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Government launches InvestmentMap to show how money is being spent

Published:Thursday | November 5, 2020 | 5:02 PMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter
A man entering the gates of the Ministry of Finance, National Heroes Circle, Kingston on March 30, 2020. The Ministry of Finance will host an online paltform, InvestmentMap, that will add transparency to government's spending habits.
A man entering the gates of the Ministry of Finance, National Heroes Circle, Kingston on March 30, 2020. The Ministry of Finance will host an online paltform, InvestmentMap, that will add transparency to government's spending habits.

The Government of Jamaica has launched an investment map that allows residents to easily track projects that are being financed with resources from both the Government and donor agencies.

The website, which was launched in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, IDB, allows for users to see the location of each project, when it got started, the budget attached to each project, how much has already been spent, and when the project is expected to end.

The tools on the website also allow for clickable search of projects by parish, sectors, financing sources, and highlight counties and parishes with the largest number of projects.

“The platform is interactive: citizens, NGOs, private companies, or other stakeholders can provide comments, ask questions and submit their own pictures of projects,” a release from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service said.

InvestmentMap is ultimately aimed at improving transparency of public investments, but over time, may also prove to be a tool that can accelerate the financial and physical progress of projects.

Jamaica became the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean to join the IDB’s regional InvestmentMap initiative, a decision it made back in 2018. A prototype was developed and advanced to an online platform for preview thereafter. The final stage of the project saw the finance ministry working on improving the quality of information that flowed from the Government on to the platform.

The investment map now showcases 85 projects from the central government, but the second phase will see the ministry adding information from public bodies; then go further to include information from projects that are public-private partnerships, PPP, and any other type of unsolicited proposals that might become part of the capital landscape of the Government of Jamaica.

“Right now, the majority of the projects that we have are in central government. But in the future, once a PPP project is in central government and it is being reported in the framework that we use to report projects now, it can be included in the database,” Project Director in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Othneil Hemans, told the Financial Gleaner.

No timeline on when phase two of the project will begin, but Hemans notes that work has started on converting the reporting of the projects in a format that is compatible for its uploading of the database.

A project manager at each government agency has been assigned duties for uploading the projects on the system. The overall management of the system is done by the Ministry of Finance.

In recent years, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay and Peru have launched InvestmentMap platforms under the initiative, and more countries are joining. A recent study of the InvestmentMap platform in Costa Rica shows that the system has accelerated the financial progress of projects by 18 per cent and the physical progress by 8 per cent, compared to projects not included in the platform, the ministry said.

“We can’t give precise projections for that at this moment. Jamaica has a much wider variety of projects in central government, and how we perform over the long term would take into consideration different factors, including sector performance. We haven’t done the analysis for that as yet,” Hemans said.

The implementation of InvestmentMap was a collaboration of the ministry, the IDB Jamaica Country Office, and the IDB InvestmentMap team.

The platform complements other reforms in the Jamaican public sector, including public financial management generally, but more specifically the strengthening of the Public Investment Management System. This reform is currently in progress, with support from the IDB and World Bank.

business@gleanerjm.com