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The growth of infrastructure is causing concerns among the business community

An aerial view of the East West Toll Road and the Spanish Town Toll Plaza along the PJ Patterson Highway.

Business stakeholders are urging the government to tackle traffic congestion in cities amid strong infrastructure development.

The concerns were raised during a discussion following the release of the first quarter business and consumer indices, focusing on the impact of infrastructure development on businesses.

“I think we can all note that there has been a big improvement in some of the infrastructure, so much so that there are actually bottlenecks in these cities,” said Phillip Ramson, general manager of Chas E Ramson and chairman of the Jamaican government. Chamber of Commerce (JCC).

Highlighting the issue, he stated that there is a need for a balanced approach to infrastructure development to reduce congestion and support local businesses, while referring to the construction of highways connecting the north and south coasts which have resulted in greater mobility between Ocho Rios and Kingston. . However, he noted that the emergence of bottlenecks highlighted the importance of a holistic approach to the issue of infrastructure development.

While acknowledging the economic stimulus provided by infrastructure, Ramson emphasized the need to consider its broader impact.

“In particular the cities that are being bypassed: how are those cities affected and how can we involve them? Because the overall goal for infrastructure improvement is economic inclusion,” he said.

The national target prioritizes economic inclusion and promoting cost-effective business operations across the island.

Ramson further highlighted the concerns raised by industry stakeholders in the JCC consumer survey, noting that water supply adjacent to roads is a major issue. Despite ongoing projects such as the Rio Cobre project aimed at improving water infrastructure, the JCC CEO highlighted the ongoing challenges across the island in terms of water supply for businesses. He therefore called for concrete plans to ensure economic inclusion and infrastructure improvement, addressing the needs of businesses in a comprehensive manner.

Ransford Davidson, chairman of the St Ann Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the impact of road network development and construction on business growth. He noted that roadworks have hampered businesses, mainly due to population growth in St. Ann and the lack of road network expansion to accommodate this growth. This situation has led to traffic congestion in the area, resulting in delays in the delivery of goods and services.

“There is a degree of optimism based on the fact that the government is planning to develop a north coast highway in the pipeline, and that has somewhat allayed some of the concerns, but the timeline for that level of expansion will will be critical to addressing some of the concerns of businesses in the area,” Davidson added.

With improvements underway in the Drax Hall area, Davidson highlights the substantial need for labour, highlighting the need for a combination of local and imported workers to meet the demands of infrastructural development.

“It’s really hard to keep up now, even with the level of expansion we’re seeing in St. Ann,” he noted.

He further noted: “It has had an impact on employment levels locally; even with the introduction of the BPO (business process outsourcing) they have employed over 500 people, so those are some of the positive impacts that we are experiencing in the parish right now.”

At the same time, Raynaldo Thompson, vice president of investment management and research at GK Capital Management Limited, emphasized that infrastructure investment is at the core of economic growth and serves as a method to provide employment and increase productivity across the country.

“These investments, as we have them now, enable investments, they have a multiplier effect, they tend to generate other businesses and other economic activities that flow from them,” he said.

According to Thompson, a better future requires greater private sector participation in investments. He revealed that GK Capital is currently developing a capital pool dedicated to infrastructure investments, including power generation. He further emphasized that improved infrastructure allows companies to explore new markets.