PRIME Minister Portia Simpson Miller says that without community renewal Jamaica cannot be successful and prosperous.
In a message read by Local Government and Community Development Minister Noel Arscott, at a stakeholder consultation forum towards the implementation of Phase one of the Community Renewal Programme (CRP) on Wednesday at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, Simpson Miller pointed out that there can be no successful renewal unless and until there are improved feelings of safety and well-being across communities.
"Reducing crime and violence and strengthening the justice system will enable safe communities. Safer communities mean better environment to educate our children, nurture our talent and do business. Safer environment also provides the context to grow our economy, create more job opportunities, all leading to greater community development," the prime minister said.
The CRP is an intervention project targeting 100 of the most vulnerable and volatile communities in Jamaica, distributed across the five most crime-affected parishes — Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine, Clarendon and St James.
Its aim is to provide a platform for the coordination and improvement of service delivery to the communities, in a bid to enhance social transformation, strengthen governance, and reduce crime and violence.
The programme will be implemented in three phases and communities scheduled to participate in Phase One are 'Central Downtown', Delacree Park, Denham Town, Fletcher's Land, Franklin Town, Greater Allman Town, Greenwich Town, Hannah Town, Jones Town, Majesty Gardens, Parade Gardens, Rae Town, Rose Gardens, Seaview Gardens, Springfield Gardens, Tivoli Gardens and Trench Town.
Simpson Miller emphasised that community renewal is about Government and community making decisions jointly. "That is a way to guarantee involvement that generates ideas and discussion. It is a technique to better understand stumbling blocks to renewal. Joint decision-making is a way by which we encourage citizen empowerment," she said.
She has, in the meantime, urged stakeholders to have realistic expectations of the problems faced by the communities.
"We can take any of the 19 communities represented here today and you will find a common set of problems. We have targeted all these problems for intervention. And one purpose of this consultation is to refine strategy," the prime minister said.
She noted that although policies are in place, "we are yet to completely fix problems of job-creation and learning opportunities".
The prime minister said that a fuller response to improving educational opportunities and skills training will depend on a stronger economic status and all stakeholders have a role to play in this, pointing out that the priority must be on providing opportunities for young people.
"Solutions will come about through collective effort, and through joined up Government agencies, working together to provide better service to all communities," Simpson Miller said.
Member of Parliament for West Kingston Desmond McKenzie, who represented Opposition Leader Andrew Holness at the function, said the concept of the CRP arose out of an incident in the constituency three years ago and offered his personal endorsement.
He noted that it has to be the collective responsibility of all the stakeholders, regardless of their political persuasion, religious belief or where they are from, to support the programme and make it succeed.
"I want to commit myself to this process, because at the end of the day we are going to create a Jamaica that our grandchildren and their children will be able to call home," McKenzie said.
The first phase of the CRP began with a pilot in Majesty Gardens.