that the school that was being used to train all the JUTC drivers was owned by a former chairman. These were drivers who ended up with very high accident rates and the company ended with over 2,500 outstanding accident claims, with a value of $450 million in terms of potential liability.

These were some of the chaotic circumstances we inherited as a public transportation set-up, especially in the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR). We have strange bus and taxi arrangements all around. To places like Waterhouse and Linstead, for example, the arrangements we inherited were mind-boggling, to say the least. Both route and hackney carriage transport licences were being used to further political aims, with obviously very little consideration for the public interest and the law of the land.

So I arrived to find more than a half of our roads in an un-maintainable state, another significant percentage in maintainable but quite shabby state, and between bus and taxi transportation, it is pretty much do as you wish.

Then there was talk going on every year or so about getting the passenger and freight rail service back on track. But there was just no serious response to a straightforward proposal, including funding, that has been on the table for years, to get the much-needed service back on stream. At the same time the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) was in total disarray. There was not even an asset register showing what was owned by the corporation, including its broad landholdings across the country, where many parcels of its lands remain untitled. Likewise, the balance sheet of the corporation did not reflect any revaluation of its asset holdings, including the intellectual property value of it being the oldest railway outside of Britain and the USA.

But in only eight months we are now signing off on arrangements with the Chinese government to facilitate the following:

    18 new railway stations to be built
    Completely new tracks of 105 pound standard, to enable greater speed and load-carrying capacity.
    Four special areas to be realigned to enable the trains to maintain their speed levels
    Replacement of wooden sleepers with concrete ones over time, as the concrete sleepers require less maintenance.
    The provision of five new engines
    45 coaches for passengers
    68 freight coaches
    Training for operational personnel
    Re-opening of the Kingston to Montego Bay service
    Service between Spanish Town and Ewarton in St. Catherine.
    All to be done within a three-year refurbishing schedule
    With the creation of thousands of jobs during and after the construction of the entire new railway line and supporting network.

The passenger and freight rail service is intended to significantly impact on the rising fuel cost, with the government focused on getting much of the island’s freight transportation done by rail. This is one of the means by which the government will be combating the rising fuel costs in term of the transportation of freight and people.

In this arrangement, truckers will be fully integrated in the multi-modal transportation plans, but doing mostly shorter runs within the parishes, and across the landscape which will not be covered by the rail service. In doing more trips on better road surfaces, they will stand to benefit from lower maintenance and operating costs.

Mr. Speaker, there was also a lack of appreciation by the ministry, of the urgency to protect the critical Palisadoes peninsula leading to the Norman Manley International Airport, despite the fact that billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money is being spent to upgrade the airport. I would have thought we would have seen the threat to this investment, which has now moved from US$80 million to US$120 million, and will be pressed to meet its economic targets as we seek to privatise the facility.

On the maritime scene, it was interesting that the former minister appeared not to have seen the promise of facilities like the Caribbean Maritime Institute, with its broad scope to much more comprehensively serve the needs of the region and the wider world in seafaring training, essentially providing crewing for the maritime world. So instead of being a hub of both regional and global maritime life, the pretty unique facility was simply rotting and wasting in the jungle, until the vision came late last year, to truly transform the institute into the world-class and global facility it deserves to be.

Mr. Speaker, after taking over the portfolio areas, all of which reflected an unplanned course, my team first had to digest it all, then assess the scope for short, medium and long-term realignment. This involved adopting new standards and exploring more innovative techniques and approaches to produce the kinds of results that are to be expected in this era of high-technology-driven services. Our approach has been multi-modal, fully integrating over time, the dimensions of road, air, sea and rail transportation, and bringing together the various parties being transported or facilitated in their movements, ranging from pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, private motor vehicle operators and users, and public passenger vehicle operators and users.

With the appropriate connectivity within our multi-modal concept of public transportation, it is intended for there to be pretty much seamless transfer of both passengers and goods across the island, and to and from overseas, once the full outline of the ministry’s overall transport policy is outlaid. This involves modern and technology-driven approaches being taken to bring the network to first world standards. Our overall focus in planning and implementation involves the need to facilitate say ‘Miss May’ from Sevens Road in May Pen, to visit ‘Auntie Pauline’ in Harbour View on a single ticket, via a route taxi from home to May Pen, the train to Pechon Street in downtown Kingston, a shuttle bus to Parade, and a JUTC bus to Harbour View. The same format – going vice versa - would apply going back home, with her knowing that her journey would have started at say 8:00 a.m. and end at say 5:00 p.m.

Likewise, we intend to allow a youngster from say Braes River in St. Elizabeth, to jump on his bicycle at home, ride to the Lacovia Railway Station, get on the train with the cycle, get off at Pechon Street downtown Kingston, ride around town getting a little present for his girlfriend in Portmore, then riding over to the Sunshine City on a bicycle lane that the PNP said cannot be established on the toll road. After a good day in Portmore, including a JUTC ride out to Hellshire Beach, the youngster can ride his cycle to Gregory Park or back into Kingston to catch the train back to St. Elizabeth.

The same would apply to say a Kingston higgler travelling by bus, train and taxi from Kingston into some deep rural community and back to market in Kingston, knowing quite precisely what kind of time-span and timeline to plan for each leg of the trip and for the overall trip.

