Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Squatters stand in way of railway divestment

Published:Wednesday | September 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

AN EVALUATION com-mittee has been set up to review two unsolicited proposals submitted for the purchase of properties owned by the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC).

The proposals were received in July. The team, comprising the Development Bank of Jamaica and the JRC, has made preliminary assessment.

Joseph A. Matalon, chairman of the JRC, told The Gleaner, on Monday, that a preferred bidder is about to be selected and "we will report to the enterprise team on the findings, and they will determine, probably this month, at some stage, what the course of action will be".

"There is the option of giving it to one of the two, or of breaking it up and selling the parts," Matalon said.

The Transport, Works and Housing Ministry said a preliminary assessment of the proposals has been made and additional information sought for the more responsive proposal. It said that this process will be undertaken during a six-month period.

the swiss challenge

The accepted proposal will undergo a Swiss Challenge, for a better or matching proposal, after which a recommendation will be made to Cabinet. This means the State will publish the bid selected and invite third parties to match or exceed it.

Thereafter, the ministry said, it is anticipated it could take up to 18 months to sign a concession agreement to operate the railway.

In his contribution to the 2014-2015 Budget Debate, portfolio minister Dr Omar Davies said an enterprise team had been in discussion with two companies, Herzog Contracting Corporation and Railmark Holdings Limited, which had submitted expressions of interest in the public-private partnership for the operation and management of the railway.

More than 2,000 persons are squatting on lands owned by the JRC, documents provided to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament, by the housing ministry, has revealed. In addition to the 2,000 illegal occupants, the JRC also has 1,000 tenants on its lands.

unsure of submissions

Matalon told The Gleaner that he was unaware of the number submitted in the report.

"The number that I know that is correct is that there are 850 people who are on railway property, some of them are on short-term leases, some of them are squatters. Whether they pay rent or not, when the time comes to divest the railway, there is going to be an issue of relocation," Matalon said.

"There are some heavy concentration in Spanish Town and Montego Bay, that creates a problem, and there are some people who are government agencies who believe they have the right to use railway's property without railway's permission."

Government, since 2009, has approved the establishment of a privatisation fund for railway lands. Government is obligated to provide investors with railway lands cleared of unauthorised occupants.

"The Government needs to note the fiscal implications arising from the resettlement/relocation of settlers on JRC lands, as well as the need for a detailed implementation strategy carefully phased to prevent resettlement from occurring," the document said.