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JISCO/Alpart increases back-to-school assistance despite losses

BY GARFIELD MYERS
Editor-at-large
myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, August 19, 2019

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NAIN, St Elizabeth — There are serious challenges facing the Chinese-owned JISCO Alpart alumina plant here, but Managing Director Zhang Jun is giving the assurance that his company remains committed to the local community, as well as the wider Jamaica.

Addressing a recent back-to-school function at Alpart Sports Club, Zhang applauded Jamaica for its recent 57th anniversary as a politically independent country and pledged that his company will continue to play its part going forward.

Even as the nation has plotted a path forward for social and economic development, JISCO Alpart “sees itself playing a pivotal role in realising these goals and as such, our continued commitment to Jamaica's growth and development,” Zhang said.

The JISCO executive noted that Alpart had a long history of supporting communities in close proximity to the plant in social areas such as education and water distribution.

He said for the upcoming academic year, which starts next month, JISCO Alpart in partnership with the Alpart Community Council and the latter's business arm, Essex Valley Communuity and Associates (EVC), has provided significant increased investment in educational support.

“In 2016, 1,000 students benefited at a cost of $5 million dollars. However, this year 2,500 students will benefit at a cost of $20 million dollars,” Zhang told a large audience of students, teachers and parents.

Operations manager for EVC Camilla Rochester said the assistance in the form of scholarships, grants, transportation grants, book vouchers and school supplies was made to students from JISCO Alpart's operating communities in south Manchester and south-east St Elizabeth.

The back-to-school function was held against the backrop of what Zhang described as “challenges” facing the JISCO Alpart plant because of “loss in alumina production and low alumina prices on the world market”.

He told his audience that “despite these challenges, we at JISCO Alpart strongly believe that with the support of our employees, communities and other stakeholders we will be able rise above these challenges”.

JISCO Alpart recently laid off 250 labourers and construction workers as a cost-cutting measure. JISCO later rehired 50 workers.

There have been suggestions that the company may have to be closed for a period to allow urgently needed retooling of the more than 50-year-old alumina plant, which is said to be among the globe's most inefficient.

The Jamaican Government has said it is in discussions with JISCO in a bid to ensure the plant remains open even as modernisation takes place.


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