BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-large South/Central Bureau email@example.com
SPALDING, Clarendon — Phase one of the new market in Spalding is now complete and grateful vendors moved in last week.
However, a verbal spat is now on between the ruling People's National Party (PNP) and the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) as to which of them did the most work on the project.
At the formal opening of the facility last Wednesday, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, without calling any names, made it clear she thought the JLP had erred by bringing the market project to a halt after winning the 2007 election.
"I don't believe that if there is a good project and there is a change of government that the project should stop. It is about the people, not about a party..." said Simpson Miller. "The market is for the people and it should never have been stopped because there is a change of government," the prime minister added.
She hailed current Member of Parliament for North West Clarendon Richard Azan for "working tirelessly" to ensure a "resumption of work" following last December's elections, which the PNP won, and added that she would not preside over a government that was unfair as a result of partisan politics.
"I am prime minister for all Jamaica... no matter what party they support..." she said.
However, when contacted by telephone, Michael Stern, who defeated Azan to take the North West Clarendon seat in 2007 and who lost to the same man last December, had a different story.
He insisted that he raised "23, almost 24 million" dollars from the Urban Development Corporation, the Prime Minister's Office and the Constituency Development Fund to do most of the "substantial" work on the market building "over three-and-a-half years" during his tenure as MP.
"What they are opening is the result of my effort and they did not even have the courtesy to invite me to the opening... it's a shame and disgrace," an angry Stern said.
Stern conceded that Azan and the pre-2007 PNP Government started the new market after the previous dilapidated structure was condemned and finally knocked down. But he claimed that when he took office in 2007 only the excavation work had been done and the foundations of the new building laid.
Stern said he found only $3.5 million available to continue work on phase one and it was for that reason he had to go seeking funds eventually amounting to "nearly $24 million to do most of the building you see there now".
The figures quoted by Stern differed significantly from those given by Azan, who told Jamaica Observer Central last Wednesday that at the time of the election in 2007, "there was $18 million left to continue phase one. The money was from Lift Up Jamaica. The funding was there to complete at least phase one ... I cannot say what happened after the election of 2007, why the project was closed and everything came to a stop".
Stern claimed a delay in 2011 to put in windows and doors and pave the area around the market building - at a cost of $5 million made available through the Clarendon Parish Council -- was not the fault of the then JLP Government. He claimed others involved in the project "dragged their feet" until after last December's election.
"The day after the PNP won the election (last December), the work started," alleged Stern.
When contacted by telephone on Saturday, Azan said the facts "were well known" and that the people of Spalding would make their own judgements.
"The people are the judge, I am not in any quarrel with anybody," he said.
The completed section includes accommodation for vendors of farm produce and haberdashery items, as well as office space for a poor relief office, a tax collection centre and modern bathroom facilities. A paved area on the outside will accommodate parking as well as shops for apparel vendors.
Officials at last Wednesday ceremony, including Azan and chairman of the Clarendon parish council Scean Barnswell, insisted that there is now no reason for vendors to be on the streets and sidewalks of Spalding.
"There is no excuse, everyone should be in the market," said Azan.
Simpson Miller told those at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that the second phase involving the second floor of the building will cost about $30 million and will include a food court, haberdashery and shops for sale or lease. Azan later told Observer Central that the money will be sourced from the Jamaica Social Investment Fund.