Members of the JLP's Area Council One celebrate with guest speaker Ann-Marie Vaz following a meeting on Sunday. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

MINISTER of Local Government and Rural Development Minister Desmond McKenzie has reiterated that Government reallocated money from garbage collection to focus on the COVID-19 fight.

A pile-up of garbage has plagued several communities across the island for months, but McKenzie on Sunday announced that in a matter of weeks 50 trucks will arrive in the island to help alleviate the problem.

McKenzie was speaking at a meeting of the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Area Council One, which he chairs, at the Jacques Road Community Centre in St Andrew South Eastern.

According to McKenzie, "Jamaicans are concerned about garbage collection across the country. There is no denying that there has been a breakdown in garbage collection and, as minister with portfolio responsibility, I can never come here this morning and say to you that I am happy.

"At our party's last conference at the National Arena, Prime Minister [Andrew Holness] announced the purchase of 100 new garbage trucks to come into the National Solid Waste Management Authority [NSWMA]," reminded McKenzie.

"People have been criticising us — and they have a right to criticise us — but if the People's National Party [PNP] had made an investment in solid waste, we wouldn't be in this position. When I became minister in 2016 the National Solid Waste Management Authority never had 10 garbage trucks. Between 2016 and 2018 this Administration put in 63 new trucks into the National Solid Waste Management Authority.

"COVID-19 came and we had to take a decision whether to support the the health sector, and we decided to postpone the purchase of the trucks in order to keep Jamaicans in a healthy position," explained McKenzie as he declared that that 50 new garbage trucks are now en route to Jamaica, with another 50 trucks scheduled to be shipped shortly.

"I am pleased to announce to Area Council One that last night I was sent a video of the 50 new garbage trucks being driven onto a ship to be shipped to Jamaica over the next couple of weeks. When you hear the PNP talk, you have to ask them what they have done to improve solid waste," said McKenzie.

"We can bring in 1,000 garbage trucks, but it won't make a difference unless there is a change of attitude amongst Jamaicans. We are not making any apologies; all I am saying to you is 'Be patient.' We are rolling out a programme in the next couple of weeks that will see improvements in garbage collection. It has already started in some parishes but I want to urge you as well-thinking Jamaicans to do your part," implored McKenzie.

In the meantime, Member of Parliament for Portland Eastern Ann-Marie Vaz, who was the guest speaker at the Area Council One meeting, had Labourities celebrating as she declared that based on the performance of the Holness Administration, the JLP is poised to win the next general election and retain State power.

BY JASON CROSS Observer staff reporter crossj@jamaicaobserver.com

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