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PM promises over 21,000 jobs in 2014/15

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 30, 2014    

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PRIME Minister Portia Simpson Miller said yesterday that her Government will create some 21,000 jobs during 2014/15.

The prime minister, who was speaking in the Budget Debate in the House of Representatives, explained that close to 80 per cent of the jobs will be created under the Government's minimum wage emergency works scheme, the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), and its rural food production-boosting agro parks development programme.

Simpson Miller explained the job numbers as follows: JEEP to employ 12,000; over 5,000 to be employed on the Agro Parks projects; 2,000 direct and indirect jobs generated by the scrap metal trade; and 2,000 more spaces for Jamaicans on the overseas employment programmes in the United States and Canada.

However, the employment figures given by the prime minister are likely to raise some questions, as they did not add up to new jobs.

The Government had originally stated that some US$5 million (J$5 billion) of the US$353 million (J$35.3 billion) which will be spent on the three-year Major Investment Development Programme would be allocated to JEEP this financial year. Minister of transport, works and housing Dr Omar Davies told the contract-signing ceremony at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston on March 18 that the first round of the new phase of JEEP, under a project involving the 63 members of parliament (MPs) each being allocated $10 million, or a total of $630 million, which began in March, would employ a total of 12,000 people.

Yesterday also, the prime minister did not refer to any other JEEP project planned for 2014/15, raising some concerns about whether the entire $5 billion, originally announced for the programme this year, will actually be spent.

It was also obvious that the 5,000 agro parks jobs include the 225 farmers and 839 labourers already employed to the seven parks in operation. Minister of agriculture Roger Clarke told the House of Representatives last week that the other two agro parks, which will complete the total nine parks envisaged under the programme, will be implemented this financial year.

It is unlikely that the additional 2,000 jobs expected from overseas employment programme will be clarified until minister of labour and social security Derrick Kellier speaks in the sectoral debate on June 10. But the prime minister said that, based on information from the labour liaison service covering Canada and the United States, the total will be increased from 14,000 last year to 16,000 this year.

Clarification of the 2,000 direct and indirect jobs under the scrap metal trade is not expected either until minister of industry, investment and commerce Anthony Hylton speaks on May 21.

However, Simpson Miller said that the Government was aware that it would not be able to create all the jobs that the nation needs.

"We, however, accept that that we have the responsibility to create the enabling business environment in which the private sector can create jobs," she said.

She stated that it is for that reason that the Government has been "working, working, working to assist in bringing investors to Jamaica".

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