Former SJMC chairman hails LED as a success story

Western News

Former SJMC chairman hails LED as a success story

Observer West reporter

Thursday, September 17, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James - FORMER Mayor of Montego Bay Homer Davis says one of the success stories during his helm at the St James Municipal Corporation (SJMC) has been the establishment of the Local Economic Development (LED) programme, which has so far disbursed over $25 million in grants to start or expand businesses by operators who are at the lower rung of the economic ladder.

“This programme is the brainchild of this administration and so far we have spent over $25 million for the past three years to assist persons in our various divisions to do start-up business or to assist in businesses that they have already started. I can say this, it has been reaching those persons who we intend to reach— those persons who are at the lower scale of the economic ladder,” said Davis.

Speaking during his final sitting at the regular monthly general meeting of the SJMC last week, Davis, who was elected as Member of Parliament for St James Southern in the September 3 General Election, and is now the state minister for local government and rural development, noted that the funds to finance the LED has come from revenue generated by the municipality, and is made available of all divisions.

“These are funds that own source... funding that we have earned through our prudent management of the St James Municipal Corporation. The first year it was $250,000 (per division), the second year it was $500,000 per division, the third year that we are now in, it was $500,000 but because of this COVID we were able to increase it to an additional $300,000 to make it $800,000,” said Davis.

“I must commend all of us who have been a part of that process and if I am to speak, it is a part of the success story that we have in this administration as a municipal corporation.”

According to LED officer, Dr Joan Dove, the beneficiaries of the programme are not selected on a partisan basis.

“It is without any sense of politics involved at all. For example, one of the key things that was done is that every single councillor, including the mayor, got the same amount. So everybody is on the same level playing field,” Dr Dove told the Jamaica Observer West.

“The programme has been a tremendous success, we have reached the very poor persons. We have persons in the programme that are having challenges—mental challenges, physical challenges— and without the programme I don't know where they might be.”

Practical nurse Vinette Hill of John's Hall, one of the LED recipients, who told the Observer West that her ultimate goal is to operate a haberdashery store, said the proceeds from the selling of items she bought through the programme have allowed her to finance her children's education, including a son who recently graduated from university.

“It has helped me financially to go forward with being more independent financially. For instance, it has helped me with my children in school because when I got the first one [grant] my son was still in university and I did not take a students' loan, but the help that I got, when I sell, could be able to pay my little partner, so I could pay tuition fee and all of that. So, it has helped me a lot,” Hill said, adding that she sells haberdashery items and clothes.

For Torney Cooper, another beneficiary, who resides in Mount Salem, the LED has been working wonders for her. She uses her grant to purchase fire coal which she supplies to cook shop operators in her community. She revealed that before she became a beneficiary, she sold small portions of fire coal, but since them, the grant has allowed her to expand the business.

“It has served me well because me can turn it over and pay me bills and me can eat something,” she said.

Dr Dove explained that the programme is intended to make people become independent.

“It mostly helps those who do not normally get any help from a credit union because they have no collateral, they have nothing that a regular institution takes to help them. Most of these people live hand- to-mouth. Now, this is a programme to lift those at that level up so that they don't become dependent on Government. One of the things that it is supposed to do is cut out people coming [at the StJMC] begging money and keep coming back. So, it helps them to start a business, whatever it is they can do, based on the educational level,” Dr Dove said.

“The fact that they don't get the cheque in their names adds to the auditing of the goods because we have our internal auditor who goes through the accounts to verify that everything is legitimate.”

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