Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, MP
Prime Minister, Jamaica
Official Opening of Kupius Bridge in Clarendon
August 3, 2017
NIU Qingbao ( Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Jamaica) you have so absorbed the culture and I was just watching the eyes and expression in the audience as they look at you and I can see that they like you.
There is a sense of sincerity that escapes the diplomacy and the people, obviously Ambassador they will always be some level of hesitation and maybe even suspicion on the part of Jamaicans or anywhere else as far as Chinese may go. From time to time we hear some of the issues that arise. Jamaica and China have a long standing relationship, we have had diplomatic relations for a long time, we have supported the one China policy but even before that, Chinese have contributed significantly to Jamaica and Jamaican culture and our motto is “Out Of Many One People.”
The truth is Ambassador is that I listen very carefully to Dr. Hu and her presentation regarding how we can best maximize the benefit of the partnership between Jamaican and China. How we can ensure that our Jamaicans not only get work because that is the argument that we want work but it is more than that. What we really need is the skills once you have the skills getting the work is not an issue, we need to be training more of our youngsters, we need to be training and certifying more of our people because it is through the skills that you will be able to attract more investments.
So Ambassador (Qingbao), recently I spoke at an event and you and I have discussions where I have said that in pursuing the investment relationship with China, we must also pursue a new paradigm of training and upskilling our labour force because it is giving them the skills and let me say this to everyone; some of whom may have work on this project. It is not just know how to bend the steel; it is not just know how to read the plan, mixing the malt is important but we also want to learn how to design. We don’t only want to be makers we want to be engineers and designers. So we want to improve the skill but more than that, it is the discipline and sometimes in the conversation about work we ignore the other part of it, the discipline. Where investors choose to invest is not just where the need is; it is where the discipline is to make sure the investment comes off in a profitable way. So when we are looking at the next iteration of our infrastructure partnership we will have to have a component of training Jamaican labourers, training Jamaican craftsmen, training Jamaican workers in not just the skills but in the necessary discipline and attitude towards work. So I make the point again, it cannot be cheaper for Chinese investors to carry hundreds of workers here put them up, feed them and still bring the projects in on time and on-budget. It must be that Jamaicans worker who is here are just as efficient or more efficient so the Chinese investors will say you know what I don’t need to be negotiating to have Chinese labourers come in because our workers are just as efficient.
So I am not under any illusion about what is necessary to make Jamaica the most productive and efficient place. It is our productivity and our efficiency that is going to be a critical asset in attracting investments here and a critical factor whether it is Chinese, Americans, Germans, French who ever want to come and invest in Jamaica. They must choose Jamaican workers because our workers are the most efficient and the most productive. When I travel overseas and I tour factories and I see Jamaicans working in factories overseas their employers say they are the most effective, most efficient and most productive. Why can’t we say it here in our own country with our own employees? As I said in the Emancipation Independence period I am under no illusions as to what is necessary to bring this country from poverty to prosperity.
Yes, Ambassador (Qingbao) one of the critical things to bring Jamaica from poverty to prosperity is connectivity. As they have said the road to development starts with a road. It is true, which is why I am so happy to be here speaker of the house the Honourable Pearnal Charles Snr, the man in whose constituency I now stand. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job creation is here along with the CEO of the national work agency Mr E.G Hunter and I rely heavily on both persons to guide me and keep me inform of all that is happening in the area of infrastructure development particular with road, bridges, gullies major drains all the works that the government is undertaking and there is a significant portfolio of work that is being undertaken right across the island. Much of this is being done under the MIDP programme – The major infrastructure development programme, which is a facility between the Government of Jamaica and the Government of China. This is the second iteration of this facility; the first one you will recall is JDIP (Jamaica Development Infrastructure Project) and we have had significant improvement in the infrastructure under this relationship with Jamaica and China. We are signalling now our intent to pursue another iteration of this facilitation. I believe that by September next year this present iteration MIDP will come to an end. So we will be looking to negotiate such facilitation with the Government of China to continue the critical infrastructure development.
