The Most Honourable Andrew Holness ON, MP
at the Caribbean Water & Waste Water Association Conference
October 8, 2018
Thank you very much madam master of ceremonies Marline Stephenson
Let me apologize for my voice, I got wet. Yes, we’re at a water conference so you understand.
Mr Alphonsus Daniel, President of the Caribbean Water and Waste Water Association
The Honourable Karl Samuda, Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation with oversight responsibility for water
Visiting ministers of government
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
International organizations and the Consular Corps
Senator Aubyn Hill, Chairman of the National Water Commission
Members of Parliament Bishop the Honourable Conrad Pitkin, Custos of the parish of St James
His Worship the Mayor Councillor Homer Davies, Mayor of Montego Bay
And other mayors who are here
Mr Mark Barnett, President of the NWC
Mr Vincent Sweeney, Head of the United Nations Environment Program
Mr Timothee Delebarre, of Vinci Construction Group Jamaica
Mr Frank Gutzeit, of Diehl Metering
Mrs Doreen Prendergast, Co-Chair of the CWWA2018 Local Organizing Committee
Members of staff of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation
Delegations to and partners of the Caribbean Water and Waste Water Association Conference
Heads of agencies
members of the media
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good evening.
If you didn’t hear your name you will understand that it must have been a terrible oversight because I’m certain my salutation has captured everyone. I’ve made up for yours minister.
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to Jamaica for the 27th Annual Caribbean Water and Waste Water Association Conference and Exhibition. Your conference theme “Climate Resilience, Innovation & Partnership for Sustainable Water and Waste Development” is not only timely but synergetic with the Jamaican effort. It will influence the new directions to be embarked upon in the impact of water as a critical production input to the economic growth and development to the region.
The CWWA is a solutions leader in identifying sustainable climate resilient interventions within our region. I congratulate your work which is based on research and development and application of advanced technologies in water, waste water and solid waste in our natural and built environment.
Your deliberations on climate resilient infrastructure, the state of regional planning and investment will be very important to the business model review now taking place in Jamaica’s own National Water Commission. These are critical considerations for our small island developing state in terms of the context of vulnerabilities and our obvious economic limitations.
With climate change being the most important challenge to the water sector, a regional strategic action plan is critical, and the government of Jamaica is very eager to see the action plan as this will help to guide the response of the public sector to the issues facing the water sector. The UN World Water Development Report 2015 defines water as the core of sustainable development. Its availability is integral to improving social well-being and fostering inclusive growth. The global community has demonstrated an awareness of and a commitment to addressing waste water and sanitation issues by the creation of multi-stakeholder and country agreements. These span the millennium development goals, international development goals, the Paris agreement, the Basil Convention and the protocol concerning pollution.
The United Nation’s Development Goal #6, to ensure access to water and sanitation for all aligns with Jamaica’s policies and programs and I believe this to be the case with most countries in the region which already report access levels well above 90%. Now, mind you when I saw the report from my own ministry saying that Jamaica had access levels above 90% I questioned it because as a politician going out into the rural areas and into the communities that would not appear to be the case and I see here a colleague MP who I’m certain everyday would have the same complaint about access to water and the Mayor of Montego Bay is nodding his head in agreement. Mind you, access means having a water supply within 100meters of your residence but that sets the problem. That is problematic if you will because in today’s world the expectation is to have water right in your residence and that is not an unreasonable expectation, right Minister? After all water is life and of course Jamaica is the land of wood and water so that sets the stage for our problem; the demand of the society to have potable water within the curtilage of their residence and to have access to water for irrigation for agriculture.
The overarching issues for the Caribbean then would be of course the lack of resources to equitably grow the water sector and the waste water sector and the challenges faced are numerous and of course there are differences between Caribbean countries as to what would be the priority arrangements of the list of problems, but the problems are similar nonetheless. We already spoke about the impact of climate change but then there is the cost of energy in the provision of water. One issue that we don’t pay a great deal of attention to is governance. Yes, believe it or not governance has an impact on the provision of the water service and waste water service to the people of the country and then as is the case generally with most problems there is just simply a lack of public education about the resource; about its conservation, about how the utility is provide, the true cost of the utility so these are just some of the issues that would face Caribbean governments and indeed governments across the world in the provision of portable water and water for irrigation and managing waste water and solid waste.