That’s the kind of multi-modal, time-sensitive and convenience-driven transportation service we are seeking to establish, in which Miss May could plan her trip with precision from Seven Road in May Pen to Harbour View and back, as also the youngster from Braes River to Portmore and back. These are just examples which depict the new thinking and approach to public transportation under the new ministerial direction, with security being also a hallmark.

Mr. Speaker, under road construction, we are into new technical services, with critical expansion of many roadways and much more forward-thinking designing of the roads themselves. These include, among other measures:

    Examining new applications and techniques, including cement roads
    More in-depth base-line testing• Improved road markings to foster greater safety among road users
    The introduction of high-tech traffic signals which are capable of being controlled remotely from off-site locations.

We are also introducing a serious deterrent to the operators of over-laden trucks on our roadways, with both static and portable weight scales being put in place to help protect the integrity of the road surface. The static scales are slated for Rosend in St. Mary and Harbour View in Kingston, for which design works are far advanced. Thanks to the European Union for loan support in this regard. This measure is to protect the investment of billions of dollars on the road annually, much of which has gone to waste over the years, due largely to abuse of the roadways.

On another matter broad relating to our roads, in May 2007, the National Transport Policy was tabled in this Honourable House as a White Paper. In the National Transport Policy there was provision for a Road Safety Policy and the framework for the development of a Road Master Plan.

The indicative programme signed by the Government of Jamaica and the European Union (EU) promulgated the support of the road sector in Jamaica. In this regard, the consultants, WSP Inc., were engaged by the EU to finalise the road sector policy and to prepare a 10-year Road Master Plan.

The consultants submitted the final draft of the Road Master Plan in February 2008, and the financing proposal was signed by the Hon. Prime Minister. The request by the Government of Jamaica for the disbursement of first tranche of 25 per cent, amounting to €2.5 million, was granted.

Then we are also looking at effecting rights-of-way measures to both streamline and regulate the overall use of the public thoroughfares in terms of the conditions under which the placement of utility or other service facilities and other materials will be allowed along the rights-of-way. This new concept offers fundamental scope for improved public service within the ministry and the overall government service, especially via fibre-optic telecommunication, and that we are moving onto with real urgency.

The government pays billions of dollars for utility services annually, including for telecommunication services. Imagine if the entire public service within the Corporate Area and within each parish, was all connected as departments making extension telephone calls rather than calls from separate telephone numbers at separate entities. Just imagine the savings to the public purse and the greater public efficiency from having such closer inter-agency connectivity. Imagine the police, the medical services, the fire brigade; the army; the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Emergency Management; the Rapid Response water team; all these emergency services connected by telephone as departments rather than separate agencies. That is where we are heading and that I intend to give Jamaica as a national present, courtesy of the Transport and Works Ministry, under my direction.

A simple recent example of this was the presentation of a tender to the Ministry of Transportation and Works, valued at well over US$200,000, relating to a proposal for work on our Information Technology system. Upon a detailed examination of the tender by our IT team, the tender amount ended up at less than half the amount originally quoted, with over US$100,000 in savings, for which I must congratulate our IT team, led by Mr. Devon Sterling, the Director of Information Technology.

Already the ministry has had some of the major telecommunications service providers sign on to the rights-of-way initiative and we are to hold dialogue with the rest. While it will impact negatively on their bottom-lines – the public service having been their biggest overall customer – it is the nation’s ultimate good that is foremost in our minds, and it is what will be the ultimate winner in this case. I therefore, Mr. Speaker, invite the Jamaica Public Service Company, the National Water Commission, Cable & Wireless, Digicel, Flow et al, to meet with me, as I have already started in some cases, to let us establish a proper working arrangement for implementation of the rights-of-way policy.

From a combination of the huge potential savings in telecommunication costs to the government, plus income from charges for the use of the public rights-of-way, we intend to generate the funds to tackle that 51 per cent of roadways which need total resurfacing, and to extend our focus on rural and community roads.

So Mr. Speaker, we have not been sitting down with arms folded since last September, but as a ministry, we have been charting a proactive and innovative way forward. This includes responding to critical immediate needs like safeguarding the Palisadoes peninsula, which has come in for some steady attention since late last year, and is scheduled to be significantly intensified heading into the hurricane season ahead.

But it must be noted that the present work at Palisadoes will only allow protection for up to a Category Two hurricane. Further long-term protection will come with the full application of the Cuban-styled rock revetment protective system which, though currently being reviewed, has proven to be the most effective measure that has been applied to the Palisadoes strip, and has never been breached in the section of the near 12-kilometre-long peninsula where it has so far been established.

Funding to the tune of US$20 million for Hurricane Dean Rehabilitation work, is being provided by the Caribbean Development Bank. Of the amount, US$10.8 million is for the long-term work on protecting the Palisadoes strip, which will involve the reclaiming of lost land and the replanting of protective vegetation along the harbour side of the strip, as well as the establishment of a jogging trail. This land reclamation process is to be realised through dredging, which is planned to be done by the company that is to undertake dredging for the establishment of the Falmouth Pier in Trelawny.

