ADDRESS TO PARLIAMENT BY MOST HON. P.J. PATTERSON, ON, PC, QC, MP, PRIME MINISTER ON TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2004


Hurricane Ivan is now a part of the historical record of our country. The eye passed very close to the southern shore of Jamaica causing considerable damage between the morning of Friday September 10 and the afternoon of Sunday September 12
On June 27 this year, when I addressed the nation on the subject of our preparations for the hurricane season, it was not yet known how active the season was expected to be.
We have had a very active season and as a community of nations our suffering has been severe. The people of Grenada, Haiti, the Cayman Islands have fared very badly and our sympathies and our support go out to them even as we focus on the deaths and disaster which the passage of Ivan has caused.
We also extend our sincere sympathy to the people of Cuba and the United States who have been badly affected by hurricanes during this period.
I mentioned during that June 27 broadcast that the government had budgeted a sum of $134 m to facilitate the cleaning of drains and gullies and to prepare as best we could for possible flooding and the effects of a hurricane.
It is a matter of record that we targeted a number of areas for special attention and that in the main, those areas did not create an undue hazard for the persons who might otherwise have been more seriously affected by the passage of Ivan.
In this presentation, I do not intend to spend valuable time in a comparison between “Wild Gilbert” and “Ivan the Terrible”. Ivan had winds and gusts of lethal force which extended all over the island and our territorial waters. It was the more dangerous because it was so slow moving as it approached and hovered around our island.
A total of seventeen lives were lost as a result of the passage of the hurricane.
The extent of damage to personal property, the national physical infrastructure and to production and commercial entities, the actual and potential damage to the general economy was so vast and all embracing that the monetary loss is still being tabulated. No portion of the island, no sector of the economy, no group within the national family escaped Ivan’s adversity.
Mr. Speaker, as a nation, we must give thanks to the Almighty for the resilience of our people and we must acknowledge with grateful hearts the fact that we were spared a direct hit by this ferocious hurricane.
The fact is, however, that in many respects, the country was better prepared for this natural disaster than has been the case in the past, and we ought to continue to learn the importance of disaster prevention and mitigation as we plan for the future.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to our Jamaican people and other nationals resident among us who demonstrated the best that this country has to offer at a time of great adversity and challenge.
There were several persons who made sacrifices to give assistance to others – especially to the elderly, the infirm, young children and persons living alone.
I pay tribute to our relief agencies:
The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management ODPEM so ably led by the tireless and apparently unflappable Dr. Barbara Carby
The Meteorological Office
The Mayors and Parish Disaster Committees
The Shelter Managers and Relief Officers
The Ministry of Health and the health professionals
The Churches, under the different umbrella groups and in their particular communities
The Salvation Army
The Red Cross of Jamaica
Food For The Poor
The Adventist Disaster Relief Agency (ADRA)
I must also make very special mention of the work of
The Jamaica Defence Force and
The Jamaica Constabulary Force
The Island Special Constabulary Force
The Fire Brigade
who together provided a significant measure of protection to all of us, and helped to give the society a greater sense of confidence in the face of dislocation and disruption of their normal lives. I also wish to convey the gratitude of the nation to the agencies, public and private, which have been working day and night to create access to all our communities and to ensure that our utilities are restored in the shortest possible time.
The National Works Agency, supported by the National Solid Waste Management Authority, the Parish Councils, and the Jamaica Fire Brigade and with the assistance of private contractors including Bouygues.and the National Road Operating and Construction Company (NROCC), has managed to open virtually all the major arterial roads. The Yallahs fording will soon be passable.
Sixty percent of all roads which were blocked across the island are now open.
The National Water Commission as of today has over 200 of its facilities up and running and is able to produce and treat just over 80% of its normal water supply. There are still some distribution hiccups which will shortly disappear.
Notwithstanding the significant achievement to date, the Commission acknowledges the formidable challenges being faced in restoring service especially to Mandeville, other sections of Manchester, Clarendon, St. Elizabeth, St. Mary and Portland.
