MONTEGO BAY, St James — St James Central Member of Parliament Lloyd B Smith has expressed disappointment over Government's $8-million allocation for the staging of the Jamaica 50 celebrations in the parish, while insisting the figure ought to be increased.
"I have no qualms about making my feelings publicly known because I am very unhappy with the situation," said the usually outspoken People's National Party (PNP) parliamentarian and deputy speaker of the House.
According to Smith, the current allocation is "a drop in the bucket".
"Montego Bay has contributed so much to Jamaica's political independence... Let us not forget that it was here in St James that the Sam Sharpe rebellion began which led to the ultimate emancipation of slavery. So I would have thought that a greater level of significance would have been placed on St James and on Montego Bay," complained Smith, who is commonly referred to as the 'Governor of Montego Bay'.
He argued that since the western resort city is Jamaica's tourism capital and as such a major earner of foreign exchange, Montegonians were expecting a greater sum of money from the Government.
President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Davon Crump agreed.
"While we are encouraging businesses in St James to play an active role and contribute towards the celebration of our 50th year of political independence, I think that the $8 million that is allocated for St James by the Government is grossly inadequate," he told the Observer West.
He, like Smith, said given Montego Bay's strong contribution to the country's economy, especially from the tourism sector, Government should consider reviewing the allocation for St James' celebrations.
"Let us not forget that a substantial amount of our country's earnings come from this region and the allocation of these funds seems to be allocated unfairly," he remarked.
Mayor of Montego Bay Glendon Harris said with the slashing of the allocation from the initial $10 million to $8 million, the city will now have to raise the additional capital needed to udertake the celebrations for which there is a $21-million budget. Sponsorship, he stressed, will have to be sought.
The national budget for Jamaica 50 celebrations was set to cost roughly $2.5 billion under the previous administration, led by the Jamaica Labour Party. However, budgetary constraints has forced the new administration of the PNP to reduce that figure to $688 million. Of that sum, the private sector has been targeted to provide $200 million in sponsorships.
Meanwhile, the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, in collaboration with the St James Parish Council, officially launched its celebration for 'Jamaica 50 - St James' last week. The launch, undertaken in line with the national theme: 'A Nation on a Mission', was held at the Old Hospital Park in Montego Bay.
During the colourful ceremony, which highlighted Jamaica's music, craft, traditional foods, dance and art, Harris who is also the chairman of the St James Parish Council, urged those in attendance to be patriotic.
"In Jamaica, our national heroes were patriots, not only for their display of dedication to our nation, but [also] because of the love they possessed for their country and the respect they had for life. We are the patriots of today," he said.
"We must continue to aspire towards attaining objectives that will strengthen our nation, so we, too, can compete internationally, effectively propelling Jamaica to higher heights," Harris added.
Custos of St James Ewen Corrodus also challenged Jamaicans to remain focused on nation building during the celebrations.
The activities scheduled for the parish include:
* an evening of excellence on July 8 at the historic Montego Bay Civic Centre;
* an exhibition and symposium, also at the Civic Centre, on July 23;
* an ecumenical service on the 28th of July at the St James Parish Church;
* a parish vigil on July 31, at Tulloch Castle; and
* Emancipation Fest on August 1 at Flagstaff as well as a Street Jamboree at Sam Sharpe Square, also on August 1.
August 2 to 6 will see the staging of Festival Village at Dump Up Beach and a flag raising, civic ceremony and Independence Gala at Sam Sharpe Square on August 6.