So how do we treat with this now from a national perspective? In light of these regionally recognized challenges to water that Jamaica which has shared similar problems to the rest of the region, we’ve started by having a review of the corporate governance and the business model of the National Water Commission. The NWCs current business model we realize at times limits its ability to fulfil its own mission leading to difficulties in raising capital or even meeting regulatory targets and at the same time the costs of water services is approaching unaffordable levels. In light of these challenges, the NWC and the government of Jamaica are resolved to exploring new business models including corporatization of public-private partnerships to transform water sector performers. So far the prioritized options under consideration are, and we’ve started this already, the Rapid Non-revenue Water Reduction using performance-based contracts then we are now seeking to reorganize the NWC in fact changing its form from a statutory body to a company registered under the Companies Act and then we’re looking at raising equity finance by listing shares of the new corporate entity under Jamaica Stock Exchange and then we’re also looking at delegating services to private providers to function as concessionaire within the service provision of water. These are all new models for the provision of the water service that we have to consider if we are to meet the growing challenges of providing accessible high-quality water services to our people.
Of course, there will always be challenges whenever we seek to enter upon a new paradigm in the provision what is considered to be a public service and it goes back to one of the problems that we have identified, how do we bring the public to the understanding that there can be new models in the provision of a public service that does not in any way place a detriment, the equity and accessibility of the provision but instead could actually increase the availability, increase the quality while at the same time reducing the cost to the consumer.
We are mindful that it will not be an easy debate. We’re mindful that there will be push back but as the challenges to the provision of water grows and the expectation of the public grows the government has to respond with creative innovative measures that can bring solutions to the problem. So as Jamaica’s principle water service provider and in keeping with your conference theme of” Climate Resilience, Innovation & Partnership for Sustainable Water and Waste Development” the NWC is charged with the responsibility of satisfying the island’s most critical water supply and waste water service needs. It has four strategic priorities
- Becoming financially viable
- Improving operational efficiency
- Improving service delivery
- Improving staff capacity and the overall image of the NWC
Now, as we speak about image, I saw a very interesting meme circulating about the NWC and I know some of you may have seen it; just dig it! Mr Chairman we have to change that image of the NWC as just digging up all our roads and I see other people nodding as if they have the same problem with their water utility as well but I think I should take this opportunity in informing public that as part of the NWC overall strategy of becoming more efficient and launching the Non-Revenue Water Program it will have to dig up the roads to repair and replace the old water mains that are costing not the government but ultimately the consumer because you pay for it, believe it or not you pay for it and so to make the NWC a more viable prospect we will have to engage in this Non-Revenue Water correction so I can only say that I feel for the NWC. It is understandable but at the same time, you have to communicate with the public.
The NWC is undertaking close to one hundred projects and they are at varying stages so let me start outlining these one hundred projects. I’m just kidding. My voice is about to give out, so I can’t give a hundred projects. One of the projects which we are very proud of is the Artificial Aquifer Recharge Project and I leave Mr Barnett to explain what that is but, of course, it’s like natural storage. It is using an existing aquifer recharging it putting in ground -water in it and that is significant; that’s five million gallons daily and that of course has significantly assisted the parish of St Catherine and the greater Spanish Town and urban communities.
I’ve mentioned of course the Non-Revenue Water Reduction Project, that is a forty-two million US dollar project which is ongoing for the Kingston Metropolitan area but it is also in some rural parishes as well and at the end of it we will not only have corrected a significant percentage of the leakage but we would have now digitized our mapping of our water network which helps for better management and detection. Then there is the Smart Meter Program and while I’m on smart metering for our guests you would have seen the performance of one of our primary schools you may be wondering what is it that they’re talking about so let me do some translation.
They’re talking about another utility telecommunications cellular phones service packages where you can buy telephone credit to make calls and they are complaining that the buyer package and the packages advertised amount but by the time they put it on their phones and then they are ready to make a call their credit has disappeared; they are unable to make a call and they are questioning this so that immediately just struck me because I suspect that is why the NWC has not yet rolled out their prepaid water package. Is that so Mark? So the Smart Metering Project will see the installation of four hundred and fifty thousand state of the art water meters at a cost of thirty-seven million Euros in the Kingston and metropolitan area and it is the intention that we will go island wide with the smart metering over the next five years and that could potentially cost a hundred and fourteen million US dollars when the project is finally complete and I’m almost certain that the prepaid option will be a contemplation for the provision of the water service but with packages that will last a little longer and I know that you’ve done some testing and you’re doing testing currently so very soon John Rollins will be making a skit about the experience.
