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JIS News

The Government is seeking to deepen ties between Jamaica and Cuba, particularly in the areas of water and housing development.Minister of Water and Housing, Donald Buchanan recently led a delegation to Cuba, where meetings were held with the Cuban Minister of Water, Jorge Aspiolea Roig and the President of the National Housing Institute of Cuba, Victor Ramirez Ruiz over the period December 2 to 5.
Speaking with JIS News on his return to the island, Minister Buchanan observed that “the challenges in Cuba and the challenges in Jamaica are quite similar,” and so it is important and prudent to enhance cooperation between both countries.
“This cooperation will also involve some exchange of technical expertise,” Minister Buchanan noted, adding that this was a continuation of a long-established arrangement where the Cuban government formerly provided technical experts to the Government of Jamaica for the implementation of a number of water and housing projects.
The Water Minister and his seven-member delegation held discussions with Mr. Ruiz, which focused on strengthening cooperation between both countries’ ministries of water, in the area of water resources management and development, including the issue of water supply and sanitation.
“In the area of water, we will be concentrating the cooperation in hydrogeology, water resources assessment, irrigation and the expansion of domestic water supply,” Mr. Buchanan said.
The Water Minister, who was accompanied by senior officials within the Ministry and some of its portfolio agencies, also visited some water-related facilities while in Cuba, including the Varadero Water Supply System, the Almendares Valley Sewerage Facility in Havana, and the Hydraulic Complex in southern Havana.
He noted that while Cuba has so far attained 95 per cent coverage in terms of potable water, Jamaica has only achieved 85 per cent. However, with the establishment of the Rural Water Supply Limited and greater collaboration between Jamaica and Cuba is this area, the Minister anticipates an improvement in this situation in the near future.
“We expect over the next seven years to fulfil the expansion of water to all rural communities in Jamaica, and this is one of the areas where we are going to be cooperating with the Cubans,” he assured.
Continuing, Minister Buchanan informed that the Managing Director of the Rural Water Supply Limited, Judith Reid, would return to Cuba early next year for further technical discussions with the Cubans. This should be followed by a visit from the Cuban Minister of Water in March 2006, prior to his trip to the World Water Forum in Mexico.
Meanwhile, on the housing side, discussions with the President of the National Housing Institute were very fruitful, and focused, among other things on establishing cooperation to deal with slum upgrading and the regularisation and improvement of squatter settlements.
Minister Buchanan informed JIS News that in furtherance of cooperation efforts, Jamaica would exchange experiences with the Cubans to develop practical solutions.
“We will be indicating to the Cubans what we have done in terms of Operation Pride, and they will be indicating what they have done in terms of their slum upgrading programmes,” he informed.
There is also a plan to enhance bilateral cooperation with respect to the management and rehabilitation of housing settlements affected by the hurricanes.
“In fact, we want to go a step further and look at building systems and other aspects of housing development as a response to the frequency of hurricanes that have been affecting both Cuba and Jamaica. We will be looking, for example, at the kind of technologies, which are deployed in the construction of houses both in Jamaica and Cuba,” Minister Buchanan informed.
Following the discussions, Minister Buchanan signed two Aide M

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