JIS News

The House of Representatives yesterday (Feb.14) approved the transfer of some $2.5 billion from the Capital Development Fund into the Consolidated Fund, $261 million of which will go to the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) for its Bauxite Community Development Programme (BCDP).
Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. Omar Davies, who piloted the resolution seeking the transfer of funds, explained that the amount represented the first withdrawal from the Capital Development Fund for the calendar year. He said the sum would be used in the areas of agriculture, infrastructure, skills training and small business development.
Dr. Davies explained that the 2005/06 revenue estimates had made provision for an amount of $2.9 billion to be transferred from the Capital Development Fund, but no withdrawal or transfer to the Consolidated Fund was made in the 2005/06 fiscal year.
As such, he informed, Cabinet had approved the provision of $261 million for the BCDP, for the 2006 to 2009 period, adding that $25 million was required for use in the first quarter of the 2006 calendar year.
In his remarks, Opposition Spokesperson on Finance, Audley Shaw, argued that the promised allocation to the JBI, which would amount to an average of $87 million per year for all mined-out communities islandwide over the three year period, was too small, given that some $3 billion in taxes was collected from the sector yearly.
“This paltry sum of $87 million per year for expenditure in the mined-out communities is grossly inadequate. Let us bear in mind that this projected expenditure comes after we have seen in the past few years, even lower expenditure in mined-out communities,” Mr. Shaw pointed out.
He called for debate on a motion, which has been laid in the House, calling on the government to commit “significantly more expenditure to bauxite, to mined-out communities islandwide”.
Mr. Shaw further called on the Finance and Planning Minister to disclose the state of the budget and inform as to when the first supplementary estimates would be tabled.
Development Minister, Dr. Paul Robertson, in supporting the resolution, noted that the $25 million to be withdrawn would begin phase four of the BCDP, which, since its inception, has directly benefited approximately 30,000 persons across some 100 communities.
He said that in addition to the sums expended by the government in bauxite communities, the companies also had active programmes in the mining areas.
Noting that last year, nearly US$1 billion (gross) was earned from the industry, with nearly $400 million accruing to the country and almost $100 million in taxes being generated, Dr. Robertson said that, “these sums have been spent in various communities including the bauxite communities. It is unfortunate that the impact of the industry is just left to what this programme brings to some 14 constituencies.”
In his remarks, Opposition Leader, Bruce Golding, said more could be done to minimize the “disfigurement” to the landscape caused by mining. “It’s not going to be possible to remove ore without changing the landscape but I believe more can be done to prevent or minimize the disfigurement that is taking place.”
“There are many communities that have been disfigured because mining has taken place, and the restoration work has not been carried out in such a way as to restore the ambience,” Mr. Golding stated.
Dr. Davies agreed that environmental degradation must be minimized and said the policy relating to the restoration of mined-out lands, as well as its enforcement, would be looked into.
In the meantime, the Finance and Planning Minister indicated that the first supplementary estimates would be tabled in March.

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