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Chen: Lack of gov't agency cohesiveness hampering d'town redevelopment

Published:Friday | November 9, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

Former chairman of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), Wayne Chen, has cited the failure of some government entities to play their part in driving the redevelopment of downtown Kingston as the reason former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson's vision of a redeveloped commercial district failed to get off the ground.

Chen told The Gleaner yesterday that a lack of cohesiveness among the range of ministries and public bodies was a key obstacle in the process.

"It is a symptom of a greater national challenge that we talk about but I think we need to address more directly, the issue of joined-up government," asserted Chen. "When you have moving parts, it only takes one part to be out of sync to make everything go bad."

participated in launch

Although he was not yet chairman of the UDC, Chen said he participated in the 2003 launch of the Kingston City Centre Improvement Company (KCCIC).

"I sensed at the time among the initial shareholders - the Government and the private-sector companies - that there was a great sense of hope and anticipation because it was led by the then Prime Minister P.J. Patterson," Chen recalled.

He added: "It would not be fair to say that the majority of the public sector was not on board but there was always going to be a minority not seeing the urgency or resisting change and not playing their part and the thing just grind to a halt."

In an article published in The Gleaner yesterday, president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Francis Kennedy, indicated that of 49 projects which were earmarked for downtown, only seven were implemented over a 10-year period by the UDC which had been designated to spearhead the redevelopment exercise.

The GraceKennedy Group will today be hosting a luncheon meeting to present plans to fast-track the redevelopment programme that has been undertaken by the private sector in recent years.

The Maurice Facey-led Pan Jamaica Investment Trust is another of the major initiators to float a new company to finance the project.

problems emerged

Chen noted that challenges to the development plan of 10 years ago emerged in the absence of levels of coordination, identification and commitment from the different agencies and ministries.

"Funds never came on a timely basis out of the Ministry of Finance and it would have required a level of coordination that just never happened before," Chen stressed.

He suggested that as a result, frustration mounted at the leadership level of the KCCIC which was established by Patterson to spearhead the project.

He said there was a recognition among stakeholders that while the Government could lead the process, it was not in a position to finance it.