Now a part of the development programme under the MIDP is directed by the MPs; they choose the road and infrastructure that they would like to see repaired in their constituency. That of course, is driven by the political pressure you will hear for example the Speaker of the House who is your Member of Parliament say “you see coco-walk or coco-piece.” I need that road repaired because if I don’t get that repaired I can’t come in the area. So there is an element of it that is designed to respond to those kinds of pressure but it can’t respond to all the pressure so the MP will have to make priorities.
Then they’re the real major infrastructure that we need to repair for example the Kupius Bridge – a critical connecting piece of infrastructure. If there is a major flood which has occurred several times, significant parts of these areas will be cut off – inaccessible. This is a major link in the North – South traffic and so this is not driven so much by the political pressure as it is driven by the strategic importance of the infrastructure. We have designed the project to yes take into account the political pressure to have roads repaired in various constituencies. I want the country to know that the government is also looking at the strategic design and connectivity of the infrastructure to maximize the growth potential that infrastructure investment can bring. The Kupius Bridge falls into that, so too would Marcus Garvey Drive, so too the improvement on Mandela, so too would be the improvement on Barbican road, so too would be the improvement coming on Hagley park road, so too would be the improvement to the Ferries-cross to Wakefield. All of those major infrastructure works that are strategically designed to create connectivity around the island to reduce travel time, wear and tear on vehicles, to connect important productive centres of the country and to improve pedestrian and vehicle safety on the roads.
All of this is being done and it is a significant cost to the government this is not a grant from the government of China; this is a loan and we have to use it in the most efficient way. We can’t be profligate and we have to be accountable. So I want the people of Jamaica to know that the government of Jamaica is looking out for your best interest. We are being very smart in how we engage with the Government of China to have a relationship and a facilitation in financing that inures to the people of Jamaica and also as well the people of China so it is a win-win for us all. Out of it we are not only expecting to get the infrastructure but as I said in the new iteration we are also going to expect the improvement of our human resource in training and upskilling and developing the necessary attitude towards work to make our workers more competitive than any other worker anywhere in the world; that is the objective. So I want to also acknowledge here with us the Mayor of May Pen, Councillor Winston Maragh and his delegation of councillors from the municipal authority. We have not forgotten the local roads because I know that is coming next. We have started to examine how best we can address the issue of local roads in the next iteration of the programme with the Government of China. We will give some consideration as to how we can ensure that local roads which fit into the overall connectivity that is going to improve the connectivity of the National infrastructure that some attention is paid to those in a selective way. I want to say to you that we are not forgetting the municipal authority or the local road but our focus and efforts are always on making sure that there is national connectivity that improves our efficiency and connectivity.
I gather that the Kupis Bridge is more than 80 years/100 years old. It was a steel thrust bridge. I gather you can only carry a certain tonnage on it. It was at risk of collapsing at any time and when it rained heavily the bridge could not be traversed. This investment says that the Government of Jamaica recognizes the importance of this area; respects the people who live in this area; sees the economic potential of the area and want to see it maximize. This area is an important part of the country and we want to connect it.
So we are making this investment in the people in this community with this bridge. You have to care and protect. You have to ensure that the people who are going to use the bridge to and fro understand the level of investment that is made because sometimes we have people who want to put graffiti on the bridge. That’s the simple one but then you have people driving almost like as the entertainers here were saying mad men on the bridge; we shouldn’t have that. As people who live in the area, you should encourage everyone who is using the bridge to use it carefully and respect the investment that has been made. One thing we shouldn’t do as well and should always bear in mind that the bridge is designed to move traffic easily. We shouldn’t start to put up stalls and start to see at the mouth or the entry of the bridge we shouldn’t start to do that. That is going to slow up traffic and those who would like to start mining stone and sand and all kind of things in proximity of the bridge and I have seen cases where they even go right at the piles and place the bridge at great risk and that should not be done. You the people that live in and around this area must protect the significant investment that is made.
With those few words and many exhortations, I wish to say how happy I am to see the bridge completed. I want to congratulate the China harbour Construction Company; I want to congratulate the NWA; we want to congratulate our counterparts – our Chinese counterparts and I particularly want to congratulate the 40. My understanding is that the work force was about 55 and 40 of them were Jamaican. I want to congratulate the Jamaicans, in particular, who worked to have this bridge completed on time and on-budget again, thank you.