Speech by the Prime Minister

Build Jamaica Expo & Conference 2017

Keynote Address


The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, MP

At the

Build Jamaica Expo & Conference

June 9, 2017


I am here to endorse the Build Jamaica Expo. It is good for Montego Bay, it is good for Jamaica. I know very little about construction except to say that it is one of the most important sectors in Jamaica. Minister Samuda will not agree with me on this because obviously agriculture for him is the most important sector in Jamaica but the construction industry beside agriculture would be the industry wherein we could absorb very quickly the unemployed labour force.


It is also the industry that can change the face of Jamaica and we have for decades built Jamaica using conventional technology which is by now outdated and when I heard about this expo and I saw the lineup of speakers, it became very clear that this is a great opportunity to introduce to the wider Jamaican population new technology for construction that can radically change the face of Jamaica and so I’m here to endorse that.


The technology that is available for construction these days it is just simply amazing. I’ve seen the cutting edge technology for 3D printing buildings; amazing. I’ve seen the technology that is available with new materials.  Please accept my apologies, I will not be here tomorrow to actually see all the demonstrations and to participate in the various talks that will be held, but I would be very interested in seeing the building materials that can come from hemp and I believe you said from cannabis as well, so I would really love to see “hempcrete” to see how that would work. Is it a cement based product? I would love to see how that would work.


The exposition you gave on the qualities of hemp certainly stimulated my interest in the product. We’ve been talking about developing a hemp industry for many years. It has not gotten off the ground but we need a demonstration effect. We literally need to see how these products can be made from hemp and how they can be infused into our regular instruction.


All the Jamaicans here know we believe in block and steel, we believe in concrete. Am I right? But there are other building technologies there that are just as strong, energy efficient, easier to build and manipulate, last longer and far more affordable. I’m hoping that this expo will introduce some of these new technologies and will help to challenge the cultural idiosyncrasies that we have about our built environment.


The president of the Chamber of Commerce mentioned the Montego Bay bypass and I’m glad you defended me that I am not the prime minister to prevent such things from happening. I would want to- just to bring you up to date that the idea, the thrust behind this bypass for Montego Bay actually emanated with the Montegonians.  Horace Chang has been very active and influential in getting this done and indeed myself and minister Chang have been working very hard to ensure that we can start the Montego Bay bypass in short order. Minister Chang is in China or should be coming back from China now; he’s here now, trying to secure the financing to do that bypass.


Montego Bay is the growing city in Jamaica. It is you feel the sense of a booming economy in Montego Bay and we acknowledge, we agree that the city has outgrown the infrastructure and it is becoming a limiting factor now. We expect that building the road will free up Montego Bay and make it far more easier for citizens to navigate the city and open up new corridors for residential and commercial building.


So yes I broke ground here in Montego Bay for one thousand five hundred new housing solutions. Those solutions are coming on the market for just under five million Jamaican dollars. They probably will not be called tiny homes but they are starter units. They’re designed to fit a certain price point in the market but the problem is such a huge problem that the day I broke ground for those one thousand five hundred units and they went on the market to be advertised, the National Housing Trust received over eleven thousand applications for one thousand five hundred units. Our housing demand per year unfilled is approximately twenty thousand housing units and the NHT this year will probably fill close to eight thousand.


The private sector housing developments will probably do- we’re hoping that they will do more than eight thousand but the gap is still there and indeed the challenges that we face with unplanned communities, the challenges that we face with informal settlements, an euphemism for squatter communities; in a sense these challenges arise because of a failure of the formal system to provide housing solutions.


I’m also here today to endorse this expo because I believe that the introduction of technology could also bring down the price point for the housing solution; make them more affordable. I also believe that technology can go a far way in the building process itself so that we can build housing solutions much faster but I’m also here today because the city of Montego Bay is viewed as one of the top ten cities in the world small island cities which are vulnerable to climate change events.


Climate change is happening. It is not a political issue; it’s not an issue you can wish away. It is a nature issue. It is happening and I’m totally convinced of this and for small island developing states we have to take very seriously. The only way we can address this issue is through building resilience and in building resilience it means you have to build your house on rock and not sand; that’s the biblical definition of resilience. So it means that Jamaicans have to make wise choices in what they build, how they build and where they build.


I am hoping that in the conversations and the presentations that will happen in the expo, that the issue of climate change will be addressed and how we can build more resilient buildings to withstand the effects of climate change.


I’m also very happy to see that there will be conversation around energy. Jamaica has taken instrumental steps to reduce the cost of energy from a macro level. We’ve been diversifying our fuel sources; we’re now almost fully transitioned to LNG moving from heavy fuel oils. We’re now over ten percent of our energy output from renewables between wind and solar.


The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) is engaged in a process of renewing its energy production and transformation and transmission systems but at the micro level the consumer also has a role to play and we have to build more energy efficient structures. Yes our love for concrete and steel in a tropical environment means that we create ovens and we have to figure out how we’re going to build our buildings to ensure that they are cooler, use less energy and they are more comfortable so that the space is more functional and at the same time strong for hurricanes and earthquakes.


I’m here to endorse this conference because I believe it can make a change in how Jamaicans see construction and be a catalyst for the infusion of new technology and new practices into the building and construction industry.


Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you and I look forward to a very successful conference.


God bless you