Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Highway hopes
PM promises up to 120,000 jobs on road project
Thursday, April 11, 2002
Jamaica Observer


Prime minister, P J Patterson speaks at yesterday's ground breaking ceremony for Highway 2000. (Photo: Michael Gordon)

THE Government yesterday estimated that the first phase of Highway 2000 -- an 81-kilometre toll road between Kingston and Williamsfield, Manchester -- will cause the creation of at lest 50,000 jobs over the next three years.

In the longer-term, with the expansion of the road to Montego Bay, and with a branch to Kingston, it is expected that its job creation could reach up to 120,000, Prime Minister P J Patterson said.

Patterson gave the projection at a formal ground-breaking for the US$400-million first phase of the highway at Bushy Park, St Catherine -- one of the points where actual work will begin in a fortnight's time.

"The direct impact of the highway, as well as the impact of increased consumption, due to rising output and incomes, show that employment creation should result in over 50,000 jobs in the medium-term -- that is, 2002-2004, and potentially 120,000 in the long-term," Patterson said at the ceremony.

The Government has granted the French construction and engineering company, Bouygues, a 35-year concession to build, own and operate this phase of the highway, for which Bouygues is raising most of the money itself.

However, the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC), the vehicle being used by the Government to oversee the project, has raised the equivalent of US$107 million on the local market, which it will on-lend to Bouygues on a commercial basis.

Patterson did not provide the specifics of the Government's analysis for job creation, but the administration has consistently argued that the road will lead to a substantial opening of Jamaica's south coast to investment. Yesterday, the prime minister likened the highway's potential impact to the "early days of the railway".

Apart from providing a catalyst for industry and agriculture, the Government has said that the road, as it is expanded, would allow for the development of a number of projects it has earmarked for the region. These include:

* upgrading of the Milk River Spa;

* the construction of major industrial parks along the highway corridor;

* a Maroon theme park in the Cockpit Country;

* the development of Vernamfield in Clarendon as a maintenance and cargo airport and free zone; and

* the building of New Town in Clarendon on 11,500 acres of land in the Inverness, Hunt's Pen and Collman Cockpit areas.

This first element of the Highway 2000 project has been broken into discreet phases and the first phase, which is to be completed over a two-and-half-year period, will include the construction of a new six-lane bridge across the Kingston harbour, linking Kingston and Portmore. It will also include the improvement and expansion to the Dyke Road in Portmore.

Additionally, two new lanes of roadway will be built adjacent to the recently-opened 14-kilometre Old Harbour by-pass that was financed by the Kuwaiti government, as well as extending the highway into Williamsfield.

The government's intention later on is to have the highway heading over the central spine of the island to the major tourism centre of Montego on Jamaica's north west coast, with a spur to Ocho Rios on the north central shore.

The total length of the road would then be 230 kilometres and it would, according to the projections, vastly reduce the travel time between Kingston and major towns in the centre and west of the island. For example:

* Kingston to Spanish Town -- 15 minutes;

* Kingston to Old Harbour -- 17 minutes;

* Kingston to Mandeville -- under 45 minutes.

If the highway eventually reaches Montego Bay it will slash what is now a three-and-half hour drive.