JIS News

The House of Representatives passed a resolution under the Bauxite Production Levy Act on Tuesday (March 16) to withdraw some $667,500 million from the Capital Development Fund (CDF) to be paid over into the Consolidated Fund for budgetary support for the financial year 2003/2004.
Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. Omar Davies explained that the revenue estimates for 2003/04 made provision for an amount of $1.767 billion to be transferred from the CDF to the Consolidated Fund and that the request for the withdrawal was based on the available balance from the provision made in the revenue estimates for this fiscal year.
The cash balance in the CDF as at February 27, 2004, he informed, was just over $773.926 million. In addition, the investment in local registered stock for the same period stood in excess of $121.359 million. Dr. Davies noted that the amount to be withdrawn represented the first withdrawal to be made from the CDF for the calendar year 2004.
Opposition members, led by Member of Parliament for South Western St. Ann, Ernie Smith argued against the withdrawal of the funds, expressing firm concerns over what they said was the neglect of certain mined out constituencies. Member of Parliament for North Central Clarendon, Pearnel Charles stated that some arrangements had to be made for skills training and other assistance to help the people in these areas.
Minister of Development, Dr. Paul Robertson under whose portfolio bauxite falls, acceded that there was always room for more special projects to be developed for these areas, noting that as the industry developed and as the new US$600 million investment came on stream with JAMALCo that there would be more investments in such programmes.
“There are very important prospects for many people as we move forward,” Mr. Robertson stated. Arguing that a significant amount of activity was taking place in mined out areas, he pointed to a number of agricultural projects that had been established in these communities.
The Development Minister also noted that there was a law governing bauxite companies which stipulated that after areas were mined, these companies had an obligation to restore the land to a certain level of productivity.
He further pointed out that there were vast acreages which had been restored and that the companies had explained that whilst they were mining in a particular area, it did not make sense to start the restoration process immediately, therefore, there could be “a lag in the sequencing of the restoration”.
“The closest monitoring of that process is taking place and we are satisfied that the bauxite companies are fulfilling their legal obligations in this matter,” Dr. Robertson told the House, informing that nearly $100 million was being pumped into these communities annually.
Meanwhile, Dr. Davies said, “I think the bauxite alumina companies have been by and large very responsive to the community problems”. However, he assured that detailed data (for several years) would be published, outlining the amounts allocated for projects to each constituency.

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