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KINGSTON – The pilot phase of the much anticipated Community Renewal Programme (CRP) could be rolled out as early as the end of March, according to officials at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).

The programme, which is being coordinated by the Institute, will address poor housing, poor infrastructure, weak community governance and the lack of coordination of social intervention programmes.

The pilot phase, expected to last a year, will focus on two main communities within Kingston’s inner city. Following the pilot phase, it will be rolled out on a much wider scale and is expected to impact some 100 communities across Jamaica, over a ten-year period. It is anticipated that it will result in the transformation of the social and physical structures of the communities, in addition to the socioeconomic situations of the citizens.

“At the end of the programme, we will have cleaner and more habitable environments, better sanitation and better public and individual infrastructure,” says Social Sector Specialist,Plan Development Unit at the PIOJ, Charles Clayton.

“We will also have significant advances for our youth, because many of our unattached youth who form part of the crime syndicate will be participating in mainstream activities, rather than in criminal enterprises,” he adds.

Mr. Clayton assures that although the project has not yet been officially launched, much is being achieved behind the scenes. The PIOJ is still working assiduously to finalise the communities that will form the basis of the programme. He notes, that there have been some challenges.

“The main reason we have not yet selected all the communities, is that the data that we are looking at is inconsistent in some cases, and needs cleaning in other cases before it can be applied to get the best results across the board,” he admits.

He says the Institute has set criteria that will help to identify targeted communities, and will be relying on poverty maps to finalise its selection.

“We will overlay the data on the poverty map to see which communities turn out the most highly rated, in terms of the criteria we have selected. This will measure volatility and vulnerability,” he says.

The Social Sector Specialist indicates that following confirmation from the Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, the project will commence with the communities of West and Central Kingston.

The broad remit of the CRP is to support the development of communities in a holistic way, and target six specific areas of vulnerability, including governance, social transformation, safety and justice, youth development, socio-economic development and sustainable physical transformation.

“The overall goal of the CRP is to empower residents, within these targeted communities, to achieve their fullest potential and contribute to the attainment of a secure, cohesive and just Jamaican society, which is in line with goals one and two of the Vision 2030 Development Plan,” informs Mr. Clayton.

Vision 2030 Jamaica is the country’s first long-term national development plan. It aims at enabling Jamaica to achieve developed country status by 2030. It is based on a comprehensive vision – ‘Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business’.

Mr. Clayton envisions that the attainment of the first two goals will, undoubtedly, have an impact on the economic strength of the communities and on the environment within the communities. This, he says, is connected to goals three and four of the national development plan.

“When we say social transformation, we’re looking at the psychosocial needs of the community, as well as the values and attitudes that existed in these communities; and how we can promote a greater cohesion and a greater conformity to what we consider mainstream values,” he outlines.

The programme also aims to transform the physical environment of the communities, through the implementation of community clean-up and beautification projects, as well as the building of low-income housing and improved sanitation.

“We’re also looking at socioeconomic initiatives that will generate education and training, and that will generate self-employment and employment within the communities,” he adds.

Additionally, the CRP will focus on safety and justice as a theme, working towards the dismantling of gangs, talks with gang members on alternatives to crime and gang activities and referring them to appropriate agencies for assistance. It will also focus on effective police presence/community policing and crime prevention through environmental design.

“We’re also looking at youth development as a theme by itself, because we think the youth needs to be re-entrenched as a special group, and special attention needs to be paid to them in terms of their development. Also bearing in mind that youths are the main victims and perpetrators of crime and unemployment, and illiteracy is highest among them as well,” Mr. Clayton advises.

Under the area of governance, the programme will seek to establish and strengthen community development committees and other community based organisations, support policy/legislative reform to strengthen community governance and facilitate the “de-garrisoning” of communities.

Furthermore, the CRP will rely on existing programmes such as the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) and the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica’s (PSOJ) Youth Programme to reach residents, and will also introduce new programmes of its own.

The CRP will aim to become a mechanism for coordinating the existing programmes, to ensure that the impact can be intensified in the communities.

“At the moment you have programmes such as the CSJP, which has been quite successful in pockets around the country; but it has never really been focused intensely on any single community,” he explains.

“What we want is that all these programmes can be brought together to centre on particular communities, to ensure that holistic development can take place within the communities, not leaving any stoned unturned, as might have been the case if you have little patches of programmes here and there,” he argues.

The CRP will be gradually rolled out over ten years, to cover all 100 communities across the island.

“To start with, we have targeted five main parishes, because of the high levels of crime and murders that have been associated with these parishes. We believe that many of Jamaica’s problems, including economic failings, really revolve around the high rate of crime that exists in the island,” Mr. Clayton says.                                                         

He informs that the World Bank estimated that if the country is to reduce its murder rate to about six to eight per 100,000, this would result in an actual increase in GDP of five to seven per cent annually.

“So, we recognise that interventions that reduce murder, in particular, would have a great impact on economic prosperity of our people. So, by targeting these five parishes, we expect it to have a spin off on the rest of the island, as crime is reduced in these areas and as socioeconomic activities increase,” he adds.

The Ministry of National Security has been identified as one of the main partners, locally, with several international governmental and non-governmental agencies pledging their assistance. These include the PetroCaribe Initiative, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

 

By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter