Finance Minister Says no to More Specially Dedicated Funds


Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. Omar Davies has cautioned against extending the process of establishing specially dedicated funds, as the country ran the risk of segmenting the Consolidated Fund into specific areas, thus reducing the flexibility to address new problems.
Dr. Davies made the statement on Thursday (April 28) while closing the 2004/05 Budget Debate in Gordon House. He was responding to Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Audley Shaw’s proposal last week to establish a $500 million fund for bauxite. “This is one country and the resources garnered through the Consolidated Fund are to be aimed at addressing national problems,” he said. The Finance and Planning Minister said the issue of the problems caused by displacement of persons prior to and subsequent to mining, was of concern to both the Government and the Opposition and that it was for this reason that Government had established the Bauxite Community Development Programme implemented by the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) to address some of the needs of communities affected by bauxite mining. However, he acceded, that there was the need for additional work including the impact of settlement patterns, the need for land for expansion of population centres near to mining areas and programmes to facilitate economic activity in the post-mining period. To this end, he noted, Cabinet had commissioned a comprehensive study leading to further interventions.
Dr. Davies stated, “let us not pretend that all the problems which we now identify were caused by the bauxite alumina companies as many of those areas had long suffered from deficiency in various facilities. There are problems, but there are good ways to deal with them.”
He said further, “we have to ensure that we do not convey the impression that the companies are ‘the enemy’. They have come here at our invitation. In many instances they have been better corporate citizens than many other companies. They recognize their civic responsibilities and it is for us as a country to seek to identify how we can collaborate with them in addressing needs in the areas affected by mining.”
The Finance Minister pointed out that there was an opportunity for the government’s bauxite institutions to provide a comprehensive briefing to members of the House of Representatives on the state of the Bauxite alumina industry, the challenges and the potential benefits not only for the country but the communities in close proximity to the operations. He indicated that the relevant Minister would be asked to organise this report.
Further responding to Mr. Shaw’s questions concerning environmental impact and manpower planning for the Alcoa expansion, Dr. Davies informed that the contract for carrying out the impact assessment had been awarded and that the study was under way, while dust nuisance and emission standards had been established and the indicators to be measured.
In relation to manpower planning, he said, significant work had been carried out through collaboration with the HEART Trust/NTA and JAMALCo for the establishment of a state-of-the-art training facility at Breadnut Valley. “Both the company and HEART will be investing in the facility which will serve as a platform for a modern apprenticeship system in Jamaica, serving not only the bauxite alumina sector but manufacturing and other sectors,” Dr. Davies added.
Turning to the implications for transportation, the Minister pointed out that, JAMALCo had a well-established rail system, which had now been extended to the new mining areas in South Manchester. The plant, he said, was served by the Rocky Point Port, which was adequate to meet its needs for the importation of raw material, capital goods and the increased export of alumina.

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