Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr. Gladstone Hutchinson, has emphasised the need for the capacity of the natural and built environment to be significantly enhanced, to make the country more resilient to dislocation associated with the weather.
Speaking at the Jamaica Stock Exchange’s (JSE) Seventh Investments and Capital Markets Conference, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, last week,
Dr. Hutchinson noted that the country sustained average losses totalling between $16 and $18 billion per year, resulting from inclement weather, over the last 10 years .
“When we get rains, our roads are either blocked or damaged, and our farmers cannot get their products to market. Mudslides (invariably) take away everything, and all the rural towns are shut down,” he pointed out.
Dr. Hutchinson said consequent on this and other factors, close to an average of $1 billion worth of food items are being imported, adding that 45 per cent of this is deemed “low hanging fruit” that Jamaica can produce and not bring from overseas, by the United States Department of Agriculture.
The Director General argued that if the supply chain can be stabilised, stakeholders in the productive sectors could adequately fill the 45 per cent area of demand identified.
“But stabilising that supply chain means making our physical environment more resilient to inclement weather and other kinds of issues. Right now, it is not. But, we are seeing some success. We need to aggressively address our capacity to make our natural and our built environment more resilient,” he asserted.
In this regard, Dr. Hutchinson said key actions which can and should be taken, particularly in agriculture, include: construction of packaging houses; expansion of greenhouse technology; and river training.
The Director General emphasised the need to effect these undertakings, particularly in rural areas where there are fewer incentives to encourage residents in those regions to remain and engage in agricultural and other relevant enterprises, “because they are so non-resilient,” to the onslaughts of weather variations.
“So, they come into the urban areas, and that creates even more problems. We need to allow people who live in rural areas to have an opportunity to have meaningful economic lives,” Dr. Hutchinson argued.
By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter