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Wrong priority? - Architects question need for new Parliament building

Published:Saturday | May 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones

The debate surrounding plans to create a new building to house the Parliament in the vicinity of National Heroes Circle in Kingston has taken another twist, with one of the island's leading architects questioning the decision.

Fellow of the Jamaican Institute of Architects (JIA), Douglas Stiebel, pondered if the new building is really a priority.

"Is a Parliament building such a need in our country at this time? And is this the right location?" Stiebel asked during a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week.

"We speak about the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and our constraints in terms of finances; so as a nation, we need to decide - not 60 people sitting at Gordon House who feel uncomfortable," said Stiebel.

"Our best minds need to be looking at the planning and all of these things to decide if this is the best use of our resources at this time in our history," added Stiebel, as he called for a national discussion to determine if this level of expenditure is necessary at this time.

Stiebel, who also noted the tight fiscal space in which the Government is operating, was supported by another fellow of the JIA and former government planner, Carl Chen.

"The sufficiency of the accommodation that they now have, can they go on for another 10 years, or another five years? Must we have a new Parliament building?" said Chen.

There has been much debate since last March when the announcement was made that the Government, through the Urban Development Corporation, had signed a memorandum of understanding with China Construction Company of America for the provision of design consultancy services for the proposed new Parliament building and government offices.

Many persons have argued that the design and construction of the meeting place for the highest office of government should be totally handled by Jamaicans.