Banks to get a boostTuesday, July 27, 2021
BANKS, Clarendon — Major infrastructural development such as an entertainment zone and significant improvement in the drainage system are on the cards for the community of Banks when the fifth pilot project under the ministry of local government's rural development initiative begins.
According to state minister in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Homer Davis, the south-west Clarendon community is one of five across the country set to benefit from a share of a $650-million improvement project announced by Minister Desmond McKenzie in his contribution to the sectoral debate earlier this year.
“This project is an integrated project. It must be sustainable and be able to sustain the whole community. We will be looking at areas where you can enhance your own economic viability because what we are seeking to do is to retain you, the residents, that you can stay here and build your community,” said Davis.
“Too often you find the rural folks drifting into the urban centres which creates problems for housing, water, sewerage, and all the other amenities. We are seeking to give you access to all those amenities in your area,” he added.
Consultations are expected to begin soon and will include agencies such as the Social Development Commission, the Rural Water Supply Company, the Rural Electrification Programme, as well as ministries, including agriculture, education and economic growth and job creation.
Davis stressed that residents would have a say in the process. “We are not here to tell you what you must get. We will come in and listen to you. You know the places that flood when it rains, you know what needs to be done to your community, you know the places that need attention. The drainage that I see here in Banks is a recipe for continuous flooding when it rains because they were built years ago and they are now deteriorating. In going forward I think drainage will have to be a part of this project,” assured the state minister.
Member of Parliament (MP) for Clarendon South Western Lothan Cousins was also relieved that problem drains would be addressed, and he assured residents that the project announcement would be followed up by action. Developing the area by providing housing and jobs, he said, would help stop the brain drain that has resulted from a downturn in the community's sugar industry.
“This is a step in the right direction. We are sure this is not just a talk shop and that there is work to be done,” the MP said, noting that he, too, is looking forward to participating in the consultations to share his ideas for the development.
Pauline Reynolds, councillor for the Race Course Division in which the Banks community is located, said the area was chosen because there is a lot of untapped potential.
“We have the beach in Beacham and I understand it was a booming beach before it was damaged by the hurricane. So, an entertainment zone at that location is the perfect place to start. We want to bring back life into the community of Banks. We want to put in a community and training centre and upgrade our roads and convert our playing field into a multi-purpose sports complex,” she said. She is convinced that when the project is completed, Banks will be the showpiece in Clarendon.
The project has found favour with some residents, including community member Velecia Reid. “I feel good that they come and look at the drain and see the condition of Banks. [This] is a great place like any other tourist place. We have Beacham sea weh nuff people no know bout. Wi proud of wi community because it's a nice place – we have school, we have the church. We just need the drain fi make up and the road, water, and light all the way down to the sea side,” she said.
Beacham Beach is already on Davis's radar and he stressed that fishers would not be left out. “Ninety per cent of the fish we consume in Jamaica is imported and we are surrounded by the Caribbean Sea so something is wrong. We need to find a way to empower our fisherfolk and farmers, so we can be self-sufficient when it comes to putting food on our tables,” he said. “This project is not a pipe dream but a reality, because in the budget, the minister had set aside $650 million for all these pilot projects,” he added. Funds, he noted, would be allocated based on the levels and types of development in each community. The other areas expected to benefit under the local government ministry-led programme are Chambers Pen in Hanover, Lawrence Tavern in St Andrew, Cheesefield in St Catherine, and Cheswick in St Thomas.