The National Water Commission will continue to use all resources at its disposal to restore piped water supply to all areas of the country in the shortest possible time, with these areas as its highest priority. In the meantime the trucking of water by the Rapid Response Unit of the Ministry of Water will continue.
Electricity supply has been restored to over 300,000 of its approximately 500,000 customers. The company has estimated that in some of the areas where power has not yet been restored, it may take another 12 to 14 days to complete the major work necessary to facilitate restoration.
Mr. Speaker, no praise is too great for the management and the workers in all of these entities who have in some cases left their own homes in a state of disrepair and their families in some discomfort to serve the larger interests of their customers. We appreciate their dedication, and we applaud their efforts.
Of course it must be said that our level of expectation as consumers has changed a great deal between 1988 and the present time. We have grown unaccustomed to being without electricity for prolonged periods and so we vent frustration with our darkness seven days after Ivan. The providers of services have risen to the challenge, and we are confident that recovery will be rapid. We compare very well not only with our past experience but should realize that elsewhere, persons who were affected by Charley and Frances have not yet had their supplies of water and electricity restored.
We can also be proud of the fact that telecommunication services were available to us throughout the hurricane period and since. We were in touch with each other at home and in touch with our people abroad.
I must also pay tribute to the media houses for keeping the information flow prior to, during and after the passage of Ivan and for helping to keep our spirits up at critical times.
Mr. Speaker, let me place in the records of Parliament the following decisions which were announced previously:
The Jamaica Defence Force will be in charge of the delivery of relief supplies to designated warehouses and distribution agencies and will ensure that there is full protection for these items.
I have established an Office of National Reconstruction with specific terms of reference to ensure that the recovery and reconstruction programmes are conducted in a coordinated manner, with utmost efficiency, with transparency and accountability.
The Office is headed by Mr. Danville Walker who will also chair the advisory board made up of representatives from state agencies, civil society, the private sector and including one representative each from the government and opposition Parties.
The members of the advisory committee will also serve as trustees of the Jamaica Hurricane Relief Fund into which all private donations will go.
The Government has undertaken to provide special assistance to the families of those who died as a direct result of the passage of hurricane Ivan. The Ministry of Labour & Social Security is making the necessary arrangements.
There is to be a national ecumenical service in the month of October as we remember the loved ones we have lost and give thanks for having been spared the wrath of the storm. The umbrella bodies of the religious community have been invited, with the relevant Arms of the State, to arrange a suitable service of National Thanksgiving.
Macro-Economic Situation
The Minister of Finance and Planning will report in more detail on the economic impact of Hurricane Ivan. Let me however indicate briefly the overall picture. Initial assessments indicate that the economic programme will be affected, but not dramatically. We expect however that our targets for inflation, balance of payments and GDP growth and the fiscal deficit will show variances.
The inflation effect will be short-lived. The balance of payments and GDP growth targets will be both positively and negatively affected by the hurricane, but on balance any slippage should not be substantial.
The most challenging aspect is the fiscal deficit, as preliminary estimates point to the need for significant additional public expenditure to carry out short-term repairs and the reconstruction programme, even after taking account of grants. There has also been a loss of revenue over the past two weeks.
While these factors will put pressure on the fiscal account, the government is committed to ensure that the medium-term fiscal and debt targets are met. It is only by so doing that interest rates will be reduced to levels that will allow for strong economic growth and less burdensome public debt payments.
In order to keep any slippage in the fiscal deficit target for 2004 – 2005 to a minimum, the government will apply measures to reallocate spending where possible to help meet the costs of reconstruction, mobilise grant funds, and step up revenue collection efforts. Any slippage will be made up in 2005/2006, so as to meet the target of a balanced budget by the end of that year.
Basic Commodities & Pricing
Mr. Speaker:
As I turn now to the present situation, let me deal first with the matter of food sufficiency and availability.
The Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology, Honourable Phillip Paulwell reports that based on surveys conducted by the Consumer Affairs Commission and reports made to him by the major purveyors of basic foods and other items important to the Jamaican consumer, adequate supplies are already in the island. Arrangements have been made for procurement and production of those supplies which will be subject to increased demand.
The outlook for the availability of Canned fish, Canned beef as well as Chicken meat is good; there need not be any panic as regards the protein content from those sources in our diet. So is the outlook for Rice, Cornmeal, Flour and Cooking oil and Fats.I foresee that barring any other calamity our citizens should be able to enjoy the full range of foods to which they are accustomed before the passage of too much time. In the meantime let us exploit the culinary talents which I know we have, using the foods which are available.
The survey conducted by the Consumer Affairs Commission on September 16, also covered prevailing prices. Their overall finding was that ‘most food items available in the outlets surveyed are within the price band that obtained prior to Hurricane Ivan’ It is reported that vendors or individuals have been buying out inventories from major outlets and then affixing their own significant mark-up to end consumers.
Let me say here and now that whilst we support a free market and fully subscribe to a liberalised market-place, we will not tolerate a situation where a few individuals take advantage of the public at large. This Government will not sit idly by in the face of selfish price-gouging. The government has powers to act under existing laws, and we will use them if we have to.
Consumers are encouraged to arm themselves with the information being made available to them. The Ministry stands ready to receive their complaints if any, as regards cases of what appears to be price-gouging.
Education Sector
I turn now to our educational institutions.
A check of the education institutions yesterday indicated that 83% of these institutions were in operation. Many were not operating a full day, but had found creative ways to engage their students.
Supervisors, education officers and other representatives of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture continue to make contact with schools to obtain further and better particulars on the activities at schools.
The up-to-date reports indicate:10 schools continue to be used as shelters63 schools are not operational-10 (of the 63) are confirmed as severely damaged and cannot open in the short term-39 (of the 63) are isolated and have not yet been visited/inspected by ministry officials, although information on the condition of facilities have been communicated by the Principal.
The UDC has been assigned to do a technical assessment of secondary and tertiary level institutions in Clarendon, Manchester, St Elizabeth, Westmoreland, Hanover and St James. The ONR will be identifying other professionals to undertake this process in other parishes.
In the meantime, the Education Ministry is dealing with its regular and critical programmes such as GSAT preparation, CXC preparation and the handling of the readiness programme for the Grade 1 students.
The work must go on.
Health
The public health sector suffered damage to the tune of $206.58m.
50% of hospitals are fully back in operation.
The Ministry is moving swiftly to prevent any public health problems. Fogging will be done in some areas and public education has started to help the public avoid unhealthy practices which may lead to an outbreak of gastroenteritis as well as skin diseases.
Mobile clinics will be deployed in the areas most severely affected.
The Broader Economy
As we look ahead to the performance of the broader economy and the critical sectors, I have to indicate that we have received reports and have taken decisions.
Bauxite/Alumina
Up to the end of August, the local bauxite sector experienced significant growth in output compared with the corresponding period of calendar year 2003. The figures were as follows:
Alumina Output 9.9%Total Bauxite Production 6.6%
All operations had to be closed by September 9 in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Ivan. The most severe damage was sustained by JAMALCO’s port that, on the basis of current assessment, will put it out of service for several weeks before temporary repair work can be completed. Alpart’s port was also significantly damaged, but temporary arrangements will allow it to be used by this weekend for both loading of alumina and off-loading of raw materials. Windalco’s Port Esquivel was the least affected and is now operational, and will start receiving ships by mid-week.
Arrangements are being made for JAMALCO to utilise the Windalco port in the short term, as well as for it to build a temporary ‘bridge’ at its Rocky Point port, which will allow for some level of export until full repairs are completed. In addition, the company is also considering the storage of some alumina in the old bauxite dome at Rocky Point. All three initiatives will allow the alumina plant to operate at full capacity.
