PRIME Minister Andrew Holness is urging private sector interests not to shelve construction projects because of the economic downturn brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at yesterday’s handover ceremony by the National Housing Trust (NHT), through developer SilverSun Homes Limited, of more than 200 detached two-bedroom units to beneficiaries at SilverSun Estate in Innswood, St Catherine, the prime minister, while acknowledging that the construction industry was hard-hit by the COVID-19 containment measures, said the Government was strategic in putting that sector back on track.
“That was the first industry we mobilised, and so far I am seeing that people are returning to full productive capacity. We are seeing a slight uptick in the demand for hardware supplies; we are watching what will happen with demand for cement.
“I am using this platform to encourage all our construction partners that if you have a project that you have decided not to proceed with, I would urge you that now is the time to proceed with your projects.
“The private sector, you have projects you may be considering shelving, now is not the time for it. Recessions are self-fulfilling prophecies; they happen if you decide that you are not going to invest; they won’t happen if you decide to invest, so let us not allow the recession to happen,” he noted.
Holness said, while the cut in revenues and growth technically pointed to a recession, “it doesn’t have to be a long-lasting recession if we, as private individuals, in making our investment decisions, make the decision now to invest”.
“Now is the time to invest for us to swiftly recover and stronger than ever,” he added.
In the meantime, NHT board Chair Lennox Channer, speaking at the event, said while COVID-19 has impacted the entity’s delivery schedule, it nevertheless remained steadfast in its mission to provide Jamaicans with houses.
And Peter Melhado, chairman of West Indies Home Contractors (WIHCON) Limited, majority owner of SilverSun Homes Limited, said despite the direct effects of COVID-19, which led to the shuttering of the site for three weeks, as well as the other indirect but very powerful consequences of the pandemic, particularly on the company’s supply chain and labour force, it had managed to deliver.
“This has truly been a Herculean effort by the site team along with the supporting cast of professionals, which at times felt impossible as the cascade of COVID-19-associated disruptions seemed to have no end. I stand here, very proud of our company, in presenting you with this first phase,” he said, noting that employment had been provided for more than 300 people.
Melhado, who said particular effort was made to adjust to the new norm created by the pandemic and in implementing measures to ensure the safety of workers, said none of the workers had contracted the virus.
This, he said, was, in his view, a strong indicator “that economic activity and health security are not at odds once the necessary care is taken”.
“I really have to applaud the Government in being clear and consistent in their communication, and allowing companies such as ours, who were working under challenging circumstances, to always know the lay of the land and just know that we have to adapt to that protocol,” he stated.
The first batch of 200 units forms part of the 1,200 detached and duplex two-bedroom units to be constructed under the Guaranteed Purchase Programme. SilverSun Estate is approximately 3.9 km north-east of Spanish Town, five km west of the town centre, and in close proximity to the Bellevue Heights housing development on St Johns Road.
The community, upon completion, will carry a playing field, a multi-purpose court, a clubhouse, parking facilities, a basic school, a community pool, a guardhouse, and grocery shops, and will be fenced.
A total of 3,324 applications were received for the 200 units.