Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Business leaders: Road upgrading will boost productivity

Published:Friday | July 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Jamaica Manufacturers’ and Exporters Association President, Metry Seaga
Small Business Association of Jamaica President, Hugh Johnson
David Wan
Warren McDonald

There is consensus among several business leaders that road improvements completed or being carried out across sections of Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine and other areas will serve to boost workforce productivity by significantly reducing travel time.

Their views are consistent with those expressed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during a recent tour of several Legacy road projects being implemented under the Government's Major Infrastructure Development Programme.

"If 12,000 to 15,000 Jamaicans sit in traffic for 30 minutes to get from home to their destinations, you can calculate the loss of time and productivity, and build into that the cost of energy that we waste. Therefore, we believe that this investment will make our labour force far more productive," the prime minister said.

President of the Jamaica Employers' Federation (JEF) David Wan said that there are many benefits to be derived from upgrading the roadways, pointing out that "for each person, it may save them 15 or 20 minutes each way to work and back home every day".

Additionally, he said, the purveyors of goods and services, such as taxi operators, also stand to benefit, noting that "if they can carry more passengers on any given day because the roads are clearer, they will earn more money".


Improve transportation


Coupled with road improvements, Wan contends, is the need to further improve public transportation, particularly the operations of the State-run Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC).

He explains that it is imperative to ensure not only timelier scheduling of buses dispatched, but also the units' operational efficiency.

Wan said one obvious consideration would be converting the buses to use liquefied natural gas (LNG) or some other more efficient and more cost-effective option. "This [would] have a big impact on just how efficient the bus service can be," the JEF president argues.

While acknowledging the attendant costs for this and other considerations, Wan believes that if the Government is able to identify and secure funding over the medium to long term and does not have to resort to short-term measures that would be a strain on the Budget, the outcome will be very positive.


Something that we badly need - Seaga


Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters' Association President Metry Seaga noted that the magnitude of roadworks currently being undertaken in sections of the island has not been experienced "for a long time" and "it's something that we badly need".

He contends that while the volume of motor vehicles on the roads has been growing, development of the supporting infrastructure to accommodate this has not kept pace with the increase.

Seaga said that effecting change, as is the case with road improvements, is "never easy", adding that persons will, at times, be inconvenienced.

"But it is necessary, and we have to be courteous to each other and try and just get through it," he added.

Seaga said that in addition to upgrading the roadways, there is need for motorists, especially bus and taxi operators, to improve the manner in which they drive.

He also suggested that persons consider carpooling in order to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads daily.

"We [also] need to have the public transportation service better suited for everyone to travel. If we do those things, I think we will be in good stead," he noted.


Welcome and necessary move - Johnson


Small Business Association of Jamaica President Hugh Johnson described the extensive road-improvement projects now under way as a "welcome and necessary move" by the Government to ensure timely commuting.

He also welcomes the strategic placement of police officers along major roadways and intersections, which, he believes, is facilitating significantly improved traffic flow in those areas.

Johnson said this intervention can be employed to good effect in other areas plagued by congestion where there is no police presence.

Former Jamaica Chamber of Commerce President Warren McDonald also welcomes the roadworks, noting "tremendous improvements" along the recently upgraded Barbican Road in St Andrew.

He anticipates similar outcomes when work is completed on Constant Spring Road and Hagley Park Road in St Andrew.

"The time spent commuting, I think, is taking a toll on productivity and output, and there is definitely a need for the reduction of time spent on the roads," McDonald said.

He also suggests that persons give consideration to carpooling to reduce congestion.