$1-b damage response

$1-b damage response

PM allocates funds for emergency road repairs, clean-up

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says $1 billion has been allocated to commence emergency road repairs and clean-up activities across the island, following an extended period of heavy rainfall which caused extensive damage in several communities over the last three weeks.

Holness made the announcement in Parliament last evening, noting that $15 million will, through the National Works Agency (NWA), be distributed to Members of Parliament (MPs) as part of the cyclical mitigation programme which usually coincides with the Christmas period and covers debushing and drain cleaning as well as the patching of roads across all 63 constituencies.

The prime minister said priority should be given to the patching of thoroughfares, as motorists continue to reel from the effects of damage to road surfaces.

With strict instructions, Holness said the money is to be spent in “very specific ways”, outlining that a minimum of $7 million must be spent on patching, while $4 million can be spent on debushing, $2 million for beautification purposes, and $2 million for drain cleaning.

Sums from the latter categories can be reallocated to the patching of roads, he pointed out.

“We see their [motorists'] difficulty, and it is for this reason we have taken the decision to make funds available at both the national level and the constituency level to each Member of Parliament to start the process of rehabilitation of some of the worst road conditions across the island,” Holness told the House.

He said while the disbursement might not be enough to carry out extensive rehabilitation work, it will be able to carry out works that are “desperately required”.

“We see the difficulty of road users at this time, and that is why we're now responding,” the prime minister said.

“The allocations that we have made, the $7 million from the $15 million for patching, has to be used very strategically. The Government does not have separate resources to allocate to Members of Parliament to patch roads of their choice. So, it is one pie, it is one set of roads. So we all have to collaborate,” he cautioned.

He said had the decision been left up to the NWA, which is not politically aligned, the entity would have employed a strategy based on the growth of the economy in determining which roads to repair.

“So you would be looking at which roads carry the most capacity and it would be those roads that you would want to focus most of your resources,” Holness stated.

He said the programme was therefore designed to benefit citizens in badly affected communities, though those corridors may not carry the greater volume of traffic.

“So the Government has taken a balanced approach. The residents in Mile Gully in North Western Manchester will also benefit. To be fair, the residents don't bring the pressure on the NWA; they bring the pressure on the MP, and it is the MP that has to at least have some capacity to respond,” he said.

“So the idea is not for us to waste resources or give it to the MPs to do as they wish, but through a process of collaboration let's look at the roads that are needed to support our economic development and support the movement of traffic. But also, let's look at the roads that cause severe inconvenience to local communities,” he said, adding the MPs and councillors are in the best position to address these issues.


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