South East Highway – lack of justification?
It was with great distress again that I heard the pronouncements from the minister of finance and planning, saying,"When we took over, we saw a plan for US$500 million to build a toll road from Harbour View to Morant Bay. We said to ourselves, 'How on God's Earth would this one carry the economic return?'"
He continued: "How would we justify that expenditure from Harbour View to Morant Bay? It is not a statement of disrespect to the people of St Thomas, but business is business, and expenditure is expenditure." (Gleaner, January 20, 2017)
It was announced during this same period, of the signing of an agreement for building two hotels at Oyster Bay, "30 minutes from the Montego Bay airport". I must point out that Morant Bay is 25 minutes from the Norman Manley International Airport, with good roads, much less a proper highway. The eastern part of the island is a greenfield for development and would provide more opportunities for development of Jamaica.
If some of us recollect from Economics 101, highways not only promote economic growth but improve property values, provide access to a more diverse labour force, and promote easier business and pleasure travel. These are only a few of the many benefits that follow highways, as anyone who studied, or has any exposure to, economics will know. I again say, this reassessment and/or revision of the South East Highway is the typical thought process for persons who have very short-term ideas of development, and lack of knowledge of the developments associated with the building of highways.
BRISTLING WITH POTENTIAL
We have to remember that St Thomas and Portland are parishes bristling with potential for development.
The delays and procrastination on the construction of the South East Highway are aggravated by the atrocious condition of the road from Harbour View to Morant Bay and continuing to Port Antonio. I will further remind us that this is part of the A-class road that circles the island, of which, without contradiction, that this is the worst road of this classification.
The citizens of St Thomas have been further disrespected because even though there were protests in September 2016 and protest again at the beginning of this year, nothing has been done to effect even temporary repairs to the section of road between Leith Hall and Port Moran, which is next to impassable for traffic, except trucks and SUVs.
It is important to note that both MPs for the parish are on one accord on this issue - the need for the highway. St Thomas must not be continually called the forgotten parish anymore, because we, the residents, will not allow it to be so, even if there is short-sightedness on the part of a few politicians who do not understand real development and the associated economic benefits.
Morant Bay, St Thomas