Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
PNP members believe his ministry is limping along
Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton has sought to dismiss claims that a protracted failure to install senior officers in at least three critical vacant positions at the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ) has created great uncertainty at the agency mandated to drive the ailing economy.
Hylton has characterised as "sour grapes" complaints by members of the People's National Party (PNP) that his ministry's perceived failure to address the problems at the FCJ was symptomatic of the ministry's failure to inject energy into a fragile economy.
Appearing to be coming under pressure from party colleagues, who have been complaining that his ministry is merely limping along, Hylton declared yesterday that he knew the source of the discontent.
In dismissing the complaints of his political peers, he charged that the culprits were being driven by ulterior motives. He, however, declined to elaborate on the reported vacancies at the FCJ and referred The Gleaner to Information Minister Sandrea Falconer. Attempts to contact Falconer failed.
Hylton, however, stressed that all was in place to launch his development programme and claimed that he would in short order be taking a document to Cabinet for its stamp of approval to push the ministry's strategies along.
"I am solid as a rock and if I tell you it is coming, then it is coming," Hylton said as he refused to give details on the content of the document. "All I am prepared to say is that the document is being prepared to be taken to Cabinet."
Describing the ministry's plans as an "overarching concept" for Jamaica and the hemisphere, Hylton sought to defend his seemingly protracted silence on the issue that has enraged some members of his party.
"We are just coming out of a holiday and the Cabinet was in recess," he said.
Specific reference was made to the planned development of a section of the Caymanas lands in St Catherine into an elaborate, multifaceted free zone.
"Caymanas is alive and well. It is a critical part of our logistics strategy, but the public-private partnership has to be approved by Cabinet. That is the key to the development of the Caymanas Economic Zone," asserted Hylton.
ANNOUNCEMENT THEN SILENCE
Prior to its loss at the December 2011 polls, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration instructed the FCJ to purchase 200 acres of Caymanas lands in St Catherine to erect a free zone. It is understood that a down payment of approximately $90 million of the total $900 million for the Caymanas lands was made.
The JLP had announced that it was ready to start construction when it was booted from office.
Hylton announced earlier this year that the project would be modified, but nothing has been heard of it since.
Asked what had come of plans for the Caymanas project, Hylton would only say it was an integral part of positioning Jamaica as the global logistics hub.
"In that sense, the zone is to address industrial, commercial and services issues, and we are positioning as a critical part of what is attracting manufacturing to the services sector into the logistics … . So quite frankly, all of this is taken into a broader document to Cabinet," Hylton declared. "As we speak, I am going over the document."