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UWI, CHEC to partner on $40b project

Published:Tuesday | August 25, 2015 | 4:22 PM
Flags fly on the lawns near the Assembly Hall at University of the West Indies, Mona, in 2010. UWI and CCHEC will sign an agreement for the redevelopment of areas of the campus, priced at around $40 billion.

The University of the West Indies is to sign an agreement with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) today that is expected to lead to a $40-billion deal for a redevelopment plan that will double the hospital capacity and introduce a hotel to the Mona campus.

CHEC, as the contractor, will expand the University Hospital of the West Indies from a 500-bed facility to 1,000 beds.

The project also includes the development of the College Commons housing for staff members and the construction of a building called The Centre, which will be able to seat 8,000 to 10,000 persons.

The Mona Visitors' Lodge will become a three- to four-star hotel and CHEC will also complete a cogeneration plant for the generation of electricity and cooling for the campus.

Yang Yang, business development manager at CHEC Latin America & the Caribbean, said discussions to flesh out the details of the projects and timeline for implementation would begin after today's signing.


"The UWI is a very famous and reputable institution in this region and is expanding at a fast pace, so it needs a lot of infrastructure upgraded or newly built," Yang said Tuesday.

He said CHEC is considering taking up not only the role of contractor or engineering partner, but also an investor in the project.

"We would like to collaborate under a PPP (public-private partnership) framework," Yang said. "The details of our business model will be determined later after some careful studies."

The agreement with CHEC, if the parties eventually strike a deal, dwarfs current concessions handed out by UWI, Mona, to develop 1,584 new student dorms and refresh the residential halls on the campus - projects being undertaken by a start-up called 138 Student Living Limited under a build-own-operate-transfer arrangement lasting at least 30 years.

Otherwise, the university has introduced new plants for its school of business, and law, medicine and engineering departments in recent years, under a revenue-generation strategy that provides additional space for non-subsidised extraregional students.

CHEC is already heavily invested in projects in Jamaica and has adopted Kingston as its regional base.

Its current project is the North-South Highway link, but it is also studying the feasibility of investing in and developing a trans-shipment hub in the protected Goat Islands area.

Yang described Jamaica as "a very good potential place for investment and we are now looking at quite a lot of opportunities in Jamaica", and said CHEC was "working very hard to get some other opportunities realised".

The $40-billion price tag for the UWI project is itself dwarfed by the highway link investment. Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies has said the US$600 million - which amounts to around $70 billion - being spent by CHEC on the highway project was by far the single largest investment from which the country has benefited in decades.

Reporters Daraine Luton and Avia Collinder contributed to this story.