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With the literal blast of a horn, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, on Thursday (March 22), officially launched the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), during a ceremony at the Orchid Village Complex, Barbican Road, St. Andrew.

The ceremony marked the start of the first phase of one of the Government’s employment creation initiatives, and will see some 5,000 persons being engaged in various types of jobs across the island, in the first instance.

Despite rainfall on the day commemorated globally as World Water Day, the launch attracted a large turnout, inclusive of past and current government ministers, permanent secretaries and other officials, as well as private sector stakeholders and residents of the surrounding communities.

In delivering the keynote address, the Prime Minister, who said JEEP “holds a special place in my heart", described the programme as one of the most "carefully constructed’ initiatives ever undertaken by any administration.

"It was fully discussed and approved at Cabinet. A Ministry Paper was tabled in Parliament, followed by extensive questioning on all aspects of the programme. I can assure the Jamaican people that under the leadership of (Transport, Works and Housing) Minister (Hon. Dr. Omar) Davies and his team, accountability, transparency and efficiency, will be the hallmarks in the management of this programme," she stated.

The Prime Minister said work to be undertaken will include, among other things, the cleaning, repairing and construction of retaining walls. Additionally, she disclosed that phase one of the programme will entail activities to be carried out under the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme’s (JDIP) Routine Maintenance Programme. This, she further informed, will be undertaken in St. Catherine, Clarendon, Portland, St. Mary, and St. Ann.

Pointing out that JEEP is intended to relieve “the chronic unemployment situation in the short-term”, the Prime Minister assured that the administration is "looking ahead”, in terms of the prospects for long-term job creation.

In this regard, she informed that a number of persons, who will be employed, will have an opportunity to receive training through the HEART Trust/National Training Agency, pointing out that “this will allow them to go into bigger things when they leave the JEEP”.

"I have (also) instructed all ministers to carefully review the resources available in their ministries and departments to identify possible sub-projects, through which additional employment can be created, using labour-intensive methods. This will place me in a position, during my (upcoming) Budget presentation, to provide a fuller picture of the next phase of JEEP, which will be implemented in the 2012/13 financial year," she added.

In stressing that job creation is not the sole remit of the government, the Prime Minister invited private sector stakeholders to follow suit, by creating opportunities that can complement JEEP. She noted that some interests have already embarked on this undertaking, and commended them for so doing.

Mrs. Simpson Miller urged persons, who would be employed under JEEP to conduct themselves professionally at all times, and deliver a high standard of work, warning that “anything less will not be tolerated’.

“Officials of the Ministry will be going to inspect the areas where the work will be done (and) assess the work,” she said, pointing out that where shoddy work was undertaken, or none carried out, then no payments would be made.

Opposition Spokesman on Transport and Works, Karl Samuda, in endorsing JEEP, contended that “the Opposition never have and never could object to any initiative by the government of Jamaica that will lead to the creation of jobs, especially (for) the poor and needy”.

The programme is being implemented on a phased basis, with the current phase running through to the end of the 2011/12 financial year, with the other phases to be implemented across financial years 2012/14.  All 63 Members of Parliament will be allocated $10 million to execute activities.