PM says billions will be saved with new government project

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KINGSTON, Jamaica, Oct 27, CMC – The Jamaica government says it will save billions of dollars (one Jamaica dollar=US$0.008 cents) annually in rental costs following the decision to construct the Government Circle project in and around National Heroes Park in the capital.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that the project, being spearheaded by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), will include the construction of a new building for the Houses of Parliament on a section of the 52-acre park, new offices for 14 government ministries, and improved housing on some 300 acres of land in several communities surrounding the property.
“Government buildings are all over the place; files here [and] service operations there, and we have to be retrofitting… spending money improving other people’s properties. Then when we leave, we can’t leave with it… because it doesn’t make sense to take out the [fixtures and fittings] that you put in,” Holness told a town hall meeting earlier this week.
He said the project’s implementation will be subject to a competitive, transparent tendering process.
“[This] is a national project [and] given our financial situation, we have to be careful. We have rules and laws, and our own sense of propriety says that a project like this should be open to the public for a transparent tendering process,” he said.
“Once we have finished the masterplan, then the procurement phase of it will be a competitive process,” he added.
He said that steps will be taken to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders, particularly residents, and that the National Housing Trust (NHT) has commenced the process of acquiring properties around the Park to undertake residential developments.
While acknowledging that several homes and householders will have to be relocated, Holness said residents who will be affected need not fear being disadvantaged, as the Government will pursue a process that is fair and equitable.
“I want to assure you that it is not the Government’s intention to relocate [or] take people out of the area and disturb the community… but to provide the opportunity for persons in the community to live under better circumstances and for it to grow,” the Prime Minister said.
“It is about building new infrastructure and providing new residential solutions so that people who are already living here can occupy them,” he added, while assuring that “we will provide the modalities by which they can be afforded”.
Holness said the NHT has encountered property owners indicating a willingness to sell, and there are others awaiting further details of how the development will unfold and how they will benefit.
“That process will begin as soon as we have completed the consultations and we can escalate the master plan to Cabinet [for approval],” the Prime Minister said.
He told the meeting that the public will have access to the new Houses of Parliament building because it will be within a park, and there is no intention whatsoever to close off this area from the surrounding communities”.
Holness said it is proposed to develop the Park with the necessary amenities, “but more importantly, with the security to ensure that the facility is safe”.
“So, if you want to come out at 10:00 p.m. and walk around, you don’t have to think twice about doing so… because whether it is 10:00 a.m. or 10:00 p.m., the Park will be safe. That is the kind of environment we want to create and that is the direction that has been given to the UDC, because it will be a Park for the people,” he added.

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