We are also establishing modern transportation plans for the Corporate Area, the city of Montego Bay, and three rural towns, the latter of which are to be used as models for a much broader plan down the road. The rural towns earmarked for the pilot plan are Ocho Rios, Santa Cruz and May Pen. Montego Bay and Ocho Rios were chosen because of the combined tourism and community transportation needs along the North Coast, while Santa Cruz serves in the critical breadbasket area of St. Elizabeth, and May Pen sits well in terms of its connectivity with the Highway 2000 network, the railway and the Vernamfield Cargo Airport.

In the Corporate Area, Mr. Speaker, there will be:

    Extensive road widening
    Addition of more bus lanes
    Introduction of high-occupancy (carpooling) lanes
    Intersection improvements• Real time video monitoring of traffic operations
    A long-range priority project is being considered, to establish an elevated, six-lane north to south expressway from Manor Park to downtown Kingston, with interchanges at critical sections of the city.

These, with the exception of the expressway, are all being either implemented or are scheduled for implementation on a short to medium-term agenda. Already Marcus Garvey Drive and Spanish Town Road are being widened. Marcus Garvey Drive is contractually due for completion in August of this year, but we have driven home the urgency of the situation to the contractors and it is now anticipated that the project will be completed well ahead of time, by about the end of June. This was something I promised the Portmore toll road users to do, to minimise the peak hour traffic build-up off the toll road, before I would increase the toll rate.

Since coming to office, there has been no toll rate increase, although one was due in January 2008. The fact that the government has been absorbing $48 collectively at the toll plaza, there has been a change in the tolling policy under the concession agreement, whereby the users of the toll will see an annual review of the toll tariffs by the developer, instead of the twice yearly review. The new rates I will announce in July, with them lasting until at least July 2009.

The Corporate Area road-widening programme is to also include:

    Hagley Park Road
    Washington Boulevard/Dunrobin Avenue
    A section of Constant Spring Road
    Shortwood Road
    Old Hope Road from Cross Roads to Liguanea
    And Barbican Road/East Kings House Road/Lady Musgrave Road

Supporting this modernisation of our roads in the Corporate Area are factors like the upgraded traffic signals to facilitate more synchronisation and better traffic flow, plus the introduction of real time control of traffic operations through major intersections from a Traffic Management Centre. New Kingston’s slew of new high-tech traffic signals are due to come on stream next week.

Similarly, we have had to upgrade the safety features along the Segment 2A of the North Coast Highway, between Greenside in Trelawny and Montego Bay, St. James - for which the previous government failed to plan lighting and the over 20 necessary traffic signals and a number of other critical crossing facilities. Now we have to be sourcing funding of over $100 million to establish the necessary overpasses and underpasses to fully balance the traffic flow and safety needs along the new stretch of dual carriageway. This is after quite a few persons died in traffic mishaps at intersections along the highway, especially in the Flankers area of Montego Bay.

On Segment Three of the North Coast Highway, from Ocho Rios to Port Antonio, we had to get the project back on target in terms of the schedule for completion. We have also had to be dealing with some deficiencies, like raising a box bridge at Buff Bay in Portland, which had apparently being built below sea level, and similarly, raising a strip of road about one kilometre long, in Orange Bay, also in Portland, which locals claimed to have been compromised by periodic drainage problems in the area. The overall segment is, however, expected to be completed by April 2009, to qualify for the disbursement of funding from the overseas financiers. When I came to office, the deadline dates then in existence were successfully re-negotiated with the European Union, the source of the funding, which we thank for the courtesies that have been extended. But with the new dates established, if the project is not completed on time, then some of the grant could be lost, and we would have to ask the taxpayers to pay over $1 billion.

In our overall focus on improving the public infrastructure across the country, the government has been forging ahead with a slew of initiatives aimed at building a solid base for national development. These will include:

    Continuing to expand the Highway 2000 network, but putting it on a sounder economic footing and reducing the high interest cost of the loans to be involved there.
    Fostering the expansion and upgrading of the two existing international airports.
    Kick-starting the Vernamfield Airport in Clarendon, for which some very interesting details will be forthcoming later in my presentation.
    Restarting the Jamaica Railway Corporation’s public passenger and freight services.
    Upgrading some of the aerodromes and focusing on building a new one
    Moving ahead with the expansion of the Port of Kingston, which is now rated 45th among ports worldwide.
    Establishing the Falmouth Cruise Ship Pier
    Upgrading the Montego Bay Pier
    Expanding and upgrading the Ocho Rios Pier
    And the government, under the Prime Minister’s direction, is exploring the feasibility of establishing a bridge from the Norman Manley International Airport to downtown Kingston, to facilitate the creation of an international financial centre in downtown Kingston.

Looking ahead then, the ministry intends to continue to invest heavily in physical infrastructure, so that our people can have better opportunities to realise their potential through better employment opportunities and increased mobility to grasp these opportunities, while enjoying more comfort on the roads and more security in travel. This is part of the government’s overall thrust to generate greater economic and social benefits for the population, by opening up more opportunities to individuals and investors alike. This is while fully recognising the need to subsidise travel for the unemployed seeking work, school children, physically challenged people, and our pensioners.

Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of this honourable House and the public at large, I will now highlight the performances of the various agencies and entities within the ministry’s portfolio, and look at some of their major projects and goals for the 2008/2009 financial year.

