Monday 21 October, 2019

Bartlett orders review of costs associated with Montego Bay sign

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett

After public backlash over the price tag of the project to restore the 'Welcome to Montego Bay' sign in the resort city, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has ordered a full review of the costs associated with the budgeted amount for the exercise.

Bartlett in a news release Wednesday said the the review, which will be conducted by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, is in line with what he said was the ministry and its agencies' "committment to full transparency".

The project to restore the 'Welcome to Montego Bay' sign, to be situated outside the Sangster International Airport roundabout, has been criticised by a wide cross-section of Jamaicans over its seemingly hefty $17 million estimated cost.

Opposition Spokesman on Tourism, Dr Wykeham McNeill described the development as “questionable expenditure” at a time when, he said, tough wage negotiations with the public sector workers are still in progress and there are urgent needs in education, health and national security.

In justifying the cost of the new 'Welcome to Montego Bay' marker, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), which is responsible for the project, said it will be "an attraction of first world proportion", and not merely a sign. It said, among the features of the sign, is a digital component where letters will be illuminated and are changeable to match the seasons.

Bartlett added that private sector interests in Montego Bay, including some members of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have committed support for the building of the new sign and attraction and will provide financial support amounting to $5million for its execution.

“What this means is that we (Government) will not stand the full cost of executing this critical showpiece for the hub of our tourism activities," Bartlett said.

Among the private sector members who will provide financial support is prominent businessman, John Byles.

“We believe that this welcome sign will be a significant addition to the allure and prestige of the city of Montego Bay," Byles said, adding "The city represents the heartbeat of tourism and deserves a monument that will be fitting for our guests and locals and as such we are more than willing to help mitigate the costs to erect it.”

In the meantime, Bartlett reiterated that the new sign is expected to be an attraction for the millions of visitors as well as locals who traverse that busy thoroughfare. The development, he said, also falls within the extension of the Eastern Gateway Project, which is a series of beautification works running west from Greenwood to the Sangster International Airport roundabout.

"As I have indicated before, this is more than simply a sign, this will be a conversation piece for years to come,” Bartlett said.

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