PM raps narrative that ‘nothing is happening’ in Jamaica
PRIME Minister Andrew Holness has criticised what he describes as the narrative being spread that nothing is happening in Jamaica.
“There is an argument going around, a narrative that nothing is happening in the country, and that everything is as it was before. But, my job is to point out to you in such a way as to remove your resistance to good news, or resistance to change. My friends, things have changed,” he told the audience at Friday’s launch of the Port Royal Pipeline Replacement Project in Port Royal.
He said there has been talk that a lot of things are still the way they were, and that a lot of things that need to be changed have not yet changed. But he insisted that “things are changing”.
“We are able today to finance infrastructure development, not from deferred expenditure but from our own budget. We are able to finance your needs — the water needs — not by going to the IMF, or the World Bank, or bilateral, or other kinds of banks. We are able to finance our projects from our own budget — and that is a massive, massive change,” Holness argued.
He said that previously the Government would have been required to spend upwards of 60 per cent of every dollar that it earned from revenue in order to pay debts so as to carry out these projects.
“Now we are spending just about 30 per cent of every dollar we earn to repay debt. Isn’t that a profound and fundamental change in our country?” he asked.
The prime minister also noted that the installation of the new water main in Port Royal will improve the quality of life for people who live in that area. He pointed out that the last major infrastructure development water project developed in the eastern end of the island brought water from St Thomas into the Corporate Area through the Yallahs Pipeline Project. The project was commissioned into service in February 1986, with an initial carrying capacity of 16.4 million imperial gallons per day.
The pipeline takes water from the Yallahs and Negro Rivers to the Mona Reservoir in Kingston, but suffered severe damage during the passage of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and had to undergo extensive repair and reinforcement works afterwards. However, the $75-million project was completed and the NWC was able to put the 19-mile supply line back into operation on December 19, 2012.
“I come to this office, therefore, seized of the importance of building out infrastructure. If we do not build infrastructure we won’t be able to properly provide for housing and commercial development. In a few months there will be no complaints about water; and in the budget for next year we will be able to focus on doing some revetment works along the coastline to protect the land from weather events, should one occur. Then, we will be able to build more social housing,” Holness promised.
He pointed out that he had also taken notice of the complaints from the people of Port Royal about the condition of their houses, and so the following year the Government will seek to complete the roads, put in drains, “and in the following years there will be improvements to schools and all other social institutions, which are matters already possible, or in train, to be dealt with”.
“So, instead of saying that nothing not going on, change your attitude and say: ‘Some good is going to come. Let me take advantage of the good that is happening and prepare for the good to come,’ ” Holness urged his audience.
He promised that housing is going to get better for the residents of the former home of sea-bound pirates; the sewage issue has already been improved and the area is going to get better drains.
“We have invested already in a new cruise [ship] pier and [are] putting in facilities for cruising shipping, so this community is set for prosperity,” Holness contended.
However, he warned that when prosperity comes it is not going to “drop like manna from heaven” wherein the residents won’t have to do anything to get it.
“You have to go and work for it. So, we have said we are giving you the opportunity to go to HEART/NSTA and get a skill — you don’t have to pay for it — so that you can all have a skill to participate in this new and improved Jamaica,” he said.
“Too often it is the outlook that we take that prevents us from embracing change. Everything that I have said here is fact — but it is also a fact that your mindset may not be at the point where you are ready to embrace the change. My job is to point it out to you, and to bring you along, and to help you understand that the change is coming,” he said.