ROAD MAINTENANCE FUND

Six years after the establishment of the Road Maintenance Fund under the umbrella of the Ministry of Transport and Works, the 2007/2008 financial year saw the fund disbursing approximately $650 million to finance general main road maintenance work across the island. This was while Hurricane Dean did over $2 billion in damage last August.

The fund injected over $200 million in emergency road repairs to enable the country to quickly return to normal productivity after flood rains during the last financial year, while contributing over $210 million as government counterpart funding in the GOJ/IDB National Road Services Improvement Programme (NARSIP).

The Road Maintenance Fund spent over $40 million financing micro-surfacing technology on ‘B’ and ‘C’ roads, while over 182,000 square metres of potholes and other related surface work were financed.

Mr. Speaker, for 2008/2009, the fund proposes to provide:

    $200 million as the government’s contribution to the NARSIP programme
    Over $500 million on road surface and drain maintenance works across nine parishes in preparation for the upcoming hurricane season, and to arrest main road deterioration.
    Over $700 million to finance a new and expanded micro-surfacing programme of over one million square metres.
    Plus another $250 million that is expected from European Union (EU) grants, to be spent on main roads.

It should be noted that with increased licensing fees, the fund should be in a better position to increase its scope of road maintenance activities. Additionally, the Road Maintenance Fund is in the process of procuring the weigh scales, in an effort to address the pressing problem of over-laden vehicles on the road network.

NATIONAL WORKS AGENCY

The National Works Agency (NWA), Mr. Speaker, last year continued on its path towards building and maintaining a reliable, safe and efficient road network and flood control system. Along that route, the agency will, over the new fiscal year, be embarking on a number of new programmes geared at further improving the road network. These include road and infrastructure construction; road and infrastructure repairs and maintenance; flood control systems improvements; and traffic management improvements. These efforts are to be bolstered by the NARSIP programme’s emphasis on strengthening the institutional capacity of the Works Agency, rendering it more capable of delivering on its broad mandate.

Some $730 million, including $300 million from the Road Maintenance Fund, is proposed to be used to conduct maintenance works in five parishes, namely Westmoreland, Manchester, St. Catherine, St. Thomas and Portland, under the auspices of the NARSIP programme. Outside of that programme, a total of $2 billion is proposed to fund the periodic maintenance activities of the NWA during the 2008/2009 fiscal year.

Likewise, the NWA’s Northern Jamaica Development Programme will continue in this fiscal year, with a projected total cost of $2.3 billion for the year. The parish of St. Ann, with a slew of new high-tech traffic signals, among other facilities, has already started to reap major benefits from the programme,

In the area of bridge construction, rehabilitation and maintenance, the works agency is to spend over $1.6 billion on three separate programmes this fiscal year. Here I note that while there was some semblance of a return to normality in terms of the recent loss of bridges and bridge parts to the scrap metal trade, there are concerns about the scourge returning. That situation I say with the strongest of emphasis, must not be allowed to return, and, if necessary, I will support banning the scrap metal industry!

Among the major road and other infrastructural projects to be undertaken by the Works Agency this fiscal year, are the following:

    The Spanish Town Road Improvement Project
    Washington Boulevard Phase II
    Further protection of the Palisadoes peninsula
    Protection and rehabilitation of sea defence, pavement and drainage on Port Royal Street in Kingston.
    Drainage and pavement work on the May Pen to Sour Sop Turn road in Clarendon.
    Road protection and bridge rehabilitation work at Roselle in St. Thomas.
    Protection of sections of the roadway in the Bog Walk Gorge in St. Catherine.
    Protective works on the Manchioneal road in Portland.
    Protective and earth works along the Yallahs to Easington roadway in St. Thomas.
    Construction of a Bailey bridge at Georgia in St. Thomas.
    Island-wide flood control activities
    Preparation of a draft Corporate Area Master Drainage Plan.
    Multiple traffic management initiatives, including dualisation of a number of key roadways.
    Work under the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development Project in St. Mary, St. Ann and Westmoreland.
    Multiple rural road rehabilitation under the OPEC/GOJ project
    Dualisation of the Bogue Road in Montego Bay

Likewise, there is the agency’s monitoring of the construction of the Yallahs Bridge, which State Minister Hibbert will address in detail in his presentation.
Mr. Speaker, I could not leave the National Works Agency outline without referring to the perennial problems from persistence in disposing of domestic garbage, including thousands of plastic bottles, in gullies, water-ways and streams. That unnecessary activity continues to cost the country so much in terms of damage from flood rains and the costs of the necessary rehabilitation thereafter. I must again ask our people to think seriously about some of the really damaging things that we do daily.

