McKenzie raps rural development plans
OPPOSITION spokesman on urban renewal, rural development and local government, Desmond McKenzie severely criticised the Government's rural and urban development plans for 2012/13, in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
According to the former mayor of Kingston, despite the fact that the city is "bursting at the seams", there are no programmes to develop rural communities to discourage the trek of rural youth to the city to seek jobs.
He said that stakeholders in the agricultural sector lack the capability, capacity and the financial resources to successfully develop and manage agri-businesses, and that there are gaps in the value chain, thus hindering efficient production and supply arrangements.
He added that while they have formed themselves into associations, they need increased technical support to help them succeed.
He noted that the funds normally allocated to rural development in the budget were decreased to accomodate funding for the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) projects which, he said, are not considered sustainable.
Turning to urban renewal, McKenzie said that there is an urgent need to address infrastructural problems, including roads, water, garbage collection and, most importantly, housing.
"Any planned urban renewal for downtown Kingston must include housing. The area cannot be properly developed without modern and adequate housing solutions for this excessive population," he said.
He warned against the commercialisation of residential communities which provide housing for many lower middle-class Jamaicans, and urged the Government to "put the country before politics" and table the Building Act, with provisions for no-build zones and compulsory evacuation from disaster prone areas.