At this stage, various plants are at different operational levels, but all are expected to be back to full production by the end of this week.
The loss in alumina production is preliminarily estimated at 130-140,000 tonnes, and this figure could be reduced by the end of the fiscal year. The full extent of the damage to ports and other facilities, as well as agricultural operations and administrative areas, is still being assessed.
Tourism
Due to the fact that Hurricane Ivan took a southerly path, the bulk of the tourism infrastructure which is on the North coast, did not suffer severe damage. The South coast area – Mandeville, Treasure Beach, Black River, among others – and the West End of Negril, have been badly damaged.
The Montego Bay and Ocho Rios/Runaway Bay areas are almost completely back to normal, with most hotels being fully operational. In the case of Port Antonio, the properties should be back in operation shortly, as electricity and water have been restored.
In Negril, large hotels along the main strip of the Norman Manley Boulevard are either operational or will be within two to three weeks. On the West End, major repairs and rebuilding will be necessary on several properties. This process will involve a longer lead time, but most properties are expected to be in operation in time for the Winter Season.
The South Coast hotels, which were among the worst hit, will not be operational in the immediate term. Those that suffered the least damage will reopen as soon as water and electricity services are restored to the area. The worst affected properties will start returning to full operation by the American Thanksgiving holidays at the end of November.
Scheduled carriers have returned to full service following Air Jamaica’s lead, and charter flights from the Netherlands, Germany and Spain are already back. Those from the United Kingdom and Italy are expected to resume in the next few days.
Cruise ships have started to call again at both Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, and most of the major attractions for those excursions are up and running.
The JTB is confident that the efficient flow of information by way of daily updates to the market [see copy] and the rapid re-opening of roads and airports and restoration of services in most resort areas will result in less of a fall-out in future business than normally would have been the case. There have been no reports of massive cancellations, but rather of potential visitors rescheduling their trips. The major uncertainty is the pace at which new bookings will come in. This will be influenced, to a large extent, by the fact that the entire region has had a very active hurricane season and may therefore not be particularly inviting again until after November 30. The Board and industry partners, however, will be moving full speed ahead with promotional activities planned prior to the arrival of Ivan. These will involve:
Print advertising in the UK, USA and CanadaTV advertising in Canada and the USAPrint advertising in Europe
Further initiatives will be discussed at a joint JHTA/JTB Marketing Committee to be held in Montego Bay tomorrow.
To assist the sector to quickly return to full operation, especially those properties and attractions which suffered damage, the government has decided to provide short-term incentives in the form of relief from Customs Duty and General Consumption Tax on items needed to effect repairs. Applications should be submitted by October 15, and the purchases should be undertaken by December 15, the start of the winter season. TPDCo is now assessing the damage at the various properties, and will verify the information submitted. Incentives for the short-term programme will be in keeping with the schedule of benefits under the Hotel Incentives Act, Resort Cottage Incentive Act and the Attractions Incentive Programme.
Investment Projects
While activity was curtailed by the passage of Hurricane Ivan, the evidence is that work has resumed on the various development projects. Contact has been maintained with the various investors and, in fact, several of them have visited Jamaica since last week, and others will be here next week.
In the case of the RIU 3 hotel being constructed in Mammee Bay, work resumed as early as last week Thursday [16th September] and is continuing. The investors connected to the resort to be developed by Iberostar at Rose Hall are now visiting the island, and the groundbreaking ceremony is set for October 22. This was to have been held on September 15, but was postponed because of the hurricane.
The Oyster Bay resort development to be developed by AM Resorts is at an advanced stage of the approval process, and the investors met with the environmental regulatory agencies last week [17th September].
Grupo Pinerio who are developing a resort at Pear Tree Bottom, Trelawny, will pay a visit next week and their application for approval is also being processed.
