Under 90 minutes: PM promises drastic cut in travel time within Jamaica

Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has declared that his government—through its infrastructural programmes—is aiming to reduce the travel time to anywhere in the country to less than an hour and a half.

He was speaking at the 4th Caribbean Infrastructure Forum (CARIF)2020 at the AC Marriott in St Andrew on Tuesday. CARIF 2020 is being hosted and sponsored by First Caribbean International Bank.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre), speaking during a panel discussion at the Caribbean Infrastructure Conference (CARIF) at AC Hotel by Marriott on Tuesday. With him are (at left) Minister of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure for the Cayman Islands Joseph Hew and Regional Head of KPMG’s Global Infrastructure Business for the Americas and India, Stephen Beatty.

The Prime Minister together with the Cayman Islands’ Minister of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure, Joseph Hew participated in a Caribbean Leaders’ Panel on ‘Growth, Innovation, Sustainability’.

“The objective is to have ease of travel that sees us cutting the travel time to anywhere in Jamaica to less than an hour and a half. Imagine what that will do. We are going to continue to improve our infrastructure and roads through greater connectivity and have maximisation of our assets,” Holness declared.

Ramble Media CEO Al Edwards and Andrew Holness.

During his presentation, he made it clear that Jamaica made a calculated decision to improve its economy through a number of infrastructure programmes that would better connect the country. “As you drive around Jamaica, there is a new bird emerging on our horizon—it is called the crane. Construction is taking off in Jamaica. It’s not just the residential and commercial buildings. We are also investing heavily in our road infrastructure but more than that we are also investing in our water and sewage capacity, electricity, telecommunications and general connectivity,” said the Prime Minister.

‘Jamaica is about to enter a significant growth phase, having not had a growth phase for 40 years.’

—Andrew Holness

He pointed to the role that infrastructure works must play in the growth of the economy and the importance of doing so for future generations. The Prime Minister said: “Jamaica is about to enter a significant growth phase, having not had a growth phase for 40 years. Last time we experienced sustained growth was during the 60s up to 1972, the year I was born. During my lifetime, Jamaica has not experienced a period of sustained growth and that is a reality. A large part of growth is a sustained development of infrastructure and that is a large feature of growth in the Caribbean and Latin America. There is a very wide infrastructure agenda for Jamaica. We have been able to enter this phase of growth because we have managed to bring some order to our fiscal affairs. I will not say we have solved Jamaica’s fiscal issues but we are very close to doing so.”

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Stephen Beatty, Regional Head of KPMG’s Global Infrastructure Business for the Americas and India.

He made it clear that if the country is to engage in serious infrastructure expansion, it will then have to resolve its fiscal management otherwise it will have to finance these projects through debt. Jamaica has done some of this through debt, namely through its relationship with China. This pertains in particular to the Infrastructure Development Programme (JIDP) and the Major Infrastructure Development Programme (MIDP).

Minister of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure for the Cayman Islands Joseph Hew.

He further explained: “That was done at a time when we didn’t have the wherewithal from a financial perspective to take on infrastructural development. The truth is having borrowed that money and spent it wisely on infrastructure rather than general budget support, we were able to have that infrastructure expand our revenue earning capacity—better roads, better buildings, greater connectivity leading to more commerce which in turn leads to more revenues in the Government’s coffers which has put us in a better fiscal position. Having moved into that position from a debt to GDP ratio of 140 to today of 93, we have created fiscal space and we have been very wise with it, dedicating a large portion of that to infrastructure.”