JO - $248M WASTE. Chinese unhappy that Sligoville sports complex lying idle.
Chinese unhappy that Sligoville sports complex lying idle
BY INGRID BROWN Sunday Observer staff reporter
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Nine months after the Chinese Government handed over a multi-purpose sports complex in Sligoville, St Catherine to the St Catherine East-Central constituency of former minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, K D Knight, the company that built the facility has drawn the conclusion that Beijing has squandered the $248-million (US$3-million) it poured into the project.
"We don't see anybody using it, and so we feel like it has been a waste of money," said Ming He of the Shanxi Construction Engineering (Group) Corp.
The multi-purpose sports complex in Sligoville, St Catherine.
Ming He said the centre has been completed since June last year and the company has been paying for his team to stay in Jamaica for the one-year warranty on the project.
However, to date he has seen only a handful of Jamaicans use the complex instead of the large numbers projected. He lamented the fact that his time to leave Jamaica could come to an end without him seeing the facility being fully utilised.
The massive structure, way up in the hilly terrain of Sligoville, consists of a 600-seat basketball and netball court with lighting facilities and fences. It also has a 1,200-seat cricket oval, a 1,500-seat football field and a six-lane 400-metre track circling the football field. A police station and a post office were also built as part of that project.
When the Sunday Observer visited the deserted complex last week, the football and cricket pitches were badly in need of landscaping. Rain water had also collected in small puddles on some of the seats in the stands.
Ming He said he was not sure who was to maintain the grounds, as that was not part of his responsibility. "Someone used to cut it (grass) but they said they not getting paid and so I don't see anyone come back," he said.
In early 2003, Knight, in his capacity as a Government minister, had approached the Chinese Government with the idea of building the sports complex using a Chinese grant.
Three years ago, the Opposition Leader Bruce Golding brought a motion to Parliament to have the project transferred from the Estimates of Expenditure of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to the Office of the Prime Minister, which had responsibility for sports.
He questioned then whether the project had anything to do with the constituency.
"If you could, tell us what business does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have with sports facilities," said Golding. "All multi-national lateral corporations come through the Ministry of Finance, but they do not end up in their head of estimates. But if that is so, that is a corruption of the budget process."
On Friday, Knight admitted to the Sunday Observer that the complex has not been used as was intended, but said this was expected to change now that a new board has been appointed to take over its maintenance, security and use.
"It would have been wonderful if we had been able to utilise it totally before, but that was not possible," he said. "Now we will have some great plans for it."
Asked to respond to the suggestion that the facility had become a white elephant, Knight said, "I have already dealt with that. You can't move it. It is there, and that milk is spilt if you think so."
He said that although the complex was not used as it should, it was not costing taxpayers any money. "We will not allow it to be in need of any money from the budget and we don't want any budget money to run it, maintain it, and use it to the fullest capacity," he said.
Some residents of Sligoville believe the money used to build such a massive complex could have been better spent to help them.
"If Mr Knight wanted his name on a landmark, then it is better if he had built it in Bog Walk or so where neighbouring communities would have been able to come and use it at a cost when they want to," said one resident who gave his name only as 'Jack'.
"Right now, it better him did use it to open up a skills training area or so if him really wanted to build something in this area. But we have this massive stadium and nothing nah gwaan fi the area," said 'Robert', another resident.
At the ground-breaking ceremony for the facility in March 2006, Knight told guests that a number of benefits would follow, once the complex was established.
"There will be the improvement of the water supply system in Sligoville and its environs, because we have earmarked $21 million to help in that improvement," he said, adding that $78,000 would be spent for supplying water to the complex.The new water system would involve the erection of a water storage tank, and a piping system for irrigation around the football field and cricket oval.
Knight also spoke of plans for the renovation of the Sligoville Great House, the construction of a retirement village and the development of sports and eco-tourism in Sligoville.
On Friday, Ming He told the Sunday Observer that he was not sure what was happening with the Great House renovation project.
The renovation of a great house on lands adjoining the complex, which was negotiated as a second project to be completed by the Chinese has also stalled.
Ming He explained that a group of Chinese architects came in January to look at the structure. However, they left after being unable to get the technical plans for what was required.
"They had plans for a one storey building but the Jamaican Government said it must be done as a Georgian style building, but they have not provided the Chinese with the technical information so they left," he said.
The fate of the four pump stations, which were to be renovated as part of the Great House project, is also not known.