December 4, 2013
Developers, planning and design professionals, other members of the private sector and government regulators have until mid February 2014 to submit a comprehensive recommendation on how to simplify the country’s development application approval process.
The move comes out of a joint Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change and the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development stakeholders' consultation to discuss the Development Application Approval Process (DAAP) in Jamaica.
Speaking at the consultation which was held at the National Environment and Planning Agency’s (NEPA) head office in Kingston on 3 December, Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill admitted that previous efforts to reduce the cumbersome, inefficiency and red tape in the development approval system have not been effective.
"I must admit the interventions have not gone far enough and the agreed tinkering has not been followed-through; hence, the tendency and practice to revert to bottlenecks and inefficiencies. The thinking is that if the government and the regulators could find a way of reducing decision time (bureaucracy) as to whether to approve or not, the economy would experience an additional 3-6 per cent growth in GDP," said Minister Pickersgill.
He further noted, "Let me make it absolutely clear this morning that the Government that I am proud to be a part of, is not going to tolerate or continue with the bureaucracy and the accompanying disincentive to growth in an economy that is struggling and with IMF restrictions and conditionalities. Jamaica does not need the imprimatur of the multilateral organizations to fix the DAAP and we must do so."
As a means of moving forward, John Junor, Chairman of the Natural Resources Conservation and the Town and Country Planning Authorities proposed for the formation of a committee, with representatives from the various stakeholder groups, charged with critically reviewing the current DAAP with a view of significantly improving the process.
"At the end of it we must have a proposal for a development flow process that we can all sign off on," he said.
The committee will be chaired by Peter Knight, Chief Executive Officer/Government Town Planner of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and will comprise representatives from the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development; the Construction Industry Council, the Incorporated Masterbuilders Association of Jamaica; the Jamaica Developers Association of Jamaica; the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica; the Jamaica Association of Local Government Authorities, the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (as the largest local planning authority), and from the professional groups.
The formation of the committee was one of a number of recommendations made by the stakeholder group to improve the DAAP.
Other recommendations included: making NEPA the central authority to review and assess development proposals; implementing a two-tier approval process where large projects – tier 1 and small projects – tier 2 would undergo different processes for approval thereby, eliminating the circuitous routing of applications between NEPA and the Local Authorities; getting the National Spatial Plan completed; completing additional Development Orders to ensure that more of the island is covered, and registering and licensing professionals.
Ainsley Henry, Director of Applications Management at NEPA said the meeting was important as it allowed the stakeholders to be heard, their issues to be aired and recommendations for change proposed. It was also important to have the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development involved as they are critical in developing and refining a master plan for the DAAP.
"It's not about band-aids anymore; it’s about looking at the process flow, identifying where duplications are and eliminating those duplications with a view to streamlining the process," said Mr. Henry.
Carvel Stewart, President of the Incorporated Masterbuilders Association of Jamaica said that the meeting was important and underscored the importance of dialogue in addressing the concerns of those affected by the development approval process.