A meeting with high-level representatives of the Spanish investors will be held shortly in Spain to discuss plans for increased marketing and promotion of Jamaica in Europe, in light of the large expansion of rooms that will take place in the next 2-3 years. The meeting will also discuss airlift.
Insofar as the Information, Communication Technology Sector [ICT] is concerned, there was a 3-day dislocation of contact centers. This was caused by the disruption of the fibreoptic cable accessible through the Cayman Islands as Ivan hit that territory. The service was restored and all operations are now back to full production.
AGRICULTURE
Agriculture-based projects [shrimp farming, etc.] have suffered some damage, as have the rest of the sector, and agribusiness operations which depend on local raw materials will also be affected. Arrangements for short-term imports of these materials will be necessary.
The estimated total loss in Agriculture has been put at in excess of $6b, with domestic agriculture accounting for approximately $2.3b.
While export agriculture will have access to other sources of funding for its recovery, such as insurance proceeds, it is necessary to give our small farmers who produce primarily for the local market some immediate support. Not only do they depend on their production as an important supplement to the household diet but they also contribute to the preservation of low inflation by providing nutritious food for the nation at relatively stable prices.
We have decided to make immediately available to the small farmers a sum of $200m to facilitate the start up of local vegetable and small stock production and the resumption of the fishing industry.
HOUSING
Mr. Speaker, based on the various preliminary assessments which have been undertaken so far, it is reasonable to conclude that after the damage to the agricultural sector and to sections of the country’s infrastructure, the nation’s housing stock has suffered, especially in certain areas such as the southern sections of Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth, from Ivan’s wrath.
As the assessments continue the Government in cooperation with the private entities involved in financing home ownership, (a number of whom have already advertised special programmes) has developed a menu of measures aimed at providing immediate assistance and relief to those whose houses have been damaged.
These measures are as follows:
Effective October 1, the National Housing Trust has agreed to grant a three-month moratorium on mortgage payments. This means that for the months of October, November and December 2004, mortgagers to these institutions will not be required to pay their mortgages and will not incur any penalties for nonpayment.
The period of the mortgages will therefore be increased by an additional three months.
Those who still opt to pay their monthly mortgage obligations, notwithstanding this offer can continue to do so.
Regular servicing of mortgages will commence in January 2005.
This offer Mr. Speaker is intended to provide a measure of relief to homeowners who may have suffered damage, incurred additional expenses owing to Hurricane Ivan, for example in boarding up their houses prior to the hurricane and cleaning up after, as well as losses suffered during the hurricane.
All NHT borrowers will be able to access a special home repair loan up to a maximum of $250,000 at a maximum interest rate of 7 per cent per annum, and dependent on the income category as low as 4 per cent per annum.
This special loan facility which will be extended to Borrowers under NHT’s Joint Financing Mortgage Programme and Pari Passu programme with the Building Societies.
For clients of the Building Societies who are not NHT borrowers under any of the various joint financing programmes, a special arrangement has been worked out between the NHT and the societies which will result in a reduction in the rates of interest applicable to home repair loans granted by the Building societies to their borrowers.
Details of these special facilities and the conditions which will be applied will be the subject a joint press briefing by the NHT and the Building Societies on Wednesday September 22- tomorrow and published in the press within the next three days.
Mr. Speaker, I have personally seen the severe damage caused by Hurricane Ivan in several of the hardest hit communities across the island and I can only describe it as utter devastation.
Communities such as Portland Cottage and Rocky Point in Clarendon, Cave Valley in St. Ann, Brighton in Westmoreland among others – (add to list).
In addition, a number of individuals have had complete destruction of their houses and shelter in sections of the island and this is primarily among the lower income groups.
