Vaz vows to complete stalled power projects
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport Daryl Vaz has given a commitment to complete projects, some stalled for years, that were supposed to provide a reliable supply of electricity to a number of communities in St James. It is a problem, he noted, that persists in other parts of the country as well.
“As I said before, unless a project is completed, it has no value. I think what has happened is that projects have reached several different points but just [for] whatever reason — coordination or whatever else, funding — it hasn’t been concluded,” he told journalists.
Vaz stressed that the work paid for by taxpayers has been undermined by a failure to complete projects.
“There is substantial infrastructure that has been put in place in some areas, substantial monies have been spent and the bottom line is that there is no benefit to the constituents and, by extension, the taxpayers; so this is a priority,” he said.
He was speaking last Friday following a tour of several communities in the western parish. His comments came on the heels of residents’ complaints, during his visit, about challenges being faced with their power supply because of incomplete projects.
“These projects must be concluded based on commitments that were made by the Members of Parliament and, of course, by extension the Government,” Vaz said.
“You have my assurance that all of these projects are going to get priority attention,” he added.
The stalled projects identified during the tour of St James were in Mount Salem, Tucker and Salt Spring. They span a range of infrastructure development efforts such as the planting of poles and wire connections. In some of these communities, residents have resorted to illegal connections.
When Vaz was in the area on Friday, the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Company Ltd came in for some flak for the delay in completion of projects, especially in the Comfort Land area of Mount Salem. The energy minister said he will be working with the utility provider to identify solutions.
“I’ll be having discussions with JPS, as I leave here, to find out exactly what happened, where we are,” he said.
“I am going to ask JSIF [Jamaica Social and Investment Fund] to come back to me with a comprehensive plan with timelines so we can jointly work between the programme that [has been assigned to] Minister [JC] Hutchinson — which is REP [Rural Electrification] programme — and JSIF to make sure the funds are found and committed to complete what was started and commit it to the people of Comfort Land,” he assured.
He also gave a commitment to address similar issues in other parts of the country.
“I want to assure all those other communities that have been long waiting and long-suffering in relation to projects that have started or were to start but didn’t start, that under Minister Hutchinson’s guidance and JSIF and, of course, REP, we will have them done and we try get as much of them done in the shortest possible time,” he said.
In September, Vaz announced that the REP was being revamped to complete projects that have been dormant for the past three years. He also said then that Hutchinson would lead the initiative. At the time, Vaz did not state how much money will be spent to undertake the exercise or when it is expected to commence. A check of the 2023/24 Estimates of Expenditure revealed that no funds were allocated for the REP this financial year.