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Jamaica, China must seize moment for industry links

Published:Sunday | June 21, 2015 | 6:00 AMDong Xiaojun, Contributor

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang recently paid an official visit to Brazil, Columbia, Peru, and Chile, and signed more than 70 cooperation documents. It is worth noting that Premier Li has made a strong effort to introduce high-quality Chinese industrial capacity and equipment into Latin America, hence bringing about a major transformation of the mode of China-Latin American cooperation.

In recent years, industrial capacity cooperation has become an important aspect of the fruitful trade and economic cooperation between China and Jamaica. Chinese companies, most notably the China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC) and the Pan-Caribbean Sugar Company Ltd, an investment of the China National Complete Plant Import & Export Corporation (COMPLANT), have taken an active part in the development of Jamaica's infrastructure, agriculture and telecommunication, and have won wide recognition in Jamaica. The most recent recognition was the Gleaner Special Honour Award for Business in 2014 presented to CHEC in January. Industrial capacity cooperation between China and Jamaica has contributed to the social and economic development of Jamaica and has achieved positive results.

The North-South Highway project, an investment of US$730 million by CHEC, is the single largest investment in Jamaica in recent decades. This highway, scheduled to be completed early next year, will significantly shorten the travel time from Kingston to Ocho Rios. It will also help narrow the urban-rural gap, stimulate cross-island tourism, transportation, agriculture and housing development, and generate more business and employment opportunities along the road.

Chinese companies in Jamaica have mostly adopted localised management, and maintained long-term cooperation with Jamaican contractors, subcontractors and suppliers.

At peak time, as many as 4,000 Jamaicans are employed by CHEC and Pan-Caribbean Sugar. According to incomplete statistics, 150 local contractors are harvesting and transporting sugar canes from more than 1,650 sugar farming families, creating direct or indirect employment opportunities to more than 80,000 Jamaicans.

 

IMPROVEMENT OF SKILLS

CHEC has established various forms of training programmes geared at improving the managerial ability of contractors, and upgrading skills of technical staff. Pan-Caribbean Sugar, in the course of its plant upgrading, has provided training to more than 2,000 people at different levels.

Chinese companies have conscientiously undertaken corporate social responsibility, including disaster relief, firefighting, sponsorship to cultural and sports events, and establishment of harmonious relationship with the local community.

CHEC has, on a regular basis, taken part in the annual international coastal clean-up day activities, the Blue Mountain garbage clearing drive, renovation of community roads and schools, and made donations to schools, the Golden Age Home, and the Olympic Committee. COMPLANT donates school bags and stationery to local schools, and Pan-Caribbean Sugar grants annual scholarships to excellent students from families of its staff.

Chinese companies are firmly committed to environmental protection. Scientific innovation and increased input in environmental protection measures have ensured the simultaneous uplift of social, economic and ecological efficiency. CHEC's projects are designed and implemented in strict accordance with environmental protection standards under the supervision of environmental engineers, reducing dust and noise to the lowest possible level.

Pan-Caribbean Sugar has, since 2010, invested more than US$100 million in plant renovation to replace high energy-consuming and low-efficiency equipment with advanced sugar making technology and automatically controlled production line, thereby not only greatly reduced pollutant emission but also doubled its cane processing capacity from 600,000 tonnes to 1,200,000 tonnes and sugar production capacity from 60,000 tons to 120,000 tons.

While achieving self-supply of electricity, Pan-Caribbean Sugar is ready to supply surplus electricity to the national grid. It has also introduced water-saving spray irrigation and drip irrigation technology in agricultural production, setting a good model for the agricultural sector in Jamaica.

Of course, there is even more room for industrial capacity cooperation between our two countries and it's prime time to enhance such a partnership.

As announced by Premier Li, a special fund of US$30 billion will be established to facilitate China's industrial capacity cooperation with Latin American and Caribbean countries. This is a great opportunity that we must grasp for the deepening of our cooperation and the benefit of our two countries and peoples.

- Dong Xiaojun is Chinese ambassador to Jamaica. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.