'I am well aware of the IMF constraints'

But Gov't must pay attention to growth while passing tests, says Patterson

BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-large, South-Central Bureau myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — He insists that he is not discounting the necessity of passing performance tests set by multilateral lender of last resort, the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

However, former Prime Minister PJ Patterson is urging the Government to make sure that even as it meets IMF requirements, that appropriate attention is paid to growth and development.

"I am more than well aware of IMF constraints," Patterson, who as prime minister guided Jamaica out of a borrowing arrangement with the IMF in the 1990s, told his audience at the opening of a sports tourism centre in Treasure Beach, south St Elizabeth on Sunday.

However, he said, the Portia Simpson Miller-led government should ensure that passing such tests facilitate growth and development rather than the other way around.

"In the whole plan of development you have to make priorities and you have to understand, everybody has to understand, passing of the test is one thing but getting growth and development must be the main objectiove," said Patterson, a former long serving president of the ruling People's National Party (PNP).

According to Patterson, "without growth and development the economy is going to stagnate and we are not going to provide the jobs which are necessary for the people to be able to earn for themselves, rather than depend purely on social programmes which put the MP under constant pressure."

His comments came against the backdrop of strong and consistent criticism during the function in Treasure Beach of the main access road to the quaint fishing village which is now a thriving centre of south coast tourism.

Several speakers spoke of the difficulty in driving to the seaside community because of the rain-scoured and badly potholed Lacovia/ Burnt Savannah/ Mountainside/Watchwell road which is the main access from the centre of St Elizabeth including Santa Cruz -- the commercial centre of the parish.

Minister of Transportation and Works Dr Omar Davies, who has ministerial responsibility for roads, responded to the several jibes by saying that while he will "look at the situation", tight expenditure management mandated by the IMF programme made it very difficult.

"I will say to you that I will look at the situation, but the reality is that the IMF programme is not a joke business, it is a reality," Dr Davies said.

"I am not a politician, not a minister who makes promises and then disappears," Dr Davies added.

He suggested that if South West St Elizabeth Member of Parliament (MP) Hugh Buchanan, who has been making consistent representation for rehabilitation of the road, could get his parliamentary "colleagues" to "come to me with a priority then we can work together in that regard".

Patterson, who was the keynote speaker at the Treasure Beach function, told his audience that roads were key to national development. Further, he said, the sports tourism centre at Treasure Beach -- which is named in honour of the late Cabinet minister and former MP for SW St Elizabeth, Donald Buchanan -- would not achieve its potential as a major revenue earner if the access roads were not fixed.

"Let me say it and say it very plainly, I understand that the minister (Davies) is not one that goes out and makes announcements and then nothing happens. But I want to say in all seriousness... the development of Jamaica and the development of so many other countries depend on the development of infrastructure which includes water, it includes electricity but very central to all of this is roads," said Patterson.

"I will be blunt; this centre will never be able to achieve its maximum benefit in the absence of at least one decent access road for it," Patterson said.

The Government, which has so far passed five successive tests under the IMF programme, has been criticised for not paying enough to growth and development strategies as it attempts a delicate balancing act to rehabilitate and restructure a dysfunctional economy with the help of the IMF. On the other hand, it has also received glowing praise from the IMF leadership for fixity of purpose in achieving the targets.

The Donald Buchanan Sports Tourism Centre, which was officially opened on Sunday, cost $38 million and constitutes Phase Four of the development of the Treasure Beach Sports Park. The park is now recognised as one of Jamaica's leading sports facilities.

The new 7,000-square-ft building includes changing rooms, bathrooms, training rooms, an emergency medical room, a commercial kitchen, bar and spectator pavilions at top and bottom floors. The centre is named in honour of Buchanan because of his pioneering work as MP and Cabinet minister in locating land for the Treasure Beach Sports Park and handing it over for development on a 50 year lease to the local community organisation BREDS Foundation.

Major sponsors for phase four of the project (Donald Buchanan Sports Tourism Centre) included Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), Digicel Foundation, CHASE Fund, Grace Kennedy, Gatorade.

Hotelier Jason Henzell, who heads the BREDS Foundation says $90 million has been raised thus far from public and private sources in the development of the four phases of the sports park since inception four years ago. The park now includes cricket facilities said to be at internationally accepted standards for warm-up as well as regional first-class cricket; a football field; a pavilion (smaller than the one just built); courts for tennis, netball, basketball and volleyball; a children's play area; a challenge (obstacle) course for team building named after former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell; an irrigation system powered by solar energy.

Henzell says a fifth phase of the sports park project will constitute a modern athletics running track to be built on land to the east of the current facility, which includes two acres bought with $4.5 million donated by Cubie Seegobin, manager of track stars Yohan Blake and Warren Weir.


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