Ferguson appeals to Diaspora for St Thomas support

Ferguson appeals to Diaspora for St Thomas support

Sunday, November 03, 2019

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Member of Parliament for St Thomas Eastern Dr Fenton Ferguson has challenged members of the alumni association of the Morant Bay High School to lead the march to achieve further development in that section of eastern Jamaica.

Dr Ferguson was delivering the keynote address at a dinner put on by the Morant Bay High School Alumni Association Atlanta Chapter in Atlanta, Georgia, recently.

Morant Bay High is based in St Thomas Eastern.

The veteran parliamentarian told members of the association that they could “spark a light” in St Thomas as a whole, that could, in his estimation, serve as a “micro blueprint” for action that leads to sustainable development in Jamaica.

“In truth, notwithstanding the draft diaspora policy framework being formulated, the Eight Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference was concluded in June of this year, with no cohesive offering, vision or platform for successful collaboration between Jamaica and the diaspora. At the same time, I hasten to suggest that it would not be an overreach to believe that the Atlanta Morant Bay High Alumni Association will, by its initiatives, make the breakthrough to substantial planning, in-depth coordination and lasting progress,” Dr Ferguson stated.

He listed nine areas among the issues that he thinks have “bedeviled” Jamaica's advancement along the road of development:

(1) Lack of targeted capital investment in depressed rural areas;

(2) Crime and poverty;

(3) A debilitating brain-drain;

(4) Transformation of our education system to meet the demands of the new world economy;

(5) A destructive absence of proper values and attitudes;

(6) Rampant corruption and bureaucratic inertia;

(7) The absence of a new deal for agriculture and food security;

(8) Stratified inequality in the Jamaican society; and

(9) Equitable and accessible health care for the people.

“I submit that elements of all these issues are to be found in St Thomas, and the question is, how can you help? How do we move forward?” asked Dr Ferguson, who is also Opposition spokesman on water, climate change and the environment.

“Having been holding the light for St Thomas Eastern as Member of Parliament for over 26 years, it has not been easy, but I have tried in my own way to right these wrongs.”

Regarding possible solutions, Dr Ferguson listed the lack of capital investment as one of the chief bugbears

“The need for the ventilation and capitalisation of depressed rural areas is critical. This ventilation process relates to, proper urban regional planning which demystifies and opens up closed communities dominated by local strong men and an enduring informal economy. In this regard we should promote the establishment of government offices, financial institutions, recreational areas and plazas supported with strong security presence complemented with time and motion studies.

“On this very issue of capitalisation and ventilation, it is with welcoming arms that we embrace the St Thomas leg of the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project. While the advocacy for it has been long it is now closer to reality, opening up the parish for commercial development and job creation: specifically, in the areas of tourism, agriculture, housing and new tech companies. This overall project will cost US$384 million dollars broken out as follows:

(1) US$188 million, from May Pen to Williamsfield

(2) US$110 million, four lanes from Harbour View to Albion

(3) US$74 million, two lanes from Albion to Port Antonio

(4) US$12 million, two lanes from Morant Bay roundabout to Cedar Valley

“The recent ground-breaking of the five-billion-dollar investment plan for the development of the Morant Bay Urban Centre at Goodyear provides a unique opportunity for the people of St Thomas and by extension the diaspora,” he said, adding that the project presents real opportunities in the creation of an enterprise zone with proper infrastructure to harness the abundant human capital.

“Over 600 new jobs will be created over time. The members of the diaspora can participate in investing in the greenfield economic zone of St Thomas and help with the enrichment of the parish.”

Regarding the issue of poverty, Dr Ferguson said that despite the efforts of some to reduce it, St Thomas remains one of Jamaica's poorest parishes, one he said was “armed with bits of social inequities” that have the potential to breed violence.

“The evil spawn of violence we have eluded for many years but, as the country moved deeper and deeper into poverty it becomes even more inevitable and so the positive engagement of our youth is key to staving off this monster and maintaining the almost pristine status of the parish,” the dental surgeon suggested.

He called for the floating of a Diaspora Bond, issued by the Government of Jamaica which would be targeted to financial institutions, local and international and Jamaicans at home and abroad.

“This, coupled with a new community reinvestment act of Jamaica requiring the involvement of the financial sector, could harness the true potential of our resilient people and lead to sustainable growth,” Dr Ferguson said.

“But the breaking of the back of poverty lies within the empowerment of the small man.

“By the establishment of groundbreaking financial initiatives geared towards eliminating collateral as an obstacle and the energising of the SMEs and micro sector, poverty can be positively tackled.

“The use of a contingency fund to indemnified loans is critical. This will finally allow for small and micro practitioners with good ideas and products to access adequate funding despite the existing collateral strictures of the financial system,” Dr Ferguson stated.

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