Another area in which we’re looking at new modalities and I believe they have been successful is in the construction of a fifteen million gallons per day water treatment plant at Content in St Catherine and this is being done on a twenty year PPP for sixty million US dollars. It will serve five hundred thousand persons in the Kingston Metropolitan areas and this project will improve the reliability and climate resilience of the water supply in Kingston and neighbouring communities. We’re not forgetting the rural areas because for many of you who are from the Caribbean providing water to rural areas can be a major challenge. The infrastructure cost, the capital cost and then when you look at the recovery based upon the infrastructure capital outlay you find that there is a significant challenge but the truth is that rural people deserve water just as much as urban people and so the government has to make the provision of water to rural communities a priority as well and it is in trying to serve that that the government is forced into reconsidering the conventional models of supply which to date if you really look at it with all truthfulness has not necessarily worked in bringing water to rural communities.
You may wonder why it is that the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation with oversight for water is here and I’m also here being the minister of economic growth and job creation and you may also be wondering why has Jamaica created a ministry of economic growth and job creation and have the NWC, the water agency within that ministry. Again, it comes back to the issue of governance.
As we’ve said up front water is life, but water is also a critical input if we’re going to grow the economy. Consider that if you’re going to grow agriculture you must have water. If we’re going to grow the hotel industry for example you must have water. Really no economic activity that you can undertake without having water and so we decided in putting the government together in ensuring that water was in the ministry responsible for economic growth and job creation to signal the centrality of the water service, but it was also important that the service could be coordinated at the policy level. My colleagues from the Caribbean would agree that sometimes government operates in silos so the Water Commission could be doing its Non-Revenue Water Program and our road agency could be doing its own road development program but because they are operating in silo the two never speak so you could have a situation where today a brand new road is laid and then tomorrow there comes the NWC digging it up and I’m sure you would have had that experience and we’ve had that experience in Jamaica quite a bit so we decided recognizing that our National Water Commission has to work in tandem with our road development agency and there are two major infrastructure plant going on now; they both collaborate so in fact they work together so whatever the NWC digs up the National Works Agency repairs but they work together so there is a schedule, there are notices provided and so there is greater coordination but there is also greater coordination for the national infrastructure plan so whenever we’re planning to do new road construction, major road construction then we ask the question what do we need to put in place for water, sewage and ICT infrastructure. And so there is a great coordination so the project isn’t we just do the roads then afterwards we figure what to do with sewage, what to do with water; everything is done together and that has significantly increased the scope and capacity of the infrastructure project because now all of a sudden when we’ve put in place a new road it’s also a new water supply with greater capacity, new sewage system with greater capacity and a new telecommunication system with greater capacity. This means that there is now a greater catalyst for other developments to utilize the infrastructure investment.
Again, I wanted to reemphasize the importance of governance to water in terms of being able to fully utilize this potential catalytic factor water in economic growth and development. There are many other projects, but I want to skip to one that I think might resonate with the audience. The NWC is the largest single consumer of electricity in Jamaica. not certain if that is the case in other countries from the region that you water utility is the largest consumer; in Jamaica it is.
Now, if you consider that we’re using electricity to produce non-revenue water and non-revenue water can be as high as forty percent of the company’s output…
Well, I hear it’s more. I hear some whispering like sixty percent, but I can’t believe that. I refuse to believe that Mark, is it sixty percent? So now I understand why you have to dig it. I’m aware that it is very high, but we have brought it down by virtue of the program that we have engaged with the Israeli company MIA 27:16 which is doing an amazing job, i mean I’ve seen them in action in Israel with the technology that they have deployed but the NWC is coordinating with another agency that is within the Office of the Prime Minister and that is the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, PCJ, in figuring ways to introduce renewable energies in twenty of your production locations that will significantly reduce the electricity use. One project I gather that is under contemplation is putting solar panels over the Mona Dam and I think that would be if you manage to achieve that. I think that would be very significant. I mean you’re generating capacity there with the more than enough to supply your needs. For that production site, you should be able to actually sell to the grid, so these are some of the innovative things that the government of Jamaica is doing to respond to the growing need for greater capacity in greater quality and greater affordability for water.