ST JAMES, Jamaica - Several communities in Westmoreland have been identified for significant rural electrification works, representing a substantial step towards formal connectivity and improved social services in underserved areas.
Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport Daryl Vaz, conducted a tour of these communities on Friday, September 29, including Barracks Road, Farm Pen, Llandilo, Cooke Street and Prospect.
During this visit, he approved a range of short-term and long-term initiatives aimed at legitimising households and granting legal access to electricity for thousands of Westmoreland residents.
Vaz and State Minister in the ministry JC Hutchinson, led a team from the ministry, accompanied by representatives from the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) and the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), operating under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreement to facilitate the regularisation of electricity in rural and inner-city communities.
Speaking to JIS News, Minister Vaz disclosed that the projects for Barracks Road and Cooke Street will commence without delay.
“For Barracks Road, that is a project that has been approved. There is a tender and that tender should be evaluated, and work starts in the December to January period,” the minister outlined.
“We understand that there are 293 households and approximately 30 per cent are properly wired in Cooke Street. There is infrastructure that makes it easier, and the community is also a part of a ZOSO which JSIF has a special arrangement for. So, we will follow up with the consultations and do the necessary leg work to get the job done to finish by the end of the financial year,” he added.
In contrast, Farm Pen, Llandilo and Prospect represent greenfield projects requiring specific allocations in the upcoming national budget to execute these programmes.
Vaz emphasised that Farm Pen, in particular, faces numerous challenges, including low voltage, illegal wiring, and dire road and water conditions. Additionally, there is a need to formalise land ownership for many residents in the area.
“So, this is one project that we are going to look at to see if we can get funding in the next financial year, but we will do the preliminary works between now and then, so that we can ascertain cost and look and see how we can partner with other government agencies,” Vaz explained.
He added that the Llandilo Phase 5 area is also in dire need of electrification infrastructure.
“The situation in Prospect is one that has been captured under the JSIF programme for wiring. There is an allocation for 200 homes and we have identified 30 homes, so far. We are going to ensure that we try and capture all the houses that need to be captured and meet the specifications of JPS and to see how we can complete this in the shortest possible time,” Vaz indicated.
For his part, Managing Director, JSIF, Omar Sweeney, highlighted the need for improved infrastructure and social services.
Sweeney said the rural electrification initiatives in Westmoreland will be approached with a broader development perspective, seeking to identify additional resources to address essential amenities such as roads and the water supply.
“We are moving to completion, looking at the ones that are completed, some of the ones that are in progress and some of the greenfield ones,” Sweeney indicated.