The Cabinet at its meeting yesterday agreed to the following:
The NHT will make available to Office of National Reconstruction (ONR), a sum of up to J$ 400 million which will be used to repair, rebuild and relocate houses which were completely damaged by Hurricane Ivan. Of this sum, an amount of up to J$ 100 million will be used to purchase and establish temporary accommodation for residents of a number of communities who currently live in shelters and for a number who must be relocated to safer areas owing to the fact that the sites on which they currently live have over the years been subject to severe damage caused by heavy rains. The country just cannot afford to continue spending funds to rebuild in these same areas only to have the units destroyed again in a couple of years.
This waste of resources just has to stop. But more importantly, having seen the extent of the damage caused, including the loss of life, we as a Government are duty bound to remove these communities out of harm’s way.
As a result I have instructed the Ministries of Land and The Environment and Water and Housing and the NHT to identify suitable lands in proximity to these communities and to undertake with the utmost urgency the required planning and development of alternative housing solutions for residents of these vulnerable communities. Policy Decisions by the Government
In summary the Government has made the following decisions:
A clear distinction should be made between essentially emergency relief operations and the medium to long-term reconstruction operations.
Emphasis at this time will be on providing temporary roofing cover, particularly with the onset of the rainy season; plastic sheets and tarpaulins are essential to this; to this end the pace of the delivery of temporary roofing material must be accelerated immediately as this is the rainy season
ODPEM is to marshal its teams and resources to respond to those whose needs were of an immediate and emergency status; if necessary the ODPEM’s team will be augmented with additional physical and human resources, including transport; and they should liaise with the private sector to get assistance with transportation to deliver emergency supplies.
It is now emerging that there were areas which had suffered a greater disaster than was thought earlier, and these should be identified and dealt with first.
Food and water must be provided to the marooned areas immediately. ODPEM is charged with this responsibility and will call in the requisite people.
For effective communication with persons in need, ODPEM is to designate persons who would be able to answer questions on the progress of the responses.
Supplies of emergency roof covering, tarpaulins and plastic sheeting should be sourced as a matter of urgency to meet the huge need for housingmaterial, portable toilets and showers should be acquired as well, and suitable land identified to provide temporary shelter to persons in need.
The proposal by NHT to acquire one thousand 2-3 bedroom tents with portable toilets to provide temporary accommodation for displaced persons and for use in future situations was supported.
NHT would also order tarpaulins and plastic sheeting to help in meeting the heavy demand.
A voucher system should be used for payment, and payments should be made to beneficiaries as soon as their individual situations was assessed andverified, instead of waiting for the conclusion of the islandwide assessment programme.
Conclusion
Mr. Speaker,
Throughout my tenure as Prime Minister and even moreso over the last two years, I have spoken about and worked towards the building of national unity within our borders and with our people in the diaspora.
Now more than ever we need to seize the moment and identify the opportunities which the present time presents us to strengthen the social fabric of our country and to build a stronger sense that we are all able to face this challenge if we face it in a spirit of togetherness.
I have charged the Office of National Reconstruction specifically to regard that exercise as one of its principal terms of reference. And I urge every member of this honourable House to support the effort.
Whatever the political future of this country will be, whatever the levels of economic growth and investment we may achieve, the sense that we are one, purposeful and resilient people remains an overarching imperative at this time.
This is a time to build and to rebuild – not only the physical infrastructure and the systems and structures to facilitate new investment, economic growth and job opportunities.
This is a time to build our people, to build our nation, to build our confidence
– to build structures of trust, of care, of tolerance, of respect for one another
– to build levels of efficiency, of professionalism, and a new sense of urgency
This is a time to build systems of cooperation and networks of collaboration. And to demonstrate a new sense of purpose.
This a time to build new gateways to the achievement of excellence in all that we do as a people.
This is a time to realize our greatness, in the expectation of which our forefathers laboured and suffered, believing that the best was yet to be.As we approach the month of October when we celebrate the richness of our heritage and the possibilities of our future, let us reflect on the opportunities of the present.
By our dedication to country, by striving always for that which is good and positive, let this be a time when we are uplifted by the glory of God.
The sun shineth, the land is green and the people are strong and creative.

JIS Social