Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, who recently embarked on a three-parish tour of Western Jamaica (January 19 to 21), says the Government is fully committed to improving working and living conditions in rural Jamaica.
The Minister, accompanied by ministry and local officials, toured sections of St. James, Hanover and Westmoreland. He reiterated the point that rural development is critical to nation-building. He pointed out that there are communities that are badly in need of attention and that for decades had fallen under the radar.
Minister McKenzie also stressed that the Ministry sees the need for increased focus on rural development as a non-partisan approach, noting that this was not about politics but is being done in the interest of Jamaica and Jamaicans.
“Since I became Minister of Local Government, I have never engaged or have allowed politics to influence the decisions we have taken. Once we see the need then that’s where our focus has been. We can see this with the work we have done with our
infirmaries, our markets and other aspects of our rural development programme. We are on a drive to assist our rural communities and to improve the lives of the people,” Minister McKenzie said.
One community visited by the Minister was Chambers Pen, Hanover, where he promised that infrastructure improvement and other programmes will be carried out under the Ministry’s Rural Development Project.
The Minister, who last year spoke of the Government’s commitment to a multimillion-dollar educational and other infrastructure development projects in the community, said a tender process is finally about to take place, which should see work commencing in another four to six weeks.
“Coming up here I really felt a sense of urgency, as I could see for myself the challenges that this community faces,” Minister McKenzie tells JIS News. “It was plain to see the neglect… not one… not two… not three…but decades of neglect. As part of the
Government’s thrust of rural development, we have chosen Chambers Pen and will ensure that we provide all that we have committed to providing.”
The commitment the Minister speaks of includes extensive repairs and renovation of the Chambers Pen Primary and Infant School, and the Chambers Pen Basic School.
Minister McKenzie says in addition to the work to be carried out at both schools, there will also be other infrastructural development, which would include teaming up with several agencies.
“Rural electrification through the Jamaica Social Investment Fund [JSIF] has come in and identifies a number of households where they will be rewiring approximately 150 houses in the community to get them on to the Jamaica Public Service grid,” the Minister further points out.
“They are also going to put in four indigent housing solutions in the community; those solutions will be provided to residents after an assessment is carried out by the Poor Relief Department.”
The Minister was, however, quick to add that while he understands that residents might be a little impatient and would want to see the work starting immediately, “there is a process that must be followed”.
“The tenders are out for the contracts for over $89 million for the repairs, building of new roadways and bridges. Rural water has also put out a tender for some $45 million to put in a new water system in the community, with a part of that programme being that each household that is identified in the project will be supplied with a 1,000-gallon black water tank,” Minister McKenzie further points out.
He also notes that a community meeting has been arranged with the Social Development Commission (SDC) Parish Manager, Tova Trench Anderson; Member of Parliament for Western Hanover, Tamika Davis, and Mayor of Lucea Councillor, Sheridan Samuels, where residents will be sensitised “as to how far we are with the projects”. Click here for full story