NATIONAL ROAD OPERATING AND CONSTRUCTING COMPANY (NROCC)

Mr. Speaker, in further expanding or improving the corridors of the toll highways, under the immediate stewardship of the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC), a number of major programmes and initiatives are to be undertaken this fiscal year. But it must be noted that the government will be called upon to find some $2 billion in the next budget, to keep NROCC in business. The project for this fiscal year are:

     Construction of new fishing village along the Dyke Road in St. Catherine.
    Land acquisition for the Highway 2000 project in relation to Mount Rosser, the Spanish Town/Bog Walk Gorge bypass; the Fern Gully bypass; and the Bog Walk to Linstead bypass.
    Construction of the North South Link of the Highway 2000 project, involving Mount Rosser; Bog Walk to Linstead; and Moneague to Golden Grove.
    Construction of the Sandy Bay to Williamsfield leg of the toll highway, for which pretty much all the necessary arrangements are now in place, and the work is to begin soon.
    Completion of Segment 2A of the Northern Coastal Highway Improvement Project.
    Marcus Garvey Drive Phase 2 from Ninth Avenue to East Avenue, including the establishment of a properly positioned pedestrian bridge in the area, for which a huge cost is being quoted; plus bicycle paths. This is after the pedestrian bridge that was established there was entirely misplaced and has never been put to use. Talk about having been on the wrong course and in the ‘wrong jungle’, at the taxpayers’ expense!

Of significant note is that the Portmore to Clarendon Park Highway 2000 Corridor Development Plan has been undertaken by the Government of Jamaica, to ensure the maximum economic and social impact of the toll road being connected between southern St. Catherine and Southern Clarendon. The analysis undertaken under the project pointed to the southern sections of the two parishes being poised for significant economic growth in a wide range of areas of enterprise. It is further anticipated that the project, when completed, is capable of generating some 119,000 additional jobs in the long term, and 54,000 jobs in the medium term, which is expected to have a significant positive impact on employment in the country.

JAMAICA URBAN TRANSIT COMPANY

In the area of land transportation, the new board and management of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) has succeeded to a significant extent in its drive to restructure and turn around the company since being mandated to do so within 18 months from last October. In employing a combination of cost-cutting and revenue-enhancing strategies, the company, for example, has significantly downsized its workforce in search of more efficiency in its operations.

As at October 2007, the JUTC had a fleet of 720 buses on its books, at least 220 of which were considered uneconomical to repair. Approximately 300 were in service, with at least 100 new buses being needed by the company to properly fulfill its mandate. With 50 buses having been acquired by the company following their use in the World Cup cricket tournament last year, they were integrated into the overall JUTC operations.

In September 2007, the company operated an average of 288 buses from a total fleet of 720, while employing all of 2,743 people. With a staff to (operational) bus ratio of more than twice the international benchmark of 4.5 to one then, the company was obviously extremely overstaffed. As a result, through dialogue with the University and Allied Workers’ Union (UAWU), which represents the vast majority of JUTC workers, the company managed to reduce its staff to bus ratio from 9.52 to one to 7.07 to one, still above the international benchmark, but definitely heading in the right direction and projected to be in line with the benchmark by year-end. The staff rationalisation was realised without compromising the quality of service to the commuting public and I must extend special commendation to the UAWU and its president, Mr. Lambert Brown, for the spirit in which the negotiations were conducted.

A significant boost came for the JUTC in January of this year, when the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre was opened and new traffic arrangements were implemented in sections of the Corporate Area, resulting in improved flow of traffic and revenue performance. Work which has already started on the downtown Kingston Transportation Centre, is expected to provide another major shot in the arm for the bus company.

A major Smart Card marketing thrust was launched in December 2007 and total Smart Card fare income as a percentage of total fare income has grown by approximately 290 per cent from December 2007 to March 2008. Smart Card usage for March 2008 accounted for 14 per cent of the company’s operating revenue and passengers, which compared to six per cent usage for the corresponding month last year.

Under the new board’s stewardship since November 2007, the company has increased its reliability, reduced its operating costs, and increased its revenue. Some 30 units have been added to the operational fleet through the bus refurbishing programme and extensive maintenance and repairs were carried out on 59 buses. Increasing the fleet availability has allowed the company to maintain the operating fleet schedule, thereby improving the quality of service provided, with more consistent service times and greater seat capacity.

Significant costs savings have been realised by closing the Lyndhurst Road depot and effecting better overall management of the company’s staffing. The depot’s closure has reduced the company’s operating cost by $10 million per month, while improvements in the management of the staff, through reorganisation and tighter controls, have resulted in a lowering of the monthly staff costs from $190 million to $150 million. These have resulted in saving estimated at $600 million per annum.

Significant among the company’s planned initiatives for the 2008/09 fiscal year are the following:

    Hiring a President by October 1, 2008
    Continue its fleet by increasing the Available Fleet to 424 by September 1, 2008
    Complete the conversion of all buses to single operator units, thereby making redundant approximately 400 conductor post. This is while the company is looking to hire 400 drivers to operate the increasing number of buses being rolled out. Staff members whose posts are being made redundant, are to be given priority for job applications.
    Fully commission the Vehicle Location System
    Expand to new routes, such as Half-Way Tree to Rock Hall; Downtown to Norman Gardens; and Downtown to Vineyard Town
    Begin publishing Route Timetables by January 2009
    Increase Smart Card revenue to 25 per cent of monthly fare income by March 31, 2009
    Reduce the monthly rate of accidents and incidents by 50 per cent

Also of significant note in terms of the JUTC, is that unlike other categories of service providers in the public transportation sector, the state-owned bus company will not be granted any fare increase at this time. This is because the ministry and, by extension, the government, is not about to grant increases to off-set inefficiencies among any service provider. The JUTC team knows that the company has a number of issues to overcome in order to realise the level of efficiency that the entity is capable of, hence the team took the conscious decision not to seek any fare increase until those matters are adequately addressed. When you have millions of dollars in lost revenue daily, you have to effectively deal with that - plug those loopholes and see where you really are - before you can reasonably come asking for a fare increase.

