The Most Honourable Edward Phillip George Seaga, former Prime Minister of Jamaica and he has still maintained his sense of humour, his deep understanding of the issues that affect Jamaica and his forty-five years in political representation is well spent. Jamaica is indeed grateful for your service and we owe you a debt of gratitude.
Dr Angela Brown-Burke, a very fierce representative of the people. You’ve been a very good representative so far and I’m certain that the people of South West St Andrew are satisfied with you.
Mr Karl Blake, long time Councillor of the Greenwich Town Division, again another stalwart and someone who has essentially given their life to politics.
I want to acknowledge the pair of father and son team of Eddie and William Lai. You would, of course, have heard about the history of Eddie Lai, his great work in the development of New Kingston.
Let me also acknowledge Mr Donald Moore, Senior General Manager for Construction and Development from the National Housing Trust and the National Housing Trust team that is here today.
I won’t beg of you to say good morning because this is truly a good morning. It is a good morning for all those persons whose dream it is to own their own home and we’re here today to signal the fulfilment incrementally of these longstanding desires of the Jamaican people. So, let me congratulate Edward Lai the Executive Chairman and William Lai the President and CEO of World Homes Jamaica Limited for partnering with the Government of Jamaica through the National Housing Trust on this project.
World Homes Jamaica Limited builds affordable housing utilizing the latest technology in prefabrication and local materials to provide housing at an effective price point and a workable solution. Projects such as these can only be done through partnership. The Government has to put something in, the NHT put something in, the company World Homes, they’re putting in something but the real success will be what the homeowners eventually put into this project.
World Homes has a history of doing these projects. I’m happy to know that you’ve done about 800 homes in Guyana using a similar model to this and we expect that you’re going to be doing about 230 here and within another year or so you will be just going across the road to a neighboring constituency where you’d be doing probably about three hundred there and all across Jamaica, so we expect you to be doing more than a thousand housing solutions within a short period of time.
I want to explore a little bit more something that Mr Seaga mentioned. Housing should not be politicized. Housing is a right of every single Jamaican regardless of your political affiliation. I am technically the Minister of Housing, so when these projects came before me I did not look at them in a political light. My concern was, why did this take so long, that governments should be working speedily to bring these kinds of projects to fruition.
There is a challenge with bureaucracy in our country. We have to get it right. We need the rules to ensure integrity, transparency, fairness and that there is no corruption in what we’re doing but the rules themselves cannot become an obstacle where people feel that the only way to get things done is to resort to a corrupt act.
I keep saying that the flip side of corruption is inefficiency and wherever there is inefficiency there will be corruption so the purpose of the bureaucrat is not to stop things from happening. The purpose of the bureaucrat is to make sure that things happen speedily in the right way but bureaucracy in developing countries have taken on a perspective that their job is to stop things from happening. There is no enterprise, no entrepreneurism in bureaucracy in Jamaica or indeed in most countries in the developing world.
I’ve announced several projects. All of them are excellent projects that will do very well. The NHT has been working overtime to bring projects to fruition and when I say fruition I mean either ground-breaking or handing over the keys. So I’ve gone already about fifteen projects where I’ve either broken ground or handed over keys, so my criticism, my aligner critique of bureaucracy in Jamaica is not pointed at the NHT. I must single them out as being very efficient and very effective but just generally speaking, the process of permitting is an obstacle to growth in this country and part of what we have been doing as a government is to make sure that we improve the ease of doing business because let’s face it; we don’t have money to throw at the growth problem. We have something called the fiscal constraint. That fiscal constraint is that we owe more money than we produce in any one year, so we don’t have space to spend. Any money we have, it goes to repaying debt, so if we’re going to have projects like these they can only come through a partnership and that partnership has to be that people who have money to invest like William and Eddie Lai can say that there is a benefit in investing in Jamaica because that benefit is that I get things done quickly in Jamaica than I will get it done anywhere else; but if people who have money to invest feel that there is no premium of speed of process in Jamaica, then they will go elsewhere because elsewhere they are going to get other incentives as well. So until our public service recognizes that they have to give a premium of speed of doing business so that investments can come here, so that the country can grow, so that we can get more taxes, so that we can pay them better, then we will be constantly stuck in a cycle where we’re trying to argue over how much to pay and how much what sector should get with a pie that is not growing.
I hope that I have been as clear as possible in making this point because until we as Jamaicans confront this problem then we will not grow. The government is engaged in the transformation of the public sector to reduce bureaucracy. It is a highly political initiative but we are committed to doing it because that is the only way that we’re going to grow Jamaica and I know that the Honourable Lady who is a representative of this constituency, supports the point, appreciates the point and will be my ardent supporter in parliament when these matters are discussed because you have been the beneficiary. This constituency has been the beneficiary of Government working very hard to navigate and manoeuvre its own dense bureaucracy.
Many more projects, all the projects that you have talked about; the White Wing to come, the Majestic Gardens too, all of those projects are there tied up somewhere in bureaucracy and the only way we’re going to get them out is if we resolve the bureaucratic culture that we have and it has to be done with almost political unity if we’re going to see results. So I just wanted to mention that and solicit your support.
