Chinese contractor has to adhere to the rules - PM
Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
Despite an investment of US$610 million to complete the North-South leg of Highway 2000, the Jamaican Government says contractor China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) will be required to comply with all regulatory requirements.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who was seeking to address environmental concerns surrounding the construction of the highway, said CHEC will be required to adhere to all the rules of Jamaica's regulatory agencies.
"I wish to state in order to remove all doubts that there will be no special concessions granted in terms of the adherence to the rules of the regulatory agencies," Simpson Miller said yesterday as she launched the multibillion-dollar project in Treadways, St Catherine, yesterday.
The prime minister said the environmental impact studies have already been completed for segment one, which links Caymanas to Linstead.
public hearings next week
She said public hearings for segment three, which stretches from Moneague to Ocho Rios, will begin next week.
All the regulatory obligations for segment two, Simpson Miller said, "have long been fulfilled". Segment two connects Linstead to Moneague.
Transport and Works Minister Dr Omar Davies said the implementation of the project will present a "challenge to the administrative capacity of the Government".
"But there will be no short cuts, I can assure everyone of this," Davies stressed.
The North-South link of Highway 2000, which is expected to shorten the commute between Kingston and the north coast, has been plagued by several challenges and has been in abeyance for nearly two years.
CHEC announced yesterday that it will construct the 66-kilometre highway over a three-year period at a cost of US$610 million. CHEC also agreed to reimburse the Government of Jamaica US$120 million which was spent on the Mount Rosser bypass road.
Work on the first segment of the highway is scheduled to start in May next year while construction of segment three is scheduled to start in June. Both segments are scheduled to be completed in December 2015.
Segment two, from Linstead in St Catherine to Moneague in St Ann, is almost complete and could be opened in a year.
Simpson Miller said when complete, the highway is expected to reduce travel time between Kingston and Ocho Rios to 45 minutes.
gov't lands available
She said the Government has agreed to make 1,200 acres of lands along the toll road available to CHEC for various developments.
"Housing, commercial developments and hotels," Simpson Miller said as she explained some of the purposes for which the lands will be used.
"I believe that the investments which will take place along the highway will far and fast outweigh the impact on the economy of the highway itself," she added.
In the meantime, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness welcomed the investment by CHEC.
"This project is a national project and we view it in that spirit and the Opposition gives its support and shares in the success of the project," Holness said.
Chen Yusheng, vice-president of China Communications and Construction Company, the parent company for CHEC, predicted that the project will have a profound impact on Jamaica's economic growth and put the country in a position to serve the entire Caribbean and the eastern coast of the United States.