MONTEGO BAY METRO BUS SERVICE

In terms of the Montego Bay Metro bus operations in Western Jamaica, there is need for expansion of the state-owned bus service to improve the company’s revenue and the expand operations in some areas where commuters are requesting the service, such as Wakefield and Falmouth in Trelawny, and Lucea in Hanover.

To facilitate this kind of expansion, the replacement of the company’s aging fleet on a phased basis, is to be done. This is while rehabilitation of some 16 buses within the service is in the making, plus refurbishing of the depot in Montego Bay. Funding for the overall project is to be provided by the Ministry of Transport and Works, with the overall improvements scheduled for the current fiscal year.

JAMAICA ULTIMATE TYRE CO.

Mr. Speaker, Jamaica Ultimate Tyre Company, owned and operated by the government, supplies the JUTC and some other commercial entities with new and retread tyres. The tyre company, which has a workforce of 30, is projected to generate $165.7 million in revenue for the fiscal year 2008/2009, with a profit of $16.2 million or approximately 10 per cent of its revenue.

TOLL AUTHORITY

On the toll highways, this year the Toll Authority intends to initiate and drive the process of developing an appropriate framework for its regulatory activities. The legislative framework has been absent so far, rendering the authority incapable of properly dispensing its responsibilities.

This will include facilitating intensified monitoring of the operation and maintenance of the toll roads and the concessionaire’s compliance with the terms and conditions of the concession agreement.

The authority, which has also been without most of its required staffing, is to be strengthened with the addition of another inspector, a compliance officer and other administrative support staff, to provide the overall structure for the effective execution of its monitoring and regulatory functions under the Toll Road Act and Regulation.

The organisation is also slated to benefit from first-world, cutting-edge training, some to be provided by the United States-based International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), the foremost international toll road authority, which the local Toll Authority recently gained membership in.

The Toll Authority also plans to have a National Toll Road Plan formulated, to provide the basis for discussion and analysis, in preparation for the development of future toll roads locally.

TRANSPORT AUTHORITY

Mr. Speaker, there is much work to be done at the Transport Authority and, in fact, a very sharp focus is now being given to the agency’s overall operations. The authority is to complete an all-island rationalisation survey of public passenger vehicles and commercial carriers by the end of next month and this survey should help to more clearly establish the real needs in terms of licensing and operational requirements of the authority, on the nation’s roads.

A series of reports are to be done from the survey data, which are expected to provide information on matters like the commuter population on the various routes; the compliance rate among public passenger vehicle operators in respect of wearing uniforms and having the necessary markings on their vehicles; and the adequacy or inadequacy of the various public passenger vehicle terminals, plus guidelines on ensuring safety as you travel on public passenger vehicles.

Overall, the survey will offer a meaningful opportunity for the Transport Authority to seek to significantly improve its services, which is something that is being insisted upon. Among the strategies to be used to bring about these improvements are the following:

    Improving operational efficiency through the use of better technology, including cameras, web cameras, GIS systems and hand-held devices.
    Increasing the number of transport inspectors significantly by September 2008.
    Improving the mobility of the inspectorate by increasing the authority’s motor vehicle fleet in terms of buses, cars and motorcycles.
    Re-training of enforcement officers in the areas of statement writing, presentation of evidence and law.
    Rotation of inspectors to improve accountability and control.
    Developing and implementing a colour-coding system for taxis.

Mr. Speaker, the ministry intends to make some radical changes to at least one area of the Transport Authority’s operations. This relates to its seizure and release policy. It is intended to seek to establish a 24-hour operation in terms of the release of vehicles from the authority’s pounds. This will eliminate the unnecessary holding of vehicles overnight and over weekends, where the required processing has been completed and release has been authorised.

With the regulations making it mandatory for the operators of public passenger vehicles to wear designated uniforms and have the Transport Authority’s badges in their vehicles while on duty, the authority is set to become more stringent in enforcing these requirements this fiscal year. This is while it moves ahead to significantly improve its own licensing systems and customer service, including the processing of applications for the release of seized vehicles, and the projected introduction of online application processing for commercial carriers’ licences next month, with payments being possible via credit cards.

The Transport Authority is also seeking to improve the legislative framework governing its activities to, for example, allow its inspectors to issue tickets for road traffic offences, instead of summons, as is presently the case.

Also on road transportation, the issue of its negative impact on the environment is a reality. This has increased with increased motorization and it is now accepted that transportation activities are dominant factors behind the emission of most pollutants. This is because vehicle exhaust emissions form a major source of air pollution, particularly around busy road corridors. Under the proposed modernization of the Motor Vehicle Inspection Services by the Island Traffic Authority, modern diagnostic and testing equipment are to be acquired and provisions made for the emission testing of all categories of vehicles.

JAMAICA RAILWAY CORPORATION

Still on ground transportation, but this time on the rail tracks, Mr. Speaker, the ministry has been busy trying to revitalise the Jamaica Railway Corporation’s (JRC) public passenger and freight services. Following two failed divestment bids since the services were halted some 15 years ago, a Chinese Government proposal has been on the table for the last three years. On taking over the stewardship of the ministry late last year, one of the first acts of the new JRC board that was established, was to cause an independent professional review of both the technical study and commercial proposal relating to the Chinese offer.

