'We'll get it done' - Chang says Logistics Hub will be game changer
"A national project that will be realised during my administration's time in office." That's an assured Prime Minister Andrew Holness speaking about the long-touted Global Logistics Hub Initiative (GLHI), which suffered from fits and starts and ultimately failed to become reality under the previous People's National Party administration.
The prime minister was making his contribution to the Budget Debate in April, during which he gave an overview of his Governmentís plans for the logistics hub, its short- and longer-term goals.
That recent declaration of the GLHI as a national project by Holness has brought renewed focus on the programme. His confidence that it will get done during his administration is indicative of the importance he has placed on ensuring that this happens.
Minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, Dr Horace Chang, is the JLP's point man on the project. He told The Gleaner that it will be a ìgame changerî in terms of economic growth and job creation.
According to Chang, the development is well under way. "We are going to do it. We will get it done," he stated. He added that ìthe concept of a logistics hub operating out of the port of Kingston is certainly a game changer in terms of the economy of the country, both in the medium and long term."
The minister was not specific in terms of the projected economic growth or the number of jobs expected to be created and over what time period. But, in giving an overview of the project, Chang said that when fully operational, the logistics hub will restore manufacturing and economic activity across the wider southeastern section of the country from May Pen, Clarendon, all the way into the Corporate Area. It is expected that manufacturing activities will be restored in areas such as Twickenham Park, Spanish Town; along Spanish Town Road; and areas such as Bell Road and along Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston. These are parts of the country that saw significant manufacturing and warehousing activity up to 30 years ago. The decline in such activities has seen a corresponding rise in crime in the surrounding communities.
The Caymanas lands and the wider Old Harbour area in St Catherine are expected to feature prominently as well as it relates to light manufacturing and warehousing facilities, critical components of hub activities.
If the stated plans are realised, it will be a coming home of sorts, as it relates to where the economic activity of the country is positioned and concentrated. Chang noted that such activity shifted from the southeast coast and the Corporate Area, which was the centre of economic activity, to the north and west because of bauxite and tourism. With the bauxite sector in decline for several years, it is expected that logistics hub activities will help to restore this balance. The increased economic activity should not only improve the standard of living for Jamaicans, but also lessen the high levels of crime plaguing communities where manufacturing activities were significantly curtailed.
"Potential logistic hub investors started to come in"
The JLP's point man to drive the logistics hub operation and make it a reality is Jamaican-Canadian billionaire Michael-Lee-Chin. He currently chairs the Economic Growth Council and has promised five per cent growth in four years.
Lee-Chin's appointment as chairman of the Logistics Hub Enterprise Team was announced by the prime minister during his recent Budget presentation. Chang told The Gleaner that while the other members of the Lee-Chin-led team are yet to be named and its mandate made public, the prime minister will likely make that announcement in the coming days.
In the meantime, Lee-Chin has already been meeting with key stakeholders, some of whom will be named to the enterprise team, Chang said. He said that the work is proceeding smoothly, with the identification of clients already taking place.
"People (potential investors) have started to come in,"Chang, told The Gleaner. He said Lee-Chin's appointment will also ensure that the legislation currently in place meets the requirements of the business world".
Chang said Jamaica is ideally poised to develop this kind of activity and that all stakeholders are on board. He said that the logistics hub has the potential to bring about the change that Jamaicans desire. "The Government is committed to ensuring that the appropriate facilities and regulations are in place to accommodate the quality of investment that will take Jamaica into a new era," he concluded.