Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Editorial: MoBay's latest plan

Published:Monday | November 23, 2015 | 11:01 AM

Glendon Harris, the mayor of Montego Bay, last week announced a project in conjunction with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the development of his city, about which we doubt most stakeholders, particularly the municipality's residents know not much, if anything.

Yet, according to Mr Harris, the "summary of what is to be done" is out and a delegation from the IDB will descend on the city sometime next month for a function over which we expect he will pompously preside, "for us to deal with some of the action items". The project presumes, he suggests, implementation over 15 years and the spending of US$425 million so as to reverse decades of unplanned development over several decades.

We, in principle, favour the idea, especially if, as the mayor says, it will facilitate development and bring lots of investment to the city. Indeed, who would oppose any such project?

But we are aware that for these types of development projects to be sustainable they demand strong community buy-in, which often is the result of usually tedious, painstaking engagement of stakeholders. This can be a sometimes messy and usually noisy process.

Mayor Harris' initiative, apparently, was achieved in great quietude, which is perhaps indicative of his and his parish council's capacity to win consensus among people with disparate ideas and agendas. More power to him and every success to the project.

Yet there is a lingering issue: the question of how this initiative relates to previous efforts to craft a development plan for Montego Bay and if any of the ideas found their way into this project.

Nearly two decades ago Arlene Dixon, a feisty, energetic and exceedingly competent development planner, who has since died, spearheaded a project on behalf of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to draft a "Greater Montego Bay Development Plan". She found opposition in quarters, including from private interests intent on securing just that, private interests, as well as from public bureaucrats protecting turf.

Ms Dixon robustly, and noisily at times, persisted and persevered. In the end her team produced a highly-regarded outline for the development of the city, with which little was done but much of which probably remains relevant - if it can be found. And if Mayor Harris remembers.

After all, institutional memory tends not be a hallmark of politicians and political bodies for whom the next shiny idea for which there is funding might gleam to voters as the next brightest thing.

Buying cranes for the port?

Announcement last week about approval by the Cabinet for the acquisition of equipment of the Kingston Container Terminal is in urgent need of clarification. It involves spending nearly US$600, 000 on ship-to-shore cranes for the wharves.

But our recollection is that in April, the KCT was divested by the government's Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) to the French firm, Terminal Link-CMA CGM. Part of that US$510 million deal included a cash payment by the lessee of US$75 million for wharf equipment, inclusive of cranes.

We would have thought that the purchase of new equipment, including ship-to-shore cranes, would be for the account of the new owner/operator of the transshipment port, unless there is something about the deal we are not understanding, or something was misrepresented at that post-Cabinet press briefing.