Wed | Nov 25, 2020

Budget revised - Roadworks take spotlight in First Supplementary Estimates

Published:Wednesday | September 25, 2019 | 12:15 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

Another $5 billion has been allocated to the Major Infrastructure Development Project (MIDP) to fund, among other things, corrective work for residents whose homes were impacted by the roadworks in St James and Westmoreland.

Further, the Andrew Holness-led administration has provided $530 million to carry out additional renovation work at Public Building West, which houses the Court of Appeal and the Offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

At the same time, funding has again been slashed from the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project, this time just over $3.5 billion has been shaved.

The revised spending was included in the First Supplementary Estimates for the current fiscal year, which was tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday by Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke.

It projects a $50-billion increase in the 2019-2020 Budget, with just over $45.5-billion going towards recurrent or housekeeping expenses.

The Government now plans to spend $853 billion this fiscal year, compared to the $803 billion that was projected when the Budget was passed in March.

The estimates will be reviewed by Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee as well as the Standing Finance Committee before going to the House for approval.

Executive director of the National Works Agency (NWA), E.G. Hunter, noted that there was “extensive excavation” to facilitate construction of the roadway between Mackfield and Ferris in Westmoreland.

“No buildings collapsed or anything. However, upon inspection on the ground, we identified a number of dwellings that appeared to be precariously perched in the vicinity of the cuts,” Hunter explained after the revised Budget was tabled.

As a result, he said the “prudent” thing to do is to construct a number of retaining walls “to ensure that none of those residents are imperilled in terms of any precipitous collapse of their homes.”

In addition, Hunter acknowledged that based on how the cuts were done, “it compromised the ability of a number of the residents to be able to have free and unencumbered access to their properties.”

“And so we had asked for additional monies to be able to fix up those entrances.

The NWA boss said the additional funding will also be used to finance the construction of several border walls for premises located along Hagley Park and Constant Spring roads and to add a major landscaping component to the overall road upgrading project.

“One of the missing elements from the entire programme, and we admit to that upfront, is that there was no provision for landscaping. And if you look at the area under the bridge at Three Miles, if you look at the verges along all the corridors the need for softening and humanising the corridors has been evident,” he said.

The MIDP, which includes the upgrading and expansion of major roadways across the island, is being funded through a loan from the Exim Bank of China and the Jamaican Government.

Hunter disclosed that $2.5 billion will be used to finance the water supply upgrading work, which is being undertaken in tandem with the roadwork.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com