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Phase two of the Lift Up Jamaica Programme, a project introduced by the government of Jamaica in 1999 to address developmental needs in rural towns and inner-city communities, is set to get underway soon.
Under the second phase, which is expected to end in 2008, special emphasis will be placed on areas such as job creation, income support, project quality and sustainability.
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, speaking on the programme in Parliament earlier this year, said that effort would be made to correct mistakes or oversights made during the previous segment and build on what was achieved.
“The objective of the programme is the creation of short term employment for persons between the ages of 18 to 35, who are to be employed on projects that will improve the social and physical environment of our congested urban communities and selected rural towns islandwide,” he said.
Since Lift Up Jamaica was launched six years ago, work has been executed on more than 500 projects and in excess of 20,000 individuals were employed on a short-term basis before the programme’s discontinuation in 2003.
In July, Cabinet approved the implementation of the second phase and the $2 billion earmarked for works over the three-year period, will be principally financed from the Caracas Energy Agreement Fund.
In terms of expenditure, $400 million is to be spent on the initiative this year, another $1 billion over the 2006/07 financial year, and $600 million thereafter.
Prime Minister Patterson has indicated that 50 per cent of the total budget was intended to pay labour costs associated with the programme, while management costs should not surpass five per cent of the budget.
Among the projects that will be undertaken are the building of community and education facilities, parks and streetscape. The Prime Minister has also indicated that the creation of formal vending areas, the refurbishing of existing markets, formalising taxi parks and river training, would also falls under the ambit of the programme.
An estimated 20,000 Jamaicans are being targeted for temporary employment through the programme’s varied projects. Each participant will be paid a weekly stipend of $3,500 on a fortnightly basis but their employment will be based on their possession of a Tax Registration Number (TRN) and photo identification. Participants must also, of course, be unemployed and reside in communities or in close proximity to the project sites.
The HEART Trust/NTA will train the Lift Up Jamaica participants to improve on the skills needed for relevant jobs, as well as socialisation and conflict resolution.
Each project will be assigned a $5 million budget and it is mandatory that a maintenance component be included. The Prime Minister stressed that “a maintenance component must be built in with a prepared schedule and low maintenance requirements for all projects and these must be signed off by community groups, users of the facilities prior to the start of projects.”
Turning to sanitation issues, he said, “there is a special problem relating to public sanitation and we have therefore said that over three years of the programme, at least $300 million of the programme’s funds should be used for the sanitation programme.” He added that Lift Up Jamaica should also tackle, to some extent, the removal of zinc fences from inner-city communities.
The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) will assume responsibility for the management of Lift Up Jamaica, through a special unit that will report to the Corporation’s Board. The UDC will be assisted by a number of government bodies, including the Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sport, which will oversee garbage collection and disposal on project sites.
Parish councils, which fall under the Ministry, will identify the needs of rural towns and facilitate on-going maintenance of the public facilities when they are completed. In addition, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) will be responsible for planning and environmental approvals, and the National Works Agency is expected to give technical advice on projects.
While the UDC will have overall responsibility for the identification of appropriate projects, the final selection of the projects will be determined on a collaborative basis with Members of Parliament, community leaders, community-based organisations and other stakeholders involved in the process.
Prime Minister Patterson said that in its second phase, the government would seek to ensure that selected projects were sustainable and able to enhance the fixed capital of the country. He said that the monitoring of projects will be more stringent to close off any and all loopholes identified in the first phase. He stressed that every aspect of the programme was designed for transparency.