Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter
Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies stressed that the North-South Link of Highway 2000 is not a government initiative and so all queries must go to the developer.
"This is not part of JEEP," he said to the gathering on Thursday as the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) and the developers, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), signed the implementation and concession agreements for the project. Davies was quizzed as to whether jobs would be shared equally in the communities through which the link will run.
"This is not a government project. So far as there is moral suasion and discussion, we will have that. But it's been an eternal struggle for me to convey that this is not GOJ resources," he said. The minister put the onus on CCCC and parent company China Harbour Engineering Company to make their selection as equitable as possible. His responses caused Opposition Spokesman on Transport Karl Samuda to quip "JEEP can drive through but it won't stop".
The project, which will run from Caymanas to Ocho Rios, is a US$600-million investment from CCCC and initial figures indicate that 119,000 long-term jobs will be created as a result of the link, which is approximately 68 kilometres of toll road. Davies said the road represented a significant investment in the infrastructure of Jamaica and was excited by the additional investment opportunities for Jamaica at the project's end. Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips felt the road would "open up a range of other development possibilities in the tourism sector, housing and construction, in manufacturing and assembly operations, and that is the real value of infrastructure".
first segment deadline
Meanwhile, Wayne Reid, chairman of the National Road Operating and Constructing Company, noted that the first segment, approximately 27 kilometres long, is expected to be done by June 2015. There have been issues surrounding the second segment, the Mt Rosser leg, which is just under 20 kilometres.
"That is the segment that has been making the news quite a lot. We expect that work will start on it later this year and that it will be completed by about next year September," he said. The third segment of the North-South Link, from Moneague to Ocho Rios, a distance of about 21 kilometres, will end concurrently with the first segment in mid-2015.
He noted that final drawings for the project were not yet available, so it would be difficult to determine how many persons will be displaced by the highway. Parcels of land not exceeding five square kilometres will be developed by the company under a number of conditions.
"First is that those parcels of land would have been previously owned by the Government of Jamaica. Second thing is that whatever concessions are made during the concession agreement are not transferred or transferable to the development of those pieces of land," he said. He finally noted that the land will be transferred to the developers upon completion of the toll road.