China Harbour, Jamaica to seal new deal
(Reprinted from the Jamaica Gleaner) The Chairman of China Communications Construction Company – the parent company of China Harbour Engineering Company – is due in Jamaica next week to sign what Transport, Works and Housing Minister Dr Omar Davies has called a significant agreement.
“This is a major company in the world … When the chairman is here, there will be some agreement signed which will have significant importance to the future of Jamaica’s economy,” Davies said Wednesday.
The minister, who was guarded about the nature of the agreement that will be signed, was speaking during a Jamaica-China Friendship Association forum at the Wyndham Kingston hotel in New Kingston.
China Harbour is the company implementing the US$400-million Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme. The company has also expressed an interest in taking over the Mount Rosser leg of Highway 2000 and completing the north-south link for the highway.
Davies said the Government would be seeking to further improve the country’s infrastructure, resulting in tremendous economic benefit.
“The first example of this will be the investment to complete the Mount Rosser bypass and then the construction of the other two sections, which will be the north-to-south link of Highway 2000,” Davies said.
“We expect that in a year’s time, the Mount Rosser bypass, which presently leads to the Bird Bush, will be able to lead you to Claremont, St Ann. Within two years, we will be speaking about a link from Kingston to Ocho Rios in under an hour.”
Case in court
The Government and the Office of the Contractor General have been at daggers drawn over a Cabinet decision to appoint an independent oversight panel to advise the Cabinet on the feasibility of three projects, including the north-to-south link of Highway 2000.
Davies has taken the matter to the Supreme Court, seeking to bar Contractor General Greg Christie from compelling members of the oversight panel to report to him.
In relation to the north-south highway project, Davies stressed that it should be seen as an investment by the Chinese.
“There is some great misunderstanding about this …We are not hiring China Harbour to construct the road. This is an investment whereby China Harbour is taking on the full debt obligations for this,” Davies said.
He added: “Unlike the present legs of Highway 2000 in which the Government of Jamaica has significant debt obligation, there will be no such obligation for this north-to-south link of Highway 2000.
“I want people both inside this room and wherever else they may be to appreciate this distinction. This is not a contract being awarded to China Harbour, this is China Harbour, an investor and (they) must be treated like any investor.”
The Mount Rosser bypass is a 25-kilometre, four-lane dual carriageway which stretches from Linstead, St Catherine, to just outside Moneague, St Ann. It had an initial price tag of US$94 million which was expected to cover land acquisition, road construction, the building of a toll plaza and the installation of utilities over a 30-month period.
The original cost for the bypass was estimated to be US$99.5 million in 2007. However, in 2008, Cabinet approved a variation of approximately 25 per cent, increasing the amount to US$124 million. To date, US$110 million has been spent on the project.