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Phillips: Government committed to ICT investors - Barnett Tech Park on track for November

Published:Friday | August 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Montego Bay businessman and head of the Barnett Group of Companies, Mark Kerr-Jarrett (right), plays host to Minister of Finance Dr Peter Phillips (left) and Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell (centre), during a tour of the Barnett Tech Park in Montego Bay on Monday, August 4. The park's first ICT business client is expected to begin operations in November. - JIS Photo

Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips says the Government will continue to work with investors in the information and communication technology sector (ICT) on solutions to high operating costs, especially in the area of energy.

In an interview with JIS News on Monday after he toured the soon-to-be-opened Barnett Tech Park in Montego Bay, Phillips said the issuing of licences for 115 megawatts of renewable energy by the Government forms part of the plan to assist the sector.

"Some of those are coming on stream and should help to reduce the cost," the finance minister said.

He said despite the challenges, the Government also remains on track for the expansion of the baseload generating capacity for the country, which should result in a reduction of energy cost.

New Electricity Act

"A lot of private-sector operations will benefit from the new Electricity Act, which Minister (Phillip) Paulwell is going to be bringing soon to the Parliament, which will involve players in all sectors of the country," he said.

Citing some of the industries that stand to benefit, the finance minister said there is close to 100 megawatts of additional energy that is being used by the sugar sector, "but which can also be sold to the grid", while in the bauxite-alumina industry " there is perhaps another 140 megawatts."

Phillips said the operational challenges faced by investors will be solved, but will take some time.

"We are not going to solve all the problems in two weeks or even two years, but I think that gradually, what we are seeing is that there is a response globally and domestically among the more imaginative and enterprising investors - foreign and local - to the economic changes that Jamaica is undertaking. Ultimately, the solution is to get more investments going on the ground and to have more people employed," the minister said.

US$8-million project

Construction of the Barnett Tech Park, a project of Montego Bay businessman and head of the Barnett Group of Companies, Mark Kerr-Jarrett, began last December and the facility is expected to be commissioned by November.

The 50,000-square-foot complex is being developed for Barnett Group by Kier Construction. The project costs US$8 million, Kerr-Jarrett said at the contract signing last November.

There are already close to 10,000 Jamaicans employed in MoBay's ICT sector "and this is something that we can develop in other parts of the country," said Phillips.

"We have a lot of talented young people with all the skills needed to make Jamaica the ICT capital of the world, certainly in per capita terms, and we want to do that because the more young people we put to work, the more their families can be secure. We think that growth is going to depend a lot on what happens in this ICT sector," the finance minister said.