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PSOJ: Prioritise construction approval process or else

Published:Wednesday | December 18, 2013 | 12:00 AM
A construction site in Montego Bay, St James. - File

President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), Christopher Zacca, said that if the Government fails to prioritise reform of the construction development approval process they will consider asking the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to make it a structural condition of the economic support programme.

"It is that important to the future of this country's growth and development, the creation of much-needed jobs and the reduction of poverty," Zacca said.

Addressing a function of the Jamaica Developers Association at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel, St Andrew, last week, Zacca pointed out that currently, most construction development approvals take in the range of eight to 18 months to be completed, "and that's if you are lucky".

He continued, "Without a doubt, this is an entirely unacceptable situation. In the PSOJ's view, it should ideally not take longer than three months, with six months being a maximum practical limit. If we are able to reach this goal, that alone could lead to an additional two per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) growth annually, which amounts to J$30 billion in revenue. And I am sure that everyone is aware of how important this contribution is at a time when Jamaica's economy is very fragile and needs all the impetus it can get to ensure that we are successful with the current economic programme."

Zacca told the developers that that they should know, but it still bears repeating, that the PSOJ and other groups have been lobbying for years for changes to be made to the development-approval process.

Lack of Political Will

"I'm sure you will agree with me that the core of this problem is a lack of political will and duplication of efforts by both NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency) and the parish councils. In fact, it is felt generally that many of the challenges of the development-approval process are at the parish council level, where there is a lack of resources and, as a result, a lack of sufficient professional competence in many instances," Zacca said.

"That inter-agency duplication is, in turn, just one aspect of the greater malaise hobbling our economy, and that also is compounded by incompetence and perceived corruption of the process, even as we acknowledge that there are many decent, uncompromised individuals among these various agencies," he added.

Zacca said the PSOJ agree with Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Robert Pickersgill, that the delays in the process must be addressed as a matter of priority.

"Ladies and gentlemen, let's give Minister Pickersgill and the Cabinet he sits in a chance in this instance. However, should they drop this ball, as have successive previous administrations, I believe that we should escalate our advocacy on this critical national issue, and should even contemplate appealing to the IMF to make the streamlining of the approval process a necessary structural condition of the economic reform programme," Zacca said.