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(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – Government minister Mike Henry says phased construction of the Jamaica-Gansu Industrial Park, the island’s first Special Economic Zone (SEZ), should start next January.
According to Henry, the Government is currently looking at the “dual impact” of the industrial park, which is being spearheaded by Chinese firm, Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCO), and which is already operating the Alpart bauxite/alumina plant at Nain, St Elizabeth.
Henry, the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth ad Job Creation, told the House of Representatives last Wednesday, during the sectoral debate, that JISCO is streamlining the development of the industrial park, which is to be included in US$6 billion in total investments locally, inclusive of bauxite-related expansion and development, and will be integrated significantly with the Vernamfield Aerotropolis development in Clarendon.
“The two collective projects are poised to transform central Jamaica in a manner that is unprecedented and, today, after a recent trip to China at the invitation of JISCO, which included updating and participation in the project planning and design and implementation process among other stakeholder groupings, I have really good news to report to the country,” he said.
According to Henry, based on the discussions he held, he could inform the House that the project’s timetable is on schedule, with even some aspects being ahead of schedule.
“So we are looking good towards realising the globally focused industrial park and special economic zone within the (three) years immediately ahead,” he stated.
He said that, having signed the framework agreement in February, approval has already been granted by the Chinese central government. In addition, the creation of an equity investment fund to finance the venture is scheduled for October.
Ground breaking for the industrial park is scheduled for December. The phased construction is planned for two to eight years, and construction is scheduled to start in January, with the timing to be confirmed by September, at a conference to be held in Dunghuang, China.
“With a projected overall investment of US$6 billion, inclusive of expansion works at JISCO, there is no question of the scale, the developmental scope and the economic imperatives of this project which has one central word — prosperity — ringing all around it,” he said.
“From a commitment in the not-too-distant-past, to a hard strategic and purposeful work in the present, it is on to prosperity in the near future,” he added.
The industrial park is expected to focus on fabrication, processing and assembly for export. It will also introduce high-end industries and fabrication enterprises.
He said that with JISCO’s core project of establishing a new alumina plant, with supporting infrastructure, like new power plants, expansion of Port Kaiser with an liquified natural gas facility, plus rail rehabilitation and expansion, US$3 billion is earmarked to support the infrastructure.
The buildout of the SEZ will see additional investment of US$3 billion in the Jamaican economy, and the creation of an additional 3,475 direct jobs and over 30,000 indirect jobs in the medium term.
“The Chinese clearly have an awful lot to offer us in terms of our search for broader national development, and we are embracing this support and looking forward to much more in the future,” he said.