Jobs on the way
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
THE GOVERNMENT is projecting that its elaborate road and infrastructure plan will create 18,000 new jobs yearly over the next five years.
Transport Minister Mike Henry, in outlining plans for the Jamaica Infrastructure Road Development Programme during yesterday's post-Cabinet meeting at Jamaica House, said the first of those jobs will come when the programme starts in April.
"The others will roll out as we work out with the Ministry of Finance and within the Ministry of Transport the various areas that we are going to be implementing the programme," Henry said.
The Bruce Golding-led Jamaica Labour Party came to office in 2007 on a promise of job creation.
Major economic fallout
However, the Government has been hobbled by a major economic fallout caused mainly by the global recession which has claimed more than 50,000 jobs and forced the country to return to a borrowing relationship with the International Monetary Fund.
Patrick Wong, chief executive officer for the National Works Agency which will be implementing the programme, said about 1,200 jobs are expected to be created on the Palisadoes leg of the road programme.
The Government's elaborate road programme is being hailed by Henry as "the largest, most comprehensive single infrastructure programme to be implemented in Jamaica".
Henry said it would be "critical to our national development and prosperity".
The programme is mainly funded by a three per cent loan of US$400 million from the Chinese government.
However, a condition of obtaining the loan was that Jamaica maintain the fuel tax it implemented last year for at least five years.
When the Government implemented the $8.75 per litre tax, it said 20 per cent would go to the Road Maintenance Fund. Yesterday, Wong said the fund has received $1.53 billion so far from the tax and noted that it would be critical to the repayment of the loan to the Chinese government.
"The cess is to generate $1.8 billion or US$20 million annually. For a US$400-million programme, it would take us in excess of the fuel cess revenue. We have used this to borrow US$400 million so we can tackle the infrastructure problem in a meaningful way," Wong said.
Meanwhile, among the projects to be addressed under the road programme are the construction of a four-lane bridge in Harbour View, St Andrew, and major upgrade of roads in large urban centres.
Henry said the programme would lead to the rehabilitation of approximately 300 kilometres of parochial roads as well as the rehabilitation of 270 kilometres of main roads.
In relation to the Palisadoes, Henry said the upgrade is intended to improve the period over which the road is guaranteed to remain functional from 22 years to 100 years. He said sections of the airport road will be increased from two to four lanes while the road will also be raised.