Dump privatisation team should complete work in 14 months

Thursday, August 16, 2018

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says the enterprise team charged with identifying an investor for the privatisation of the island's dumps should have its work completed within another 14 months.

“The truth is we want to get it right. These are very complex issues…the negotiations that go into this, the documentation, the research is significant; it's not something that you would want to shortcut because the cost to the Government of a failure of the divestment could be even greater than the divestment itself,” he stated.

The prime minister said while he has not had a formal meeting with the enterprise team he has been in constant dialogue with chairman Lyttleton Shirley, exchanges with chairman of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) Dennis Chung, and the portfolio minister.

He emphasised that Government had engaged world-class transaction advisors to ensure that the process has credibility and attracts investors of the highest standard.

“So, yes, there is no denying that the process is slow and frustratingly so, but I wish to assure Jamaicans that at the end of the process you will have a very robust solution,” he stated.

Milverton Reynolds, managing director of the Development Bank of Jamaica, told the Jamaica Observer that he was confident that at the end of the process, “we are going to end up with a divestment that is very successful”.

Said Reynolds: “The pace is deliberate. Where we have a challenge, and this is not new to this particular divestment, what takes up time and what causes the pace to be slow is to get the information that is necessary so that when you put out a request for proposal to an investor they have all the information that they need. If I am going to invest a $1 billion in a project I am going to need all the information that is necessary for me to make that decision,” he stated.

On Tuesday, chairman of the board of the NSWMA Dennis Chung told the Observer that he was frustrated with the pace of the privatisation process.

“The situation is that this process, between the last Administration and this Administration, has been going on for about six years and there is no reason why it should go on so long,” Chung stated. He said the enterprise team needed to indicate a timeline, as while the authority waits it is limited in the extent of its management of the operations of the island's dump.

According to a release issued by the board, until a timeline is given, the agency is “in a holding position”. The enterprise team was appointed in October 2016.

“The long-term solution is really the privatisation of the dumps and the NSWMA cannot do anything. For example, if we wanted to reallocate the dump or get rid of a lot of the things that are there, it's a very difficult decision to make because we can't make it without knowing what the divestment committee is going to do. We are talking about privatisation of not just the dump, but also the collection systems,” Chung said.

The issue of privatisation was brought back into focus following a recent spate of fires at the island's dumps, including a major blaze at the Riverton landfill in St Andrew, which affected the surrounding communities, and raised fresh concerns for residents and businesses in light of the April 2015 fire which blanketed the Corporate Area with toxic smoke for weeks.

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