Sun | Nov 28, 2021

Grading Jamaica’s Infrastructure

Published:Thursday | October 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Dr David Smith
Dr Noel Brown
Dr Kavian Cooke
Dean Burrowes
Workmen carry out construction of a detour bridge along a section of Port Henderson Road in Portmore, St Catherine last month.

The state of a country's infrastructure can serve as a telling tale of the ability of its leaders to govern effectively. Urban sociologists have argued that for a governing administration to survive politically, it must pay close attention to the state of infrastructure, particularly in urban areas. With that in mind, and an election that appears imminent, The Gleaner reached out to several engineers and construction industry players to rate and give their views on Jamaica's infrastructure.


Jamaica Infrastructure Scorecard



Physical infrastructure Rating

Roads E

Sewage and waste disposal F

Water supply F

Electrical grid C

Telecommunications A



SWOT analysis of Jamaica's infrastructure


Dr Kavian Cooke, director, Mechanical Engineering Department, UTech School of Engineering


Strengths: Jamaica possesses the knowledge and human capital required to develop a first-class physical infrastructure.

BOur leaders lack the political will to do what is required to take this country forward.

Opportunities: Develop a national infrastructure standard.

Threats: Lack of proper develop-ment and maintenance of the nation's infrastructure will become very expensive for the Government of Jamaica. Given the poor economic state of Jamaica, finding long-term solutions and establishing a proper maintenance plan is critical.

Dean Burrowes, president,

Jamaica Institute of Quantity Surveyors


Strengths: All basic infra-structure facilities are already in place.

Weakness: Lack of proper maintenance schedules and a failure to build on what is in place.

Opportunities: Current regional trends indicate excellent returns on infrastructure investment.

Threats: Failure to keep pace with international norms will see Jamaica slipping in competitiveness and efficiency.

Dr David Smith, managing director,

Smith Warner International


Strengths: Much of our housing and commercial infrastructure has been constructed using concrete blocks and steel reinforcement, and designed to withstand both hurricane wind and seismic forces.

Weakness: A significant percentage of housing in inner city and deep rural communities is extremely vulnerable to natural hazards and both lives and livelihoods would be at risk in the event of a major natural hazard event.

Opportunities: As new technologies become available to us, we have the opportunity to improve on road-construction techniques, incorporate climate-change predictions into designs for drainage and water storage, and perhaps implement new hazard-resistant, low-cost housing.

Threats: Among the many threats that we face, two primary ones deserve mention. The first is poverty and its impact on the lives and housing stock in many inner-city communities, and the second is climate change and its impact on rainfall patterns, drought occurrence and sea-level rise.

Dr Noel Brown, immediate past president,

Jamaica Institution of Engineers, and head, School of Engineering, UTech


Strengths: Our infrastructure was well designed and built in the first place. It is well distributed over the country.

Weakness: Maintenance is lacking, and as such, the infrastructure has started to fail.

Opportunities: We still have a cadre of experienced engineers, in addition to graduates from both universities, who are able to design maintenance plans and carry-out the maintenance. This would provide employment for our local engineers and encourage them to stay in Jamaica.

Threats: The infrastructure is cheaper to maintain than to rebuild. Therefore, the threat is that if we don't maintain our infrastructure, it will cost us more to replace them. The lack of maintenance has resulted in loss of employment for our graduates and has resulted in a serious brain drain in engineering.