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On target - Transport minister says Goat Islands project on track - Draft agreement to go before Cabinet month end

Published:Friday | February 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Finance Minister Peter Phillips. - File

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

TRANSPORT MINISTER Dr Omar Davies now has his hands on the framework agreement which Cabinet will use to determine whether to give China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) the go-ahead to construct a harbour and port facilities at Goat Islands.

While the minister, who had given an end-of-January timetable for the finalisation of the document, would not reveal its contents, he hinted that Cabinet would be asked to consider it by the end of February.

"We are on target. I am consistent in terms of the draft framework agreement, as well as going to Cabinet, and before the end of February, you will have an announcement in terms of next steps," Davies told The Gleaner.

He added that the announcement was "not going to short-circuit the normal regulatory requirements".

Davies said the Port Authority is currently reviewing the document, after which he would take it to Cabinet for consideration.

CHEC has proposed to build port facilities at the Goat Islands, located in the Portland Bight Protected Area, and to connect them to a logistics yard in Old Harbour, St Catherine.

The build-out of logistics facilities on the island is central to the country's growth agenda, which includes the implementation of a 360-megawatt power plant, the development of nine agro parks, and an integrated tourism resort development.

Yesterday, Dr Peter Phillips, the country's finance minister, who was speaking during a press conference at which the staff of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicated Jamaica had met all the quantitative targets in its third review of the country's economic programme, said the Government would be placing significant emphasis on the growth agenda. He said it had been agreed with the fund that "further and more expeditious improvement in the business environment is needed for suitable growth".

Jamaica has entered into a four-year extended fund facility programme with the IMF, which the Government says will lead to sustainable growth and job creation. Sectors such as tourism, information and communication technology, logistics, energy, and agriculture have been identified as existing opportunities to attract significant foreign direct investment.

Meanwhile, Jan Kees Martijn, head of the IMF mission, which conducted the third review of Jamaica's performance under the programme between February 5 and 13, noted there had been a 1.4 per cent (year on year) expansion in economic activity in the September to December quarter.

Martijn said Jamaica has met all the quantitative targets and structural benchmarks under the programme and that the board could consider the country's performance by the end of March.

"The execution of the Government's budget - 2013-2014 - has been largely on track, notwithstanding shortfalls in tax revenues owing, in particular, to weak domestic demand."

He said the challenge going forward was to support economic growth, even while the country undertakes the necessary fiscal adjustments.

The board of the IMF will consider Jamaica's performance by the end of next month. If Jamaica passes that test, it would pave the way for a drawdown of US$71 million.

>> See related story in the Business Section.