The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development officially launched the Rural Development Programme in Chambers Pen, Hanover, on Wednesday (June 22).
Under the programme, which is being piloted in the community, some $223 million will be invested in the upgrading of key infrastructure.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, said that Chambers Pen was chosen to be the pilot community based on the results of a study that was done by the Social Development Commission (SDC).
“I commissioned the SDC to conduct a study on six communities in six parishes across the island, and when we got the findings on Chambers Pen, I took the decision that [the community] would be the pilot in this new thrust for urban and rural development in the Ministry,” he noted.
As part of the extensive project, which is being mobilised by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), some 300 households will be wired for electricity, and more than 50,000 gallons of water will be made available through the implementation of the Chambers Pen water supply system by the Rural Water Supply Limited (RWSL).
The electrification aspect of the programme is expected to commence next week.
In addition, the Chambers Pen Primary School and the Chambers Pen Community Centre will be renovated, and streetlights installed.
The Minister noted, further, that as part of the first phase of the project, four social housing units will be constructed in the community.
He said that Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Everald Warmington, has been engaged “to see what we can do on the main road leading up to the community”.
Minister McKenzie underscored that the project will be undertaken in a “fair and transparent manner”.
“This is a Government that has to operate and follow the guidelines that are set. We want to be transparent; we want to be clear when we are spending taxpayers’ money – when we are spending your money,” he said.
“I am not going to allow anybody to question or cast any doubt about the credibility of this programme. We went through the process, we put out the packages for tendering, all the tenders came in, the Ministry conducted its own process, Rural Water conducted their own process [and] JSIF did the same,” Mr. McKenzie pointed out.
He urged residents of the community to support the programme.
“It is your project; make use of it. I want you to value your tax dollar, because at the end of the day the success or the failure of this project will depend on the community of Chambers Pen,” he pointed out.
Secretary with the Chambers Pen Community Development Committee (CDC), Dacia Cunningham, thanked all stakeholders involved in the implementation of the community development programme.
“The residents would like to wholeheartedly thank you, Minister McKenzie, for selecting our small, yet magnificent community for the rural development initiative,” she said.
As part of the day’s proceedings, farm tools were donated to some farmers in the community.
Cheswick in St. Thomas is the next community slated to benefit under the Rural Development Programme.