Chung: No reason dump divestment

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Observer staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

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CHAIRMAN of the board of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) Dennis Chung says he is frustrated with the slow pace of action from the enterprise team that was set up to manage the privatisation of the Riverton City dump.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer yesterday following a release which the board issued last week, stating its intent to urge the enterprise team to give a detailed timeline for the wrapping up of the divestment process, Chung said NSWMA cannot take certain initiatives without being clear as to the status of privatisation.

According to the board, until a timeline is given, the NSWMA is “in a holding position”.

“The long-term solution is really the privatisation of the dumps and NSWMA cannot do anything; for example, if we wanted to realocate the dump or get rid of a lot of the things that are there, it's a very difficult decision to make because we can't make it without knowing what the divestment committee is going to do. We are talking about privatisation of not just the dump, but also the collection systems,” Chung explained.

In the meantime, he said the NSWMA is focusing on maintenance.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the Lyttleton Shirley-headed enterprise team at the end of October 2016, but Chung said the divestment process itself has been ongoing for six years and was moving too slowly.

“The situation is that this process, between the last Administration and this Administration, has been going on for about six years, and there is no reason why it should go on so long. I managed the divestment of Air Jamaica, for example, which is a more complex operation, and it took a little over two years Aubyn Hill took about the same time to divest sugar, and this process has been going on now for six years,” he stated

According to the board chairman, there have been more than 40 expressions of interest of up to US$1 billion, mainly from overseas investors.

“What they would do though is join with a local partner, [but] a lot of the technology would be coming from overseas,” he said.

He stressed that it is now time for the enterprise team to signal a timeline for divestment, “so that is where my frustration comes from… you cannot be working indefinitely”.

Chung said he was not certain as to the cause of the delay with the privatisation process, but that he was concerned about the lack of public communication.

“I don't know how far they are; for all intents and purposes they might soon be finished,” he said.

Holness mandated the nine-member team to identify a preferred waste management provider for the divestment of the Riverton dump, managing the process of establishing a waste-to-energy system in Jamaica and the contracting out of the solid-waste collection and solid-waste management of the country.

The issue of divestment has been brought back into the spotlight following a major fire at the dump, which affected businesses and residents in the surrounding area, including operations at the wharf. The NSWMA suspects arsonists are responsible for 10 fires which have occurred at landfills across the island in the past two months, the most noted ones being at Riverton and the Retirement dump in St James.

Prime Minister Holness was slated to meet with the enterprise team during the first week of this month.

Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie announced at a July 30 press conference to give an update on the Riverton fire, that the prime minister would meet with the enterprise team and the NSWMA over two days to be updated on the progress of the team's work on the divestment of the landfill.

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