PM says Integrity Commission invited to observe MoBay projects

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Prime Minister Andrew Holness has revealed that the Integrity Commission has been invited to be observers on the negotiating team of the multimillion-dollar Montego Bay Perimeter Road Project.

“I have asked the permanent secretary to write to the Integrity Commission to invite them to sit as observers on the negotiating team. I have asked the permanent secretary to invite them, if they so wish, to come on board because we have nothing to hide,” Holness shared. “The Integrity Commission, I hope, will respond to us in a positive way and come on board to be an observer in the process.”

The prime minister, who was speaking on Friday at the official opening of the $1.3-billion, world-class Harmony Beach Park in Montego Bay, informed that he had a meeting with the negotiating team on Thursday. He shared that, during that meeting, the team was informed that the objective is to get the best quality output and “to ensure that whatever it is we do it accords to international standards.

“We are targeting the American highway standards. We have said to the team that you must get the best prices, and these prices are not secret or mysterious. There are standards for them. And we can negotiate them, and the truth is that this negotiating team is experienced; it is the same negotiating team that negotiated all the works under the Major Infrastructure Development Programme (MIDP) project. It is the same negotiating team that is dealing with the issues of the South Coast Road Improvement Project. So they know what they are looking for, and we said that we must ensure the work is completed on time,” the prime minister said.

Initially, Jamaica was engaged with the Government of China to obtain a loan from that country’s Ex-Im Bank to fund the project. But the prime minister argued that, upon recognition that the Government was able to finance the project, it was decided not to take on any additional debt.

“It [project] was engaged to be done bilaterally. This Administration looked at it and we said our overriding economic obligation is to reduce debt. Why should we take on more debt when within our budget we would be able to finance the project over its life? Because the truth is that when we do put forward our capital budgets there have been years when we don’t spend all our capital budgets. So, we have fiscal capacity, we just need the project and the efficient public sector bureaucracy to get them done. So we took a decision to change that developing trend of bilateral engagement,” the prime minister explained.

China Harbour Engineering Company, however, remain the contractors for the project.

“Now China Harbour would have gone ahead and prepared for the project, they would have expended resources in good faith, they would have had all expectation to move ahead with the project. We changed in midstream, we took a mature decision in Jamaica’s best interest to finance the project from our fiscal resources the same way that we have financed this project that we are opening here today from our fiscal resources,” Holness pointed out.

He, however, noted that the project will “have significant sub-contracting components”, adding that cronyism will not have any place in the selection of subcontractors.

“In fact, that will be part of our general thrust and negotiations to ensure that our local contractors get a significant portion of the work. And the same way as we did under MIDP and the South Coast Road Improvement Project it won’t be friend and company selection. There will be a process of limited tenders, where four of five or six or a group of contractors are asked to tender on components of the work. So there is a competitive element in the tendering process. So I am confident that, all in all, we have put in an arrangement that is in the best interest of Jamaica,” Holness argued.

The bypass project, which involves the construction of 25 kilometres of roadway, consists of two segments.

These are the 15-kilometre Montego Bay bypass project starting from Ironshore and back around to Bogue Road, and the Long Hill bypass involving construction of 10 kilometres of highway from Montego Bay down to Montpelier.

The prime minister defended the move to declare the Montego Bay Perimeter Road Project’s implementation as a national development project.

“There can be no question that the Montego Bay perimeter road is of national importance,” he said.

Holness also stressed that the Government’s funding of the project allows for better tranparency.

“Under the other regime you would not know because, more than likely, they would have been some non-disclosure and other kinds of agreements in the contract bilaterally that would prevent such disclosures. So this is a far better arrangement than the previous arrangements that existed. Far better arrangement in terms of ensuring that we keep good faith this is also a good arrangement, because in dealing diplomatically you must ensure that there is good faith,” Holness argued.

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