1. This is my 19th year as a Member of Parliament. Have participated in every Budget Debate since my election to Parliament, either as Minister of Finance and Planning, or as Opposition Spokesman. However, first time speaking in Sectoral Debate.
2. Honoured to have been asked to open and close this Debate. Sincerely hope that members on both sides who are participating use the opportunity to elaborate on issues of national importance, even as they spend some time in addressing concerns of their constituents. After all, no MP can forget the adage “all politics is local”.
3. Must commend you, Mr Speaker, on the way in which you have given leadership to the conduct of business in Parliament. This leadership has set the tone for constructive dialogue. I noted with pleasure that the Member for St Andrew North Central had reason to speak positively about the general improvement in the conduct of Parliamentary business under your leadership. I join him in expressing similar sentiments.
4. At the same time, courtesy towards each other and good behavior do not preclude spirited debate and sharp exchanges. We must learn