The road to prosperity: How much worse before it gets better?

By Norris Rowe

Monday, January 14, 2019

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“Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business.” — Vision 2030

The road to prosperity has been a long and bumpy ride since Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the launch of new road development projects across the country, in particular in Three Miles and on Constant Spring Road. These two projects are being undertaken along with the US$64-million Mandela Highway Realignment and Reconstruction Project that was originally slated for completion last month but was later extended to year end. The improvements are aimed at controlling traffic flow, installation of sewers, water and storm drainage systems, etc.

Over the past six to eight months our country has experienced serious development projects on the roads, especially in the Corporate Area. However, since the beginning of the roadworks we seem less and less closer to our prosperity goal as we have been suffering from the Government's premature plan of road infrastructural development. Frankly, it seems this was not thought through properly, and the necessary measures were not implemented to prevent the trials and frustrations encountered each day on our roads.

Travelling along sections of Constant Spring Road and intersecting roadways the traffic is unbearable, not to mention if there is a sudden burst of rainfall and the roadways become flooded in minutes. Where are the drainage systems? As a matter of fact, where are the measures put in place for cases like these?

In addition to this, residents in these areas continue to experience significant water problems for weeks on end. Businesses have also been affected negatively by these conditions. Case in point, telecommunications company FLOW has reported over $40 million in damages to its underground network ( The Gleaner, August 31, 2018): “According to Walter Brown, vice-president of technology, the frequency and scale of the ongoing damage is unprecedented and caused in the main by a lack of adequate notification from the National Works Agency, which would easily facilitate proactive measures to protect its network and minimise the impact on FLOW [and its customers].”

What slackness! Imagine investing millions, even billions, of dollars to develop a system to provide services to people, only to suffer the inconvenience of the loss of revenue — actual and potential — as well as loyal customers because of roadworks.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in a Jamaica Information Service news release, pleaded with us Jamaicans, after major criticism from the Opposition about the developments underway, to be understandable as well as remember the benefits once the work is completed. Minister Shaw further backed up the prime minister saying that while there will be some inconveniences during the project, motorists can expect at the end of the project an improvement in travel time along the corridors, and controlled intersections which are expected to eliminate conflict points. Must things get worse before they get better?

Travelling along these thoroughfares, people have been seen covering their mouths and nostrils as it sometimes becomes difficult to breathe because of the dust from excavations. Ironically, in my neck of the woods, the old, worn-out roads have been polished with tar, smooth as a baby's bottom, thanks to the Government, but just a few months afterwards the National Water Commission did a number on them under the claim to be fixing pipes and whatnot. It seems that we fix one problem only to create another. Where is the collaboration and decisive planning for these things?

Something must be done, and soon, because we cannot continue to waste money digging up the place without proper plans. Despite all the good that can come from the developments, such projects must be strategically planned to avoid clashes with agencies, public distress, loss of productivity, and other negative economic repercussions. Prosperity should come with order, as we run the risk of road-blocking our own future and prosperity.

Norris Rowe is stuck in traffic.

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