As the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) strolls towards its divestment goal, Chairman Dennis Chung has revealed that the country could be losing out on billions of dollars in potential investment.
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In fact, speaking at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum last week, Chung said that if the Government manages to sign off on a divestment deal, it would automatically save the country roughly $7 billion annually.
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“Right now, we talk about funding the NSWMA, plus other things we have to do. If it’s privatised, we no longer need to worry about finding all that money for our operations. Instead, we would become the regulatory agency, which was the original intent of the NSWMA Act,” he told Gleaner editors and reporters.
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Chung said the agency receives at least one call per month from interested parties willing to take the waste-management operations off the Government’s hands, but he argued that a massive setback was the seeming lack of progress from an enterprise team managing the Government’s waste-to-energy programme as well as to contracting out solid-waste management. The team is also overseeing the divestment of the Riverton City landfill.
The NSWMA chairman pointed out that the issues pertaining to the protracted divestment effort pre-dated his appointment and that it continues to disturb him, given that neither the current nor previous administration has demonstrated the capacity to wrap up the process.
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“I went there in 2015 when Noel Arscott was the [local government] minister. The divestment process actually started before I arrived at the NSWMA, so it’s about six years now the thing going on and cyaan go nowhere. So my frustration is not just with this administration now, but even before,” Chung said.
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“This committee that’s in place has been there now two years looking at the issue, and we have had over 40 expressions of interest. Indeed, one man alone wants to invest over US$1 billion in privatising the thing. This was from 2015, and we still cannot get going?” he asked.
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Health hazard The protracted process, the chairman said, is also delaying the opportunity of an efficient disposal site in the country. He argued that if the divestment efforts fizz out, it could further cause serious health issues for communities surrounding the Riverton City landfill in St Andrew “and I think with this one, we keep dodging the bullet
“But I am dissatisfied that the process has been taking this long, especially when you have so many people and corporations showing the level of interest that they have,” he said
The Riverton City disposal site, the Retirement landfill in St James, the Church Corner site in St Thomas, and Haddon in St Ann – along with the three other disposal sites across the country – form part of the divestment push
Figures show that the world generates approximately 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste annually.
Also speaking at the forum, NSWMA Executive Director Audley Gordon disclosed that a group of Canadians recently expressed an interest to meet with him to explore prospects for divestment
Gordon added that he, too, was worried about the time it is taking the enterprise team – of which he is a part – to come up with solutions
“We have so many people showing interest that I fear that any inaction could be a turn-off, and in that process, we will end up losing billions and the public will be left with what we currently have, which is a dump site that needs the kind of capital injection and know-how that these investors would bring,” he said
In 2016, Prime Minister Andrew Holness named the nine-member enterprise team led by Littleton ‘Tanny’ Shirley to oversee the divestment.
Several attempts by The Gleaner to reach Shirley for a response were unsuccessful