Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller broke ground on Wednesday, February 6 in Springfield, Clarendon for the construction of 88 houses to accommodate 209 persons currently living in barracks. This is part of the Barracks Relocation Project being funded by the European Union to the tune of $161 million. “Today represents yet another step towards the positive transformation of Jamaica and the transformation of the lives of an important group of Jamaican workers. The building of modern housing, infrastructure and amenities for sugar workers is one of the most satisfying and heart-warming programmes I have presided over, in my entire political career,” the Prime Minister said. According to the Prime Minister both rural and urban housing development must be approached in accordance with the principles of planned development which means that communities built should also have access to recreational and social facilities. “This is why another $50 million dollars is being invested in critical social projects, including improvement of school and clinic facilities. We are currently spending some $20 million to improve the Toll Gate Sport Complex and also preparing to put to tender the comprehensive improvement of the Waterwell Sports Complex in Race Course,” she said. Mrs. Simpson Miller acknowledged that cane production is a seasonal activity and as such during the out-of-crop-season, life is particularly difficult for many families dependent of sugar cane. In response, the Government is working towards an economic transformation of Southern Clarendon through strategic investments in agriculture. This includes an investment of $65 million to rehabilitate the irrigation system in the Vernamfield area, and the development of two agro-parks in Spring Plains at a cost of $145 million and Ebony Park at $114 million. “The agro-parks development initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is a key element of my government’s growth inducement strategy in the medium term,” said the Prime Minister. Under the Barracks Relocation Project, a total of 385 houses will be provided for sugar workers across the island including Masemure and Bahram in Westmoreland, Spicy Hill in Trelawny and Stokes Hall and Hampton Court in St. Thomas.
Two publications by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), which address the issue of climate change, are to be tabled in Parliament shortly by Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Minister, Hon. Robert Pickersgill. The two documents – ‘2012 State of the Jamaican Climate, Information for Resilience Building’ and ‘2012 State of the Jamaican Climate, Information for Resilience Building, Summary for Policymakers’ – were presented to the Minister by the PIOJ’s Acting Director General, Everton McFarlane, at the Ministry’s New Kingston offices on March 6. These publications are among six produced by the PIOJ under Phase I of the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR), with grant funding support of US$507,000, provided through the IDB’s Climate Investment Fund (CIF). The contents are compilations of data derived from a study undertaken by the Climate Studies Group at the University of the West Indies (UWI), which examines and outlines variations in Jamaica’s weather patterns and include climate assessments, variability, projections, and recommendations for climate change adaptability and resilience strengthening. The study incorporated wide scale consultations with a number of stakeholders. Underscoring the importance of the publications, Mr. McFarlane noted that Jamaica is being positioned to evolve into a “modern economy” with an imperative being access to, and use of the most current and high quality information to guide problem solving and decision making on matters such as climate change. “Thus, being a climate sensitive economy, we have to understand how the climate is changing and how it is likely to change spatially over time and towards the end of the Century. We, at the PIOJ, are convinced that the outputs of this project are of tremendous value to the entire country,” he said. Noting that National Outcome 14 of the country’s National Development Plan, Vision 2030 Jamaica, speaks to “Hazard Risk Reduction and Adaptation to Climate Change”, Mr. McFarlane expressed the hope that access to the documents by the country’s Parliamentarians will “aid their understanding of how inter-linked Jamaica’s development is to its weather patterns”. Mr. McFarlane advised that arrangements will be made for public access to the documents through the distribution of copies, as well as uploading of their contents on the PIOJ’s website. Welcoming the publications, Mr. Pickersgill said they would effectively assist the administration in mainstreaming climate change into “priority” sectors; facilitate sectoral adaptation measures; strengthen policy and institutional arrangements; and build capacity for planning and forecasting. Additionally, they will serve to guide the promotion of climate change education and awareness. Mr. Pickersgill also acknowledged the support of the IDB, and noted that various international partners and agencies have consistently collaborated with Jamaica to strengthen the country’s capacity to adapt to climate change. “What we need to do now is to streamline all the responses, and for this reason, I am anxious to get the Climate Change Department up and running; and this is a priority on my agenda. I anticipate that the information contained in these documents will also be heavily referenced in the development of Jamaica’s Third National Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,” the Minister said. In his remarks, IDB Country Office Operations Director for Jamaica, Harold Arzu, who deputised for Acting Country Representative, Gerard Johnson, said the institution welcomed the opportunity to partner with Jamaica in undertaking the study. “We are hopeful that the recommendations and the plans that come out of the reports will provide some guidance in the area of resilience building. I also hope that very important policy regulations and legislations will result from the work that has been done,” he said, while assuring that the IDB will continue to collaborate with Jamaica on climate change developments. Meanwhile, noted climatologist, Professor Anthony Chen, said the data compiled in the documents currently represent the most “in-depth” study of climate change in Jamaica. He noted that the findings project warmer and drier weather patterns for Jamaica toward the end of the 21st Century, and expressed the hope that the study will provide a basis from which the PIOJ and other organisations can formulate projects that will enable Jamaica to adapt to these changes.