The other thing I would want to say is that this project is marketed as being a gated community.
Now, a gated community is something that homeowners see as a premium, they would prefer to live in a gated community. A gated community adds on some more costs. Why is it that we have to add on this additional cost and why is it that you have to put a gate? It’s because of the issue of security. It is not so much exclusivity, for Jamaicans it is more about security.
I raised that point to say that, the cost of housing not just these kinds of housing but housing anywhere is increased by a significant factor because we have to build in security. We could find cheaper, more effective, more environmentally building solution but the culture of Jamaica is such that no one is going to want those solutions because most people want concrete not just because it is stronger and sturdier, there are other building materials which are much stronger, much sturdier, much cooler, more environmentally friendly, easier to build but everybody is thinking I have to stop a bullet; that’s the reality.
Crime is a cost to us. Who are the people committing the crime? Nobody is invading Jamaica to commit crime. It’s the people in our community. We know them, we see them, they are our children, they are our relatives; our silence encourages them. When we know and we don’t talk, it is as if we are saying tacitly we agree. We’re doing as much as we can with the resources we have as a Government to put in place the measures to both protect the innocent citizen, observe and secure their rights at the same time respecting the rights of the criminals because the criminals have rights as well and that is the duty of a civilized society whilst bringing down the crime rate.
Difficult task but this is what Government must do and this is what your Government is doing but we can only achieve it with a partnership and your role in the partnership as good citizens is to provide us with the information. The police cannot act in a clinical and surgical way to deal with the criminals without having intelligence. The intelligence comes when the citizens are willing to tell what they know and we have given, we’ve demonstrated, we’ve shown that if you give us the information and we’ve given you the avenues to do it; Crime Stop, the special numbers that the JDF and the police have put out, your own security will be protected, the confidentiality will be protected but the police will act and the military will act in a manner that preserves the right of the citizen and the criminals as well so now is the time for cooperation, now is the time for partnership.
This community, I’m certain will do well. Many people from outside the area will be seeking to buy homes here on the open market. This is an opportunity for the transformation of the area. This is an opportunity to spread development beyond the gates of this community. The biggest threats obviously would be crime and so the community, only the community can do what is necessary, play their part in this partnership for prosperity.
I want to talk a little bit about some other developments. This community is in proximity to Tinson Pen Aerodrome, that piece of land there which is right in the centre of the city almost, many developments are slated for that area and, in fact, it has started. A piece of that land has been leased for logistics operations.
This entire area of the Marcus Garvey Drive corridor is slated for significant development and it has started. The dream of developing a logistics park, a logistics hub, that dream has begun. We’re seeing the first signs of it with major investments along the corridor.
There will be also significant infrastructure improvement just a few miles from here about two miles from here where we’ll be once and for all solving the traffic issues at the intersection of Marcus Garvey Drive, Spanish Town Road and Hagley Park Road where major infrastructure development will be done.
There will be some dislocation, we ask the residents and the commuting public to understand which they have been very understanding given the number of such infrastructure development right across the corporate area but that specific development is geared towards ensuring that there is greater investment along this corridor which also leads to the port.
This community will become effectively almost dormitory for people who will get jobs working in the logistics industries that will be along the corridor so one of the reasons why we were very eager to see this development done is that we know that it will create the dormitory environment for the labour force to support the industrial developments happening along the corridor. It fits neatly into a greater development plan.
The overall plan for this area is that it will become the community that supports the logistics hub initiative which will run all along Marcus Garvey Drive into the New Port area and into the ports of Kingston so it all fits in very neatly into an overall development plan.
In closing, let me say that there will be many such projects for housing to come. The NHT has announced that we have a developer’s initiative where we have managed to deal with the risk issues that face developers in the affordable housing sector and I think I’m agreeing with you that we need to not use the word low-income; it’s affordable housing because housing is something that everyone should have and these housing solutions are not low-quality housing solutions. They are high-quality housing solutions, so they are bringing to you these housing solutions at an effective price point where anyone wanting to own one of these could do so solely through the NHT, that’s the whole idea behind it.
We’re expecting that in the next five years 22,000 housing solutions by the year 2021 using this model of partnership between the NHT housing developers and communities and that will be significant. You talk about the squatter problem, the squatter problem is not only a function of the unavailability of land, the squatter problem is really a function of the lack of housing solutions being provided by the formal market; that’s the only way.
There is no solving the housing problem by giving away housing and I think that is a point that needs to be made in Jamaica in the 21st century. Giving away the house is not going to solve the problem. To own the home means that you have a stake in ensuring that the community develops and remains of high standard that you have an asset there to protect. What we must give away is the ability to earn it meaning that we must give people and that is what the NHT is doing. So we don’t give away the house but you make it affordable to own and that is the strategy of the Government. We will solve the squatting problem because we will build enough housing to meet the demand that is generated yearly. There is a backlog already in housing demand, our strategy will clear it and then we will build enough housing solutions every year to ensure that the market for housing clears and then you will not have a squatting problem. This is the real solution for dealing with the squatting problem in Jamaica and you’re seeing it unfold right in front of you it is not a promise, not a gimmick, not appealing to any emotion; this is about getting it done and we will get it done.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you