In summary, the details are that the Chinese Government is prepared to provide 85 per cent of the required funding through a loan to the JRC, which would be guaranteed by the Government of Jamaica. The project has to have the capacity to repay the US$354 million it is estimated to cost; the Government of Jamaica will retain ownership of its assets in respect of the JRC; while all the operating costs are to be met by the operators, who will be expected to provide the remaining 15 per cent of the overall funding as equity.

The Chinese proposal, Mr. Speaker, is the route being taken and it is now a done deal, with the ministry and the government looking forward to bringing back the buzz which once dotted the geographical network which was covered by the passenger rail service. Rural agriculture, cottage industries, heritage tourism and excursions, including school tours; are projected to be among the main beneficiary activities from the reintroduction of the passenger rail service. Critically, it will bring back a key cog to the broad, multi-modal transportation network which the ministry is now charting for the people of Jamaica.

This is akin to what’s happening in many other parts of the world, where various countries are investing heavily in railways because of the recognised potential of rail services to contribute to national economic development. Colombia, China, India, the Philippines, Mozambique, Ghana, Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago are among the countries which are busy investing in rail transportation.

THE MARITIME AUTHORITY OF JAMAICA & THE CARIBBEAN MARITIME INSTITUTE

Mr. Speaker, heading out to sea, I am happy to report that while the previous administration tried unsuccessfully for many years, after only a few months of the present administration, Jamaica got elected to the Council of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the global organisation which develops international legislation and global standards for the training of seafarers under international convention. This is while the Director-General of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ), Real Admiral Peter Brady, was re-elected in March 2008, to continue in the chairmanship of a Sub-Committee of the IMO.

Importantly too, within the maritime sector locally, the MAJ is currently examining the possibility of having a dry dock established off the Kingston coastline.

On the local front, the major initiatives of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica for this fiscal year includes a collaborative effort with the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) and the HEART Trust/NTA, to expand the output of Jamaican seafarers. This is with a view of supplying crew for the global shipping fleet. The project is still at a preliminary developmental stage, but it is to gradually include the CMI’s role in improving the quality of seafarers from Jamaica, with the CMI acting as the training nucleus for sub-regional centres around the island, to facilitate the delivery of aspects of the seafaring programme via distance learning medium. This is a new and major employment opportunity, which we are pursuing vigorously.

Mr. Speaker, as a point of emphasis, it must be noted that the Philippines is the largest supplier of seafarers to the global market, some 28 per cent, and those seafarers collectively remit about US$2 billion annually to their national economy, representing about six per cent of the national exports.

There is still a great shortage of qualified seafarers globally and this will remain so up until about 2015, based on projected shipbuilding. The CMI, therefore, with the necessary resources, can increase its throughput and provide for additional employment in the maritime sector, and provide remittance to the country.

The potential for crewing from Jamaica is, therefore, very great as, for example, our seafarers speak English, the international language of the sea. Seafaring offers a very good remuneration option for especially technology-inclined Jamaican youngsters, including those who may not immediately opt to go to university. The pay is much higher than comparatively in other areas of occupation, plus there is the adventure and excitement of going to sea.

In addition, the MAJ is spearheading efforts to open a Jamaican Ship Registry office in Bremen, Germany. It is scheduled to be opened on June 13, 2008. The initiative will be in tandem with efforts to establish Jamaica as a shipping centre, through the implementation of a project to develop the necessary technical and economic framework to promote and develop targeted marine activities. Jamaica’s balanced maritime infrastructure, consisting of ports, the CMI as a global maritime training institution, a maritime authority and a port authority, has pitted the country well in terms of its ability to develop the shipping centre and ship registration, and using this as an engine of growth in the local economy and a foundation of the development of Kingston as an International Financial Centre.

PORT AUTHORITY OF JAMAICA

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the operations of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), the pulling out of Maersk Shipping Line has had an impact on its normal turnover. This is something we have to seek to rebound from, as we focus on eventually privatising the port operations.

But on the positive side of the PAJ’s operations, a number of major projects are under way or in the making at this time, including:

    A US$50 million project to design and construct four new marine beacon structures, each with concrete platforms on piles, along with repairs to similar structures in the area, in Kingston Harbour.
    Development work to the tune of US$50 million, including the construction of a 30,000 sq. feet multi-storey building, for the Ocho Rios Cruise Shipping Pier.
    Even more substantial is the Falmouth Cruise Ship Terminal Development, which, with a US$263.8 million joint venture price tag, will include the construction of a pier, terminal building, car park, facilities, retail shops and a mix of residential and commercial buildings. The venture is being jointly finance by he PAJ and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. The pier is to accommodate the Genesis Cruise Line, the largest carrier that is now being built to carry over 9,000 passengers and crew.
    Also heavily on the Port Authority’s agenda for this fiscal year are the details of a US$130 million development project for the Port Antonio area, in tandem with the AIC Group, which is to provide US$93 million of the overall funding. The development includes a hotel and villas on Navy Island, a 226-room Five Star hotel on the Titchfield peninsula, a marina and townhouses, plus some commercial developments. The project is now at the feasibility stage, with actual construction expected to begin in the next fiscal year.
    And, of course, upgrading work on the Montego Bay Pier is being undertaken. Various contracts on this project have been awarded, and the works are now moving apace.
    Also the Rum Tour

AIRPORTS AUTHORITY OF JAMAICA

Mr. Speaker, in terms of air transportation, the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) continues to spearhead the development of the two main international gateways, including both airside and landside facilities. Of a total budget of US$139 million for the three-phase expansion and upgrading of the Norman Manley International Airport, at the end of March 2008, US$81.36 (excluding interest on debt) has been spent on the project. This is while two of the three phases of the $145 million development project at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay have been completed.

