Clarke cuts ‘cyaapet’ - COVID-19 knifes roadworks plans
The Government’s flagship $13-billion Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP) is to be significantly scaled back this fiscal year, with a nearly 50 per cent cut in works expenditure.
The pullback signalled by Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke is likely to disappoint residents of St Thomas, who have long awaited rollout of the development, which has been a political promise across administrations.
The ‘cyaapet’ (carpet) - Clarke-speak for a slew of roadworks projects - was expected to be a major stimulus for the construction sector and a sponge for labour in an ambitious vision to transform the underdeveloped eastern arc of the island.
Another dramatic adjustment has been made to the planned $3.8-billion Montego Bay Perimeter Road project, with $3.2 billion of the sum redirected to the fight against the COVID pandemic.
The project involves the construction of a 15-kilometre four-lane carriageway from Ironshore to Bogue in Montego Bay. Intersections within the Second City were also to undergo rehabilitation.
The SCHIP incorporates major works planned for the Harbour View to Yallahs Bridge corridor as well as construction along the Yallahs to Port Antonio leg this year.
The project is being jointly funded by the Jamaican Government and the China Exim Bank.
However, with COVID-19 blowing an estimated $81-billion revenue hole in the 2020-2021 Budget, the Government has been forced to pull $6.65 billion of funding from the SCHIP this year.
Additionally, the Rural Road Rehabilitation Project, to be carried out in the parishes of Trelawny, Clarendon, and Manchester, has been shelved this financial year. The $400 million allocated for the rehabilitation of some 47 kilometres of roadway has now been earmarked for the COVID fight.
However, the Government’s plans to carry out rehabilitation and maintenance works on the country’s main road network remain on track, with just a $2-million reduction in the $405.4 million set aside for this purpose. Further, another $168.8 million earmarked for the construction of roads and structures during this financial year remains almost intact, with just $355,000 to be shaved off the sum to be spent on roadworks.
This is set out in the First Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure, which was tabled by Clarke on Tuesday in the House of Representatives. The First Supplementary Estimates will be examined by the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament next Wednesday.
Also contained in the revised estimates is a 65 per cent cut in the sum allotted for construction and improvement of police stations and other buildings. Nearly $1.5 billion has been sliced from the $2.3 billion first allocated in the Budget for the current fiscal year. Savings have been redirected to boost the Government’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The construction and improvement of courthouses has also taken a big hit this year, with $156.7 million shaved off the $453.5 million originally set aside to carry out works across the country.
The Justice Sector Reform Programme has been scaled back this year, with a $137.5 million cut in the justice ministry programme, while the Citizen Security and Justice Programme has seen a $65.8 million reduction this year.