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BIG INFRASTRUCTURE - SIGNATURE OF SUCCESS

Updated: Sep 26, 2021

When I travel, one thing I find most fascinating is observing big infrastructures. I especially love to see big infrastructure in a metropolitan city, aerially, as the plane “touch dung”. It is amazing and breathtaking to see thickly populated and towering skyscrapers piercing the skyline forming a nucleus, and surrounded by large meandering bodies of water by the city, massive intersections of overpasses and highways, gigantic cranes, large ships in the harbour, and multiple power transmission towers disappearing out of view as you drive through the city.

Dr. DF pointing at the NYC Skyline


By “big infrastructure”, I am referring to infrastructure that attracts a large amount of public attention because of substantial impacts on communities, the natural and built environment (Wikipedia). Some notable examples include the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (tallest building in the world) and the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, a country widely regarded as having the best infrastructure in the world.


Burj Khalia in Dubai


These big Infrastructure projects are a signature of a country’s wealth and developmental status.


From ancient times, nations have utilized big infrastructure to demonstrate social and economic development. The existence of big infrastructure is directly correlated to the classification of a country that is, developed versus developing (i.e. level of industrialization and etc.). My extensive travels across the Americas revealed this significant disparity in infrastructure development from country to country. For example, the United States Of America, (USA) a developed country, is one of the richest countries in the world and this is evident by its many big infrastructures, seen everywhere throughout the country. The USA has a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $56,267 and its GDP is $21.34 trillion. Haiti on the other hand, is a developing country. It is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, as reflected by its below standard infrastructure. Haiti has a per capita GDP of $723 and its GDP is $8.347 trillion (www.worldpopulationreview.com). These are only two examples of how big infrastructure and economic wealth helps to determine the quality of life and the standard of living of the population of a country.

The Great Pyramid at Giza


History of Big Infrastructure


Before the 17th century, one of the first big infrastructure projects consisted of mainly roads, which were merely dirt tracks and trails. It is said that the first roads were constructed before 4,000 BCE. The Romans thereafter developed engineering practices that resulted in the construction of durable roads. The Arab Empire further improved road construction by using tar to construct more sophisticated roads. Close to 2,600 BC large monumental structures called pyramids, were constructed by the Egyptians and utilized as a royal burial place. In Europe, during the Middle Ages (1000 – 1453) massive castles were built as highly fortified fortresses, used for protective purposes. There were also less fortified palaces utilized for the homes of head of states and royalties. Many castles and palaces were accessible by well-constructed stone bridges placed over moats.


After the 1700s, seaports were constructed as major trading centers, many of these ports had large towering light houses, that were used for navigation and communication. Many large cities had aqueducts that transported water for consumption and recreation. Sewer and drainage systems were developed in many towns and cities to enhance public health. By the 1800s, transportation was improved by the use of locomotive railways and then automobiles. Underground infrastructure was constructed that facilitated the expansion of the subways and railway systems. This was followed by the development of telegraph and telephone systems, which enhance connectivity and communication. By the 1890s electricity was developed, this facilitated the boom in mechanization and big infrastructure, termed the “industrial revolution”. This was later followed by the information and telecommunications revolution where computers, cellular phones, microwaves, satellites and cables dominated our lives (https://en.wikipedia.org).

The Great China Wall


Economic Wealth


Every individual, firm or country, strives to create economic wealth. The term economic wealth is not well understood by many. When a person, firm or country creates scarce and valuable resources they are creating wealth (www.investopedia.com). These assets are both tangible and intangible. It is argued that wealth is created by three major factors (www.minneapolisfed.org). These factors include the following:


1. The capacity to own personal properties – private property rights encourage ownership which interns drive the economy;

2. An economy that is market-driven – a market driven economy in a political stable country fosters greater trade and entrepreneurship;

3. Infrastructure that supports life – every country should invest in support infrastructure that provide important amenities for its people, such as food, clean water, education, security and healthcare.


Some of us are not privy to the privilege of being able to choose where we want live and work. Just in the last month this was made evident by the perils experienced by the people of Afghanistan and Haiti. The devastating images of thousands of Afghans storming the Kabul Airport, in Afghanistan, to secure refuge to the USA, is an illustration of this. In the process, over two hundred (200) of them were killed by suicide bombers. In Haiti, a massive earthquake magnitude 7.2, recently killed over two thousand (2000) Haitians, this was caused in part by poor building infrastructure across the country. In a developing country like Jamaica, there remains significant opportunities for further development through investments in big infrastructure.


Proposed Naggo Head Technology Park, Portmore


Dr. DF Suggestions


The following are a number of large-scale infrastructure projects that should be implemented to improve economic growth and job creation for Jamaicans:


1. Urban Centres


Many rural towns in Jamaica were established hundreds of years ago as fishing, shipping or trading centres. Overtime, many of these towns have become unstructured, dysfunctional, over populated and congested. The Government of Jamaica, (GOJ) should implement a rural town renewal program through the development of Urban Centres. It should utilize Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), similar to the model in Canada, in the form of Joint Venture Agreements (JVAs), to identify lands, funds and expertise to execute these Urban Centres. A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) between developers, financers and the GOJ should be responsible for constructing and operating these Urban Centers. The Urban Centres will function as a ‘one stop shop’ or Integrated Business Centres, IBC, which includes the amalgamation of synergistic public and private sector services in one gated complex. The Urban Centres will have parks, jogging trails, courts, parish councils, fine dining, restaurants, tax administration, banks, etc.


2. Tech Parks


The merger of telecommunication and information systems, have created seamless connectivity between global markets, and have allowed businesses to deliver their services across all time zones and continents online. Jamaica liberalized its telecommunication sector in 1999 and has reaped significant spillover benefits. Today, over 44,000 workers are now employed by 87 operators in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry. To meet the demand for BPO services, the GOJ intends to construct over 1 million square feet of new BPO spaces over the next five 5 years. The Technology Parks are being financed by the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) with private capital, loans and JVAs. The largest Technology Park will be approximately 810,000 square feet and it will be constructed in Naggo Head, Portmore. This Technology Park will be on 34 acres of land, and will also have restaurants, a day care center, gym, room and boarding.


3. Agro Parks


Many developing countries depend on the agriculture industry to feed its people and to drive exports. Jamaica is no different. The GOJ should develop policies that create more efficient linkages between the farm gate and strategically located Agro Parks. The Agro Parks should be developed through JVAs between GOJ, businesses, farmers and financial institutions. The Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) established will have responsibility for the building and management of the Agro Parks. The Agro Parks will be purpose design and built to make them valid economic centers, they will include shops for retail outlets to include bars, restaurants, financial services, automated banking (ATMs), farm stores for selling of agriculture equipment and materials, farmers market, agro-processing factories for producing value added products and warehouses for packaging and exporting of agriculture products.


Highway 2000 Jamaica


4. Multimodal Transport


The production capacity of Jamaica is tied to its ability to efficiently transport its visitors, workforce, goods and services. The GOJ should upgrade roads leading to farming communities, mining zones, tourist attractions, hotels and rural towns and air and sea ports to enhance trading and movement of tourism. The GOJ should construct bypasses to popularly-known tourists attractions in areas such as; Montego Bay, Lucea and Port Antonio, and construct city overpass, from Upper St. Andrew to downtown Kingston and expand the existing highway systems from Clarendon to Negril and Harbour View to Port Antonio. The GOJ should also construct cross country highways from Manchester to St. Ann and From St. Andrew to St. Mary. In addition, redevelopment of the railway system from Montego Bay to Kingston, with linkages to major tourist destinations and upgrading airports at Vernon Field and Reynolds Mine and ports in Port Royal, Kingston, Port Antonio, Falmouth Cruise, Ocho Rios. Kaiser, Rhoades and Montego Bay could also be possible beneficial ways to foster multimodal transportation.


5. Renewables and Power Grid


The quality of life of Jamaicans has been significantly impacted by the cost of electricity. The average cost of electricity worldwide is US$0.136 cent per kilowatts. In Jamaica, it is US$0.297cent per kilowatts (www.globalpetrolprices.com). The GOJ should ensure the diversification of Jamaica’s generation capacity, by facilitating further private investments in Liquid Natural Gas (LNG), hydro plants, wind generators and photovoltaic systems. The GOJ should remove the monopoly enjoyed by Jamaica Public Service (JPS), to allow greater competition in the power utility industry. The high electricity rates are also caused by high technical losses and generation efficiency. The GOJ should penalize JPS for all breaches and mandate that they upgrade the generation, transmission and distribution grids. The GOJ should provide tax incentives to businesses and residents that import and install renewable systems.


Beautiful hotel in Jamaica


6. Hotels and Villas


Jamaica’s tourism product is made unique by its people, culture, beautiful attractions, sports, food and music. The GOJ should pursue a policy to expose the travel and tourism industry to every Jamaican. It should raise taxes from the industry and utilize it to upgrade support infrastructures (roads, public amenities, attractions, etc.). It should include more support from private investments on underutilized lands in all parishes owned by the GOJ. The GOJ should also invest in training institutions, to train hospitality workers, residents and the general public. The GOJ should also provide low interest loans for residents to upgrade their homes, which will function as part of developing community tourism. It should develop a community tourism protocol to train and certify all residents participating in the community tourism industry, which will, in turn, improve service standards and quality. The GOJ should develop complementary linkages between the cruise ship, all-inclusive hotels, and the community tourism operators to increase stop-over visits.


7. Houses and Apartments


A home represents the place where our families live and grow; and it also provides for the stability and security required for our families to flourish into outstanding citizens. The GOJ has the ability to drive infrastructure development, because it owns the majority of the land in Jamaica. It should develop policies that guide building codes, land distribution, number of homes that are constructed and the type of low interest loans that are provided to support home ownership. It should construct support infrastructure and social amenities on rural lands, to trigger the development of affordable housing close to rural towns. Additionally, GOJ should ensure that houses are constructed with renewable and water harvesting systems. The GOJ and private businesses should build more high-rise apartments to increase the stock of low-income homes available and to maximize the use of scarce lands. They should develop funding arrangements that help workers afford homes, while on the other hand, workers should save deposits and transaction fees required to secure a home.

Proposed Boundbrook Urban Center, Portland


Conclusion


The rich Nation States, with tremendous wealth in their economy, human, technological and material resources will continue to create big infrastructure to enhance the quality and standard of living of their citizens. An aerial view of a first world metropolitan city provides for one of the best representations of big infrastructures that are aligned to economic wealth.


Poorer developing Nation States, like Jamaica, should not be disheartened. The country should instead create PPPs using JVAs to secure financial resources and engineering expertise to facilitate the development of big infrastructures, such as Urban Centers, Tech Parks, Agro Parks, Multimodal Transport, etc.


Jamaica is blessed with so many resources! It should continue to maximize economic earnings from its indigenous resources such as ‘sun, sand and sea’. It should also leverage its competitive advantages created by the heart of its people, cultural and historical legacies and yes, its impact on the world using sports, art, music and its diverse culture.


ABBREVIATIONS

ATM – Automated Teller Machine

FCJ – Factories Corporation of Jamaica

GOJ – Government of Jamaica

HAJ – Housing Agency of Jamaica

JVA – Joint Venture Agreement

LNG – Liquefied Natural Gas

NHT – National Housing Trust

NWA – National Works Agency

NWC – National Water Commission

PAJ – Port Authority of Jamaica

PPP – Public-Private Partnerships

RADA – Rural Agriculture Development Authority

HEART – Human Employment and Resource Training


REFERENCES


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7 Comments


Very so nice places in the country and the world 🌏

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brandianedmond1
brandianedmond1
Oct 20, 2021

A huge characteristic of BIG INFRASTRUCTURE is the contribution they make to the high level economic objectives of a country. They also help countries to build expertise, thus, making them better world leaders. Great suggestions 👏🏾👏🏾and another good read !!!

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Definitely love this vision for JAMAICA! We however need to invest in the education and resocialization of Jamaicans in its entirety. BIG INFRASTRUCTURE without the BIG HUMAN CAPITAL equipped enough to occupy these spaces and help build these spaces; would be a waste and not beneficial to the average Jamaican.

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The changes that are definitely needed 🙏. Would love to see Jamaica flourish embracing all mentioned above as well as sustainable infrastructure and opportunities for the arts. This was a great read.

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terr camp
terr camp
Oct 10, 2021

BIG INFRASTRUCTURE, bring it on! Jamaica is geographically and culturally poised for this Dr. Don. I was just about to ask you about renewables but I see you thought of everything! I hope the GOJ heeds your consult. Another great read. BIG UP!

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