Give thanks for improved roads, but let's also deal with workers' complaints

Monday, June 04, 2018

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We are at one with Prime Minister Andrew Holness that improved roadways, such as the completed Barbican Square and the promise offered by other road projects now in progress, redound to the socio-economic benefit of the country.

Indeed, no one who has ever had to sit in stalled traffic in Kingston — “kissing teeth” in utter frustration as precious minutes roll away — could argue.

As explained by Mr Holness following a tour last week: “If 12,000 to 15,000 Jamaicans… sit in traffic for 30 minutes to get from home to their destination, you can calculate the loss of time, productivity, and build into that, the cost of energy that we waste.”

Allied to that, as the prime minister said, improved road networks will facilitate housing stock growth and new population centres.

We welcome news that new road networks will have built-in anti-crime capacity through technological aids, allowing authorities to better monitor motorists and other road users.

Note Mr Holness's promise that: “These areas will be monitored with the latest censors and cameras. We are not building roads to make it easier for criminals to do what they do; these roads are built to make it harder for criminals. We will be able to identify your licence plates, we will be able to identify you facially, we will be able to track you through these crossings.”

For too long Jamaican criminals have considered it relatively safe to move up and down in furtherance of evil. There will never be enough police personnel to physically man every street corner and intersection, but there will be no need for that if state-of-the-art technology is used appropriately and efficiently.

We agree that the cooperation of the public is crucial to smooth operations as the road networks are upgraded. But it seems to us that the authorities — not just by making laws, but by enforcing those laws — should ensure that there is public cooperation.

Here is where we part ways with the prime minister. He is reported to have said, “If people decide to park at intersections where there are stop lights, to impede traffic, then may as well we didn't make the investment in the new roadway. If people decide to cross the road wherever they feel like without using the appropriate areas designated for crossing, then may as well we didn't make the investment.”

It seems to us that in the same way modern technology is to be used to combat hardened criminals, so, too, it must be used to punish delinquent road users. People must know that if they breach road rules they will be caught and required to pay a hefty fine. That's the only way.

Lastly, this newspaper, like all well-thinking Jamaicans, is concerned about persistent complaints from workers on construction projects run by Chinese companies. Allegations that Jamaica's labour laws are being openly flouted and locals discriminated against are being made too often for comfort.

We are aware that miscommunication caused by language and cultural barriers may be contributing to the situation. Regardless, Government, through its relevant agencies, needs to move decisively to resolve these issues.

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