­­­It brings me great pleasure to join the rest of the world in celebrating UN World Habitat Day 2013.  Jamaica has not just been keen on working with its global partners over the years in seeing to the collective upgrading in the housing standards of our people, but has been playing a central role in this global drive. This fact is evident in a number of international housing-related events that we have participated in over the years. This includes Jamaica’s involvement in the United Nations Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme (PSUP) and the annual General Assembly of Ministers of Housing and Urbanization in Latin America and the Caribbean (MINURVI)  – both of which I attended recently in  Kigali, Rwanda and   Santiago, Chile respectively.  Our international presence is further strengthened by our local initiatives to significantly increase our housing stock, widen mortgage options, expand our title distribution programme and upgrade informal housing settlements. Housing is a major priority for this Administration.

This year’s theme for World Habitat Day, while still engendering the need to pursue sustainable housing solutions, highlights another significant aspect of urban development. The theme is simply Urban Mobility.  It is however a theme that is most apt for Jamaica at this time and certainly for other developing countries which have increasingly bustling cities and urban centres. Here in Jamaica, with the perennial concern that there needs to be a robust overhaul of our transportation system, the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing is moving forthwith with plans to modernise same. Among the agencies that will be leading this charge are the Transport Authority, the Island Traffic Authority, the National Road Safety Council, the Road Safety Unit and the National Works Agency. Another major partner is the Jamaica Constabulary Force which is responsible for the enforcement of our laws. On that matter, plans are apace for the tabling of a new Road Traffic Bill before the end of the current fiscal year that will bring Jamaica’s traffic laws into the 21st century.

The Government of Jamaica is cognisant that urban mobility is central to the aims of re-organizing our towns and cities, reducing travel time, making business transactions easier and improving the general aesthetics of our urban centres. All this is crucial in the mandate to increase productivity and grow our economy. Furthermore, with a rising population locally and global population growth projections for cities of 60% by 2030 and 70% by 2050, it is imperative that we accelerate the push to make transportation in areas like Kingston, Montego Bay, Spanish Town, May Pen, among other areas, more efficient. We cannot adequately accommodate the rising numbers of cars, buses and trucks on our roads. We just don’t have the capacity. As such, the Ministry is exploring more sustainable transportation modes that will ease access into and around our towns.  Coupled with the improved modes of travel is the continuation of our road infrastructure rehabilitation programmes, ensuring only road-worthy vehicles traverse our roadways, enabling more stringent traffic law enforcement, standardising the curriculum for new drivers and a general enhancement of the public transportation sector. These plans will positively impact all users of the roads and in turn improve the quality of living in our urban areas as well. Improving mobility in our towns should not be divorced from the charge to also provide adequate shelter solutions to our citizens as both have synergies for social and economic development .

So as we celebrate World Habitat Day 2013, let me, on behalf of the Government of Jamaica, re-iterate Jamaica’s global commitment to playing its part in advancing the well-being of our populace through the transformation of our land transportation sector and the provision of decent, affordable housing. This is all in our effort as we seek to encapsulate the goal of our 2030 vision to make Jamaica the global place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.

Hon. Dr. Morais V. Guy, MP

Minister without Portfolio (Housing)

Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing

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