Imani's ideal seat!

Duncan-Price to use global connections to lift Central Kingston


Sunday, June 09, 2019

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WHILE many persons will list their ties to a particular area as the main reason they want to serve as its political representative, Imani Duncan-Price claims no such ties to Central Kingston, even though her father, veteran politician Dr DK Duncan, was born on Cambridge Street in Franklyn Town.

Instead, a desire to serve people living in marginalised communities, nurtured from a young age by her parents, plus her academic studies, have pushed her to a constituency where she is convinced that she can do the most good.

“When I was about 22, I chose to do my thesis on how to reduce crime and violence in inner-city communities and I worked in Matthews Lane, Arnett Gardens, Tivoli, Jones Town, Waterhouse, Olympic Gardens and Craig Town.

“For about a year and a half I met church leaders, dons, young women, single mothers, fathers and a range of people. “When I went into these communities and I spoke to the people and realised what life was like for them and yet how they had a particular type of energy, creativity and resilience, I knew that Jamaica could not go forward unless we transform inner-city communities,” Duncan-Price told the Jamaica Observer.

The 1995 Miss Jamaica World winner said even before this first-hand knowledge of inner-city communities, her upbringing led her to believe that the way to improve the system for the people was through politics and the Kingston Central constituency provides the perfect opportunity.

According to Duncan-Price, some two years ago persons in Central Kingston reached out to her to be the People's National Party (PNP) representative in the constituency in the event that the Member of Parliament for the past 12 years, Ronald “Ronnie” Thwaites, decided not to contest the next general election.

“I actually went and got more familiar with the constituency, worked with one of the party's councillor candidates and I discovered the level of decay of the housing stock in the constituency. But having seen the destabilisation the PNP had gone through in 2015 with MPs being challenged, and my respect for Ronnie, I was not going to do anything to cause that.

“So, I stepped back but I continued to work and plan. In the meantime, I started pooling funds with friends abroad,” said Duncan-Price who is a Young Global Leader (YGL) with the World Economic Forum.

She noted that among her friends in the YGL are persons who work in micro-enterprise, social housing and development financing and they are attacking problems similar to those facing Central Kingston in other parts of the world.

“So we put together some funds into what we are calling the Central Kingston Small Business Development Fund which will be supporting micro-enterprise. These funds, and a team of young people, will be working to help these micro-enterprises become more structured and with a little more capital, so that it is not a hand-to-mouth business,” added Duncan-Price.

She said the Fund will target persons such as the carpenters and shoemakers who are already producing top-quality products in the constituency.

“My thing is about building on what already exists and expand it so that persons can hire more people, can train other people to become economically independent. That is one of the main planks I'm pushing, the economic independence of the people of Central Kingston,” said the mother of three, who returned to teach Mathematics at her alma mater, Campion College, while attending university.

The former Government Senator told the Sunday Observer that she is also working with The Joseph Assignment out of Chicago, which is a global humanitarian organisation that transforms the lives of the world's poorest children and their families through sustainable initiatives.

“The lady who runs it is from inner-city Chicago, and she understands the issue when you have housing of a certain type… but if you don't have economics to maintain the housing and education to have a certain level of understanding about self and responsibility, what will happen.”

She said Joseph Assignment has already committed to doing social housing in Central Kingston and this will be coupled with state agencies, to improve the decaying housing stock in the constituency.

“The current MP has done a lot and you can see his contribution to education and the number of children that he has helped to reach their goals. But many times when people move up like that they then move out of the constituency if they don't, the conditions and the business and the energy of the place moving up as well.

“My approach is to bring to the table global access to financing and people who can help us to do something. I also bring access to local resources … and with their ability, their resilience and their talent and us coming up with the right plans and ideas, we are going to find a way to make it happen,” said Duncan-Price.

Having unsuccessfully contested the 2016 General Election in St Andrew East Rural, Duncan-Price rubbished claims that she has run away from the constituency where she was beaten by the Jamaica Labour Party's Juliet Holness and is now searching for what many consider a safe PNP seat.

She said she was asked to contest the St Andrew seat just three months before the election, at a time when she had just had her third child while she was not yet ready to enter representational politics, she did because the PNP needed her.

“But St Andrew East Rural was not the profile of the constituency that I thought I would be best at in terms of my experiences and what I had learnt in school and in business as well. It was a good constituency and good people,” said Duncan-Price, who remained as chairman of the constituency for more than oneaShe later resigned to take up the post of chief of staff at the office of Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips and is under no illusion of the task she will face to retain the constituency for the PNP if she gets the nod of the delegates.

“This is not a safe seat because of the same things we spoke about. Notwithstanding, the work done in the constituency by Thwaites, the issue with the housing infrastructure and the fact that the Jamaican economy has not been able to embrace and enable many of the young people and older people in Central Kingston there is hopelessness.

“They are still at the core, internally, deep PNP, but they are vexed and upset … and the JLP is trying to make inroads. I believe we can rebuild Central Kingston to make it a safe seat, but I won't call it a safe seat now,” declared Duncan-Price.

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