No extra money

No extra money

Jamaica to reallocate funds for $2-billion-plus Zeta bill

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness last evening said money will have to be reallocated from each ministry to fund repairs of extensive damage to the country caused by heavy rains associated with the outer bands of Tropical Storm Zeta as there is no additional financial resources available for what is already a mammoth task.

“This is about reallocation and not additional funding, as we have already gone through the second supplementary estimates and, therefore, there is no additional funding for the Government's response. This is now about each ministry, each minister, each permanent secretary, going through their budget, line item by line item, to see what it is that we can reallocate, and this will be supervised by the Ministry of Finance,” Holness told Parliament yesterday.

“I recommend to all the ministers here to look in your budget very carefully to see what we can do in terms of reallocation to ensure that all Jamaicans who have been dislocated and severely impacted by these heavy rains, that there is some form of outreach to them,” he added.

The prime minister said that billions in funding is needed for the restoration of roads and drains damaged by the outer bands of Zeta, which battered sections of the island over the weekend.

Already preliminary estimates indicate that almost $2 billion is needed for the clearance of blocked thoroughfares, drain cleaning, restoration of access to several corridors, and patching, Holness told the House of Representatives following an assessment done by the National Works Agency (NWA).

He noted, at the same time, that this does not include the cost for permanent road repairs or major rehabilitation work.

Additionally, he said some 60 per cent of parochial roads and drain networks have been damaged by floodwaters, attracting an estimated cost of over $700 million.

Corridors within Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, Clarendon, and Manchester are among those most affected, Holness said.

“Based on the extent of the damage and cost, all the required works cannot be immediately done. Accordingly, the Government is proposing a programme of targeted interventions with a priority ranking,” the prime minister told Parliament.

He said the aim is to immediately clear blocked roads, clean heavily silted drains, and patch main thoroughfares, respectively.

The prime minister cautioned, however, that the resources needed to start the process are limited, announcing that the identified reallocations will be coupled with a mitigation programme, which takes place annually, to address the fallout from the heavy rains.

The cyclical mitigation programme — which usually coincides with the Christmas period and covers de-bushing and drain cleaning as well as the patching of roads across all 63 constituencies — will begin shortly, Holness announced, and will now lead into the Christmas period.

“So, at this time, we will budget to expend $1 billion to directly address damage due to rains, and this is to be used directly by the NWA according to areas of greatest national need and strategic importance to the productivity of the economy,” he said.

At the same time, Holness said an allocation of $1.5 million from the Housing Fund will be made to each Member of Parliament to assist with repairs to houses of constituents damaged as a result of Zeta.

“This is the start. As we go through and we decide on reallocation we may be able to do more, but this is so that the MPs are not flat-footed in the face of requests,” he said.

Each constituency will also receive $1.5 million from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, he said, for rehabilitation grants for “the neediest cases”.

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