The developments revolve around the potential for new business, including tourism and other airlifts, and generally increasing the number of airlines using the airports and the number of connecting routes between Jamaica and international destinations.

In addition, the AAJ has continued its representation and participation in the deliberations of the Air Policy Committee and advocacy for the pursuit of new or expanded air services agreements with various countries. The committee recently concluded agreements with Spain and Mexico and is awaiting the constitutional formalities to be concluded. This is while the committee is looking to negotiate new agreements with South Africa and Italy.

The four domestic aerodromes operated by the Airports Authority are to be retained, with consideration being made to establish a new aerodrome at Duckenfield, St. Thomas. At Boscobel Aerodrome in St. Mary, a new jetport is being opened up as part of a pilot initiative among the tourism-centred aerodromes, to encourage the more affluent vacationers to more conveniently fly down their private jets to Jamaica. We will provide this as a port of entry, with Customs and Immigration stations there too.

JAMAICA CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY

Mr. Speaker, the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) is to begin preparatory work on the construction of two modern stand-alone air traffic control towers at the Sangster and Norman Manley International airports this fiscal year. These new buildings are to replace the existing structures, which are both over 50 years old. The project will include staff facilities and modern air traffic control equipment.

During 2008/ 2009, the Civil Aviation Authority will also be completing the upgrading of the Aeronautical Messaging System at a cost of JA$54 million. The new system will provide the needed enhancement of the Aeronautical Information Management system, including accurate information on the movement of aircraft within the Jamaican airspace, to facilitate the preparation of billing invoices. The new system is to be commissioned by September of this year, when the authority will have one of the most advanced integrated Air Traffic Aeronautical Information Service systems in the world.

In addition, the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority concluded the International Civil Aviation Security Audit in January, a very important in enhancing the work of the authority.

VERNAMFIELD ANNOUNCEMENT

Mr. Speaker, I close with very positive news on the development of the Vernamfield Cargo Airport in South West Clarendon. It is to be noted that the ministry is seeking to facilitate private sector investment in the potential development opportunities at Vernamfield. These include

Cargo hub/logistics hub

    This could involve the setting up of a commercial free-zone that would serve the Caribbean, Latin America and America.
    This concept involves the combination of an industrial park and airport, providing storage and display space for manufacturers and customers. The facility would be served by a multi-modal transport system and a state-of-the-art cargo handling system.

Aircraft maintenance facility

    The complex could be developed to provide maintenance services for single engine to large transport aircraft. Where possible, a major aircraft manufacturer could be encouraged to set up a major maintenance facility at Vernamfield. Whether the latter is possible or not, Jamaica should seek to be in a position to provide service for the most popular types of aircraft flown in this hemisphere.

Training centre for the aviation industry

    General staff – local personnel to be employed at the facility
    Training would be provided for persons recruited from the surrounding communities, especially those who were displaced by the development.
    Regional aviation training for specialised areas in the industry.
    Practical training for aircraft maintenance engineers and other technical disciplines in the aviation sector

Multimodal transport facility

    The Vernamfield Aerodrome is ideally situated to serve as a multi-modal facility with convenient linkages to road, rail and sea transportation.

Location of the JDF Air Wing:

    In 2007, the airstrip was officially handed over to the Jamaica Defence Force for the relocation of its air wing. This will have to be incorporated into the overall development plan.

These activities, when implemented either individually or combined, will lead to increased employment, and place Jamaica in an ideal position to be established as a regional aviation hub.

Development of the Vernamfield site as an aviation facility will necessitate the relocation of residents who occupy the property and some adjacent areas. We will therefore need to make a determination as to the socio-economic status of the affected persons and the implications of the development of the site.

In addition, the lands encompassing the aerodrome will have to be zoned for Airport Development, to prevent the possible future squatting on the area, as well as to ensure that all safety requirements are implemented.

These surveys and land administration matters will be carried out under the direction of the ministry, in conjunction with other government entities that routinely conduct similar surveys, such as the Social Development Commission, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, and the National Lands Agency.

I am pleased to announce that the ministry has received very positive responses from a number of major local and international firms in terms of interest in carrying out this development. Four firms responded to the tender which closed on May 5, 2008, and the ministry has taken pains to ensure that there is an independent evaluation team in place, which is now reviewing these proposals. By mid-September, it is expected that the potential developers would have submitted their development plans.

Mr. Speaker, it should be noted that when a leftist party has lost it’s way and stays too long, it always leaves the incoming party to pay the debts. That is food for thought for us all today.

Thank you all.

 

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