Business leaders say road upgrading will boost productivity

Friday, July 20, 2018

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THERE is consensus among several business leaders that road improvements — completed or being carried out across sections of Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine and other areas — will serve to boost workforce productivity by significantly reducing travel time.

Their views are consistent with those expressed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during a recent tour of several legacy road projects being implemented under the Government's Major Infrastructure Development Programme (MIDP).

“If 12,000 to 15,000 Jamaicans… sit in traffic for 30 minutes to get from home to their destinations, you can calculate the loss of time and productivity, and build into that the cost of energy that we waste. Therefore, we believe that this investment (in road improvements) will make our labour force far more productive,” the prime minister said.

President of the Jamaica Employers' Federation (JEF) David Wan told JIS News that there are many benefits to be derived from upgrading the roadways, pointing out that “for each person, it may save them 15 or 20 minutes (travelling) each way to work and back home every day”.

Additionally, he said the purveyors of goods and services, such as taxi operators, also stand to benefit, noting that “if they can carry more passengers on any given day because the roads are clearer, they will earn more money”.

Coupled with road improvements, Wan contended, is the need to further improve public transportation, particularly the operations of the State-run Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC).

He said that not only is it imperative to ensure timelier scheduling of buses dispatched, but also the units' operational efficiency.

According to Wan, one obvious consideration would be converting the buses to use liquefied natural gas (LNG) or some other more efficient and more cost-effective option. “This [would] have a big impact on just how efficient the bus service can be,” the JEF president argued.

While acknowledging the attendant costs for this and other considerations, Wan believes that if the Government is able to identify and secure funding over the medium to long term, and does not have to resort to short-term measures that would be a strain on the budget, the outcome would be very positive.

Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters' Association (JMEA) President Metry Seaga, who noted that the magnitude of roadworks currently being undertaken has not been experienced “for a long time”, said “it's something that we badly need”.

He said that while the volume of motor vehicles on the roads has been growing, development of the supporting infrastructure to accommodate these had not kept pace with the increase.

Seaga said that effecting change, as is the case with road improvements, is “never easy”, adding that people will, at times, be inconvenienced.

“But it (road improvement) is necessary… and we have to be courteous to each other and try and just get through it,” he added.

Seaga said in addition to upgrading the roadways, there is need for motorists, especially bus and taxi operators, to improve the manner in which they drive.

He also suggested that people consider carpooling in order to reduce the volume of vehicles on the roads daily.

“We [also] need to have the public transportation service better suited for everyone to travel. If we do those things, I think we will be in good stead,” he told JIS News.

Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) President Hugh Johnson describes the extensive road-improvement projects as a “welcome and necessary move” by the Government to ensure timely commuting.

He also welcomed the strategic placement of police officers along major roadways and intersections, which, he believes, is facilitating significantly improved traffic flow in those areas.

Johnson said this intervention can be employed to good effect in other areas plagued by congestion where there is no police presence.

Former Jamaica Chamber of Commerce President Warren McDonald also welcomed the roadworks, noting “tremendous improvements” along the recently upgraded Barbican Road in St Andrew.

He anticipates similar outcomes when work is completed on Constant Spring Road and Hagley Park Road in St Andrew.

“The time spent commuting, I think, is taking a toll on productivity and output… and there is definitely a need for the reduction of time spent on the roads,” said McDonald.

He also suggested that people give consideration to carpooling as part of measures to reduce congestion.

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