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UDC gets gov’t funds to retain staff

Published:Tuesday | October 13, 2020 | 12:11 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

With significant revenue streams from several attractions it owns now at a trickle owing to the severe impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) has had to seek financial support from the Government to keep its more than 1,000 employees on the job.

UDC Chairman Ransford Braham said the state-owned company was faced with a stark choice as to whether it would lay off staff or seek help from the Government, although the value of the top up was not disclosed.

The UDC owns several attractions such as Dunn’s River Falls and Park, Green Grotto Caves and Attractions, Ocho Rios Bay Beach and Reach Falls.

Financial Secretary Darlene Morrison told members of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee last week that several self-financing public bodies are being impacted by the slow recovery of the tourism sector and their performance might present further risks to the Government.

She said that the revenue-generating capacity of the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ), the UDC and the Port Authority of Jamaica are being impacted relative to previous years owing to the effects of COVID-19 on the tourism sector.

Priority projects

The UDC says it will manage and execute a number of priority projects during the current financial year such as the Government Campus and Houses of Parliament as well as the Port Royal Master Plan development.

An informed government source told The Gleaner that ground will be broken for the new Parliament building early next year.

Earlier this year, the UDC indicated that it would continue to coordinate the planning of a modern Parliament building for the Government.

In March last year, the Evan Williams-led team of architects from the architectural firm Design Collaborative was declared the overwhelming choice for the state-of the-art complex to replace Gordon House as the country’s meeting place for the Houses of Parliament. The company won with the design dubbed ‘Out of Many, One People’.

The UDC had projected a surplus of $281.69 million for the current fiscal year, prior to the onset of COVID-19. It is not known what the new projections are for the financial year.