TOLL GATE, Clarendon —Moving to dispel rumours that the country is being overtaken by Chinese interests, Prime Minister Andrew Holness says Jamaica’s debt to China is miniscule in comparison to what the country owes other nations and international agencies.
“I want to take this opportunity to dispel the quite unfortunate perception that is carried by some with interest that somehow Jamaica is being overrun by Chinese interest. It may shock you to know that even with this loan from China, Jamaica’s debt to China is approximately 4.5 per cent of our total debt,” he said on Thursday while addressing the opening ceremony of the May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000.
“Yes, what we owe to China is minuscule relative to what we owe to the rest of the world and international agencies,” added Holness.
He said Jamaica is willing to partner with other nations towards its development.
“Unlike those who would want to create a false impression about Jamaica and our international development relationship with China, it is false. Jamaica has taken a strategic approach to develop its infrastructure and we partner with those who want to help us and we are willing to partner with all countries in the world that come genuinely to assist our development,” said Holness.
“We are ensuring that when we partner with these countries. Jamaica gets the benefit. There is no Jamaican who can say this road is not beneficial to them,” he added.
He said the naysayers have created “falsehoods”.
“But the only way to deal with falsehood is to tell the truth about them, shed light on them,” he said.
“Again to dispel this quite unfortunate and narrow-minded perspective of countries and their development partnerships. We are not engaged in an exploitative or abusive relationship development partnership with our Chinese counterparts, it is a mutual beneficial and respective relationship,” added Holness.
He said Jamaica lacks enough skilled-workers and engineers.
“It is not that the project is structured to employ non-Jamaican engineers, if we had them we would employ them. We do not have enough engineers…” said Holness.
“Our education must move to STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — it is an imperative if Jamaica’s infrastructure development is to continue and be indigenously driven by local talents and skills,” added Holness.
He said 603 of the 754 workers who were employed on the highway project are Jamaicans.
Holness also reiterated the need for there to be focus on positivity and growth happening in the country.
“There are those who find it hard to accept that things are changing because they have been so vested in a negative outlook. We can only confront them with the facts. I am not here saying to you that everything is glorious, but everything is not bad in Jamaica. There is a lot of good going on in Jamaica and we must accentuate the positive things that are happening in our country,” he said.
“All who nuh like it, you have to listen to it. We have experienced nine consecutive quarters of economic growth since the pandemic,” added Holness.