Sat | Dec 14, 2019

FORWARD WITH CHINA - Holness talks up deepening relationship with Chinese as more investments, exports set to flow

Published:Wednesday | November 20, 2019 | 12:51 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness speaking during yesterday's parliamentary sitting at Gordon House in Kingston.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness speaking during yesterday's parliamentary sitting at Gordon House in Kingston.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday revealed that the Chinese government has indicated an interest in rolling out major investments in the Caymanas Economic Zone.

Addressing Parliament last night, Holness said that his working visit to China earlier this month was an “eye-opening” experience.

“There are issues obviously because we have to figure out how we are going approach this. Are we going to treat it on a sole source or do we treat it as a strategic investment, or do we put out open tender? … Decisions [are] to be made,” Holness said, promising to update Parliament with further details as the Government moves ahead with its development plan.

“I want bring into the consciousness of the Jamaican people that we have not abandoned the Caymanas Special Economic Zone. There is significant interest from China to invest in it. We now have to work out the modality as to how that will be accommodated,” Holness further stated.

He also revealed that Chinese officials will be visiting Jamaica in the weeks to come to sign a memorandum of understanding surrounding education.

That relationship would be the start of what Holness said was a project to build more schools across the island.

“The new strategic partnership reflects an enhanced level of engagement between the two countries within the context of Jamaica’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative.

“The strategic partnership positions Jamaica to pursue development cooperation with China in keeping with our own clearly defined national development strategic priorities on the basis of mutual respect and shared benefits,” the prime minister said.

Holness re-emphasised yesterday that Jamaica will not negotiate any new loan programmes with China as it seeks to reduce the country’s debt.

“Infrastructure projects will, therefore, take the modalities of joint-venture partnership, public-private partnership or private-sector partnerships directly between Jamaican firms and Chinese firms,” he said.

The prime minister told Parliament that the investments from China would be more strategic with a focus on the development of special economic zones and logistics hubs, improving urban centres, water and sewerage systems, agriculture, and housing.

Holness said both governments have agreed to increase trade with specific emphasis on getting Jamaican products in the China market. Jamaica would soon be increasing exports of live and frozen lobster as well as sea cucumber to the Asian country, he said.

The eight-day visit included bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Kequiang and an address to the opening ceremony of the China International Import Exposition in Shanghai. The meetings were used to review Jamaica’s current cooperation framework with China, and explore additional areas agreed upon under a new strategic framework.

In a recent Gleaner interview, US Ambassador Donald Tapia warned the Jamaican Government to be wary of China’s deepening footprint in Jamaica, citing the Asian country’s lavish investment pitch as predatory and dangerous.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com