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Speech

MADAM SPEAKER, I rise to make my presentation in this Honourable House, on behalf of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. The Ministry is charged with drafting the blueprint to drive economic growth and sustainable development in Jamaica and has responsibility for six (6) critical portfolio areas that are extremely important to the present and future sustainability of our beloved island Jamaica and the welfare of the people whom we serve as representatives in this Honourable House. As such, we are very aware that we have our work cut out for us.

Madam Speaker, it is no secret that we have endured much as a nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I am optimistic and indeed, it is my firm belief that together we will overcome the challenges and continue the thrust towards sustainable development with a renewed sense of purpose, and increased focus.

WORKS PORTFOLIO

When the Prime Minister spoke earlier in the Budget Debate, he would have laid the foundation for what I call the macro plan where infrastructure works were concerned. Infrastructure, in particular the works portfolio is wide and encompasses much more than what the Most Honourable Prime Minister would have touched on. I want to therefore speak to some of the other critical road related works that the Government through the National Works Agency (NWA) has been giving attention. COVID-19 and its impact on Works Programmes

Madam Speaker, the country is still facing serious challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has caused hardships in many respects. From our perspective, we have seen where the Government had to shift resources away from road work activities to the health sector, which no one can deny needed this support. I would have loved to have been in a position to see more roads, bridges, retaining walls and road markings done across Jamaica, but COVID has prevented this reality.

Madam Speaker, I note the recent uptick in demonstrations across the island on account of poor road conditions. I truly share some of the concerns and frustrations of the people. I want to assure them however, that we will be doing all that is possible to improve the condition of roads into the many communities. Some of the demonstrations have been in respect of works now underway, I have instructed that the NWA directly or through its consultants ramps up its supervision of these works to monitor the activities that are likely to cause public unrest.

Madam Speaker, while I understand some of the basis of the public protest, there can be no excuse for persons to block roads, set fire to the debris, which then cause further damage to roads. I wish to restate here that blocking of a road won’t necessarily result in it being fixed shortly
thereafter. If anything, this sometimes lead to an even longer time as further damage is done to already bad surfaces and drainage features compromised, which then makes it necessary to increase the sums required for making such a corridor good.

Restoration of the Gordon Town Main Road

Madam Speaker, when the significant part of the Gordon Town Main Road in St. Andrew collapsed during heavy rainfall in November 2020, the Government pledged to have the roadway restored as quickly as possible. This pledge was based on the significant dislocation that this natural disaster caused to the thousands of residents of Gordon Town and other rural communities such as Mavis Bank, Dublin Castle, and Robertsfield. When examined against the backdrop of the economic impact on our Jamaican Coffee, there is no way the Government could not have acted in the manner it did. Let me remind this House that much of our world famous Blue Mountain Coffee grows in the communities above Gordon Town and access to the port facilities also had to be weighed into the decision making process.

Madam Speaker, I am happy to report that the roadway was officially reopened in October 2021, with the project being delivered on time and under budget. However, we are not unaware of the need for additional works along the corridor. In fact, planned upgrade works on the Mahogany Vale bridge had to be suspended as a result of the embankment failure at Gordon Town. The heavy vehicles needed to execute the works at Mahogany Vale could not traverse the other corridors, hence the bridge project slowed significantly.

Madam Speaker, while we continue to look for additional funds to target other sections to the corridor, we are delighted that we were able to do some work based on the cost savings that we experienced from the execution of this project.

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