PM calls for an end to discourse that seeks to discredit the private sector

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness is insisting that arguments aimed at villainizing the private sector should be rejected, noting that collaboration between the Government and such stakeholders is vital to economic development. 

“This argument that seeks to villainize the private sector should be dismissed, and anyone who tries to make it seem that the private sector is the enemy,” said Holness. 

He was addressing Wednesday’s contract signing of a public-private partnership (PPP) between the National Water Commission (NWC) and Rio Cobre Water Limited for the construction of a new water plant in Content, St Catherine. 

The plant, which is expected to be the second largest in Jamaica, will be able to transfer 15 million gallons of water to benefit approximately 150,000 customers. The project is valued at US$77 million.

According to Holness, the NWC, by itself, could not do all of the water projects required, and therefore, private sector interests were important. 

“As a people, we can’t move forward unless we have a strong and innovative entrepreneurial private sector that will come and work with the Government to create the public goods that we all benefit from,” he indicated.

However, he admitted that there were many risks in PPPs, and acknowledged that the profit motive was always “a strong motive” in such alliances. 

But Holness said his Administration has developed a “very robust public-private partnership policy, acknowledged as one of the best in the region”. 

Through that policy, “dead assets” have been brought to life by the Government, according to the prime minister.

“You can look at our port… The investment in the capacity of the port is increasing. You can look at our airport; significant investments are being done at our airports,” said Holness in using those as examples. 

“So, the Government has been very strategic and successful in partnering with the private sector and attracting private capital to develop critical public infrastructure…

“We have successfully used PPPs to develop, as I said, our seaports, airports, but we have also used it to develop our highways…, and power generation, and now water…,” Holness explained. 

In recent times, criticisms have been leveled against private sector involvement with the present Holness-led Administration. 

As recent as August this year, Member of Parliament (MP) for South West Clarendon, Lothian Cousins, accused the private sector of “propping up” the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government and neglecting the poor.

According to Cousins, the then reduction of chicken prices by $12.50 was “another three-card trick”.

“It’s another way of trying to propping (prop) up the Government, and you have to understand that the private sector will always support the Government that is going to support them,” suggested the Opposition parliamentarian.

“… And they will never support the People’s National Party (PNP). They have never supported us that way, and they will never support us that way because we are the party for the people!” Cousins argued then.

Opposition leader Mark Golding, in what was perceived to be an attempt to distance himself from Cousin’s comments, said the PNP continues to attract and welcome “enlightened private sector interests”, to build a progressive alliance geared towards uplifting disadvantaged Jamaicans.

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