The Ministry of Transport, Works & Housing held a press Conference focusing on several areas of its portfolio responsibilities including housing, aviation matters, infrastructure, JUTC and JEEP on Friday, February 15, 2013.

In a wide ranging presentation, the Minister used the opportunity to update staff members as well as the media on several programmes and projects falling under the aegis of the Ministry.

In speaking to the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP), the Minister spoke to an issue that was in the public domain. He said that JDIP was scheduled to be completed in in March, 2013 but will now be completed in June instead. He advised that the delay was due to the rate of progress on some original projects not being as consistent as they should have been and so resulted in the Ministry not spending all that was allocated for that financial year. He noted that US$50M remained to be spent in the 2013/14 financial year and that the GOJ counterpart  of 15% ($800M)is reflected in the Supplementary Estimates as savings in the budget.

Turning to the Palisadoes Shoreline Protection and Rehabilitation Works, which began in September 2011 and included rock revetment, dune replacement , and elevation of the road, was completed in December 2012 at the initial contracted price of US$65.377M.

With respect to the JUTC, the Minister highlighted the fact that a previous agreement to purchase 230 buses had to be re-nogotiated.  Under this new contract, 220 buses were procured and some of the funding was re-allocated for the purchase of additional spare parts. In 2012, sixty-five buses (four of which are wheel-chair accessible) were delivered to the JUTC. Five of these buses were allocated to the JDF; five to the JCF and five to the Montego Bay Metro and five to the Montego Bay Metro. Fifty-five buses are expected to arrive in the island between April and May this year (20 articulated and 35 regular).

As far as housing is concerned, the Minister disclosed that the Housing Agency of Jamaica Limited (HAJL) is in discussions with Malphus International which is a US based Company, for financing and construction of a major housing development at Bernard Lodge in St. Catherine under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Construction on the development is scheduled to begin in April and the plans envisage the construction of 1,584 detached studion and 1-bedroom units with estimated selling prices ranging between $4M and $4.9M. The development will be done in five phases, averaging 300 units each over a three year period.

In terms of squatter initiatives, the Minister said that the Ministry is currently undertaking spatial and socio-economic assessments of squatter settlements to inform interventions by the Ministry. A comprehensive national squatter management policy framework is being developed. Joint venture partnerships between the Ministry and other stakeholder agencies/entities are being encouraged to provide low income or affordable housing solutions.

JEEP Housing was another initiative about which the Minister spoke. He said that the HAJL will continue to manage the implementation of that programme which comprise the building of 1,200 2-bedroom wooden houses per annum islandwide by Food for the Poor (FFP) in association with the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) with funding from the Petro-Caribe Fund and FFP. Construction has started on 62 concrete houses for persons earning less than $7,500.00 per week. These units are being constructed in Hampden, Trelawny by FFP and are fully financed by the NHT. The targeted number of units to be constructed in year 1 is 600.

Under the wider JEEP itself, projected employment for Phase 1 was 5,000 persons. This target was exceeded due to rotation of workers on the infrastructure projects, with total employment under this Phase being approximately 18,206.  Financing for this phase was estimated at J$1.2B from the following sources: JDIP (re-scoped) Petro-Caribe, MOE/HEART Trust/ NTA, Ministry of Labour and Social Security as well as the Ministry of Tourism/TEF. Funds not yet expended will be brought forward to Phase 2. Funding for phase 2 is expected to employ 35,000 persons At December 2012, approximately 5,418 persons had been employed.    

The Minister also gave an update on the aviation sector and more importantly, the airports. He told the gathering that the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) has decided to expand and upgrade the facilities of the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) through the participation of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. Cabinet has since approved the appointment of the Enterprise Team (ET) for the concessioning of NMIA. The ET has been meeting and work is proceeding apace through the co-ordination of the Privatization Unit of the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ).

A Capital Development Master Plan which was developed in 2004 is currently being updated as part of the Terms of Reference for Phase 1 of the project. When completed, the Master Plan will guide decision makers in determining the mandatory Capital Development Programme (CDP) to be undertaken/continued by the private operator during the concession period. The CDP includes the extension of the runway, the establishment of Runway End Safety Areas (RESA’s), and the lengthening of the runway zones to comply with both International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) airside safety standards. It is expected that the PPP transaction exercise will be completed by March 2014, subject to Cabinet’s approval.

As for Sangster International Airport, it is currently implementing a runway overlay project and other airside improvement works at the Sangster International Airport. They too have prepared a new Master Plan from which a programme of new capital works has been developed, including the Extension of the runway, the installation of Runway End Safety Areas (RESA) at both ends of the extended runway and the widening of the runway strip width, to comply with both the ICAO and JCAA standards. The completion of these safety improvements will enable flights from new and more distant tourism markets to operate safely from SIA and to realise the attendant economic benefits. 

As it relates to the Ian Fleming International Airport, Minister Davies disclosed that the facility cannot accommodate larger aircraft due to the limited runway length and the options available for extension of the runway are being explored. There are however physical and other limitations to further development of the airport in the near future such as the mountainous terrain to the south and west of the airport which prevents the airport from being designated for Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), ie. Allowing the use of instruments to guide the plane for ladning. In addition, the North Coast Highway to the north and east borders the runway and is the main obstacle to an extension at this time. In the meantime, Minister Davies highlighted the fact that he has asked a private sector interested party to provide him with a proposal from which discussions would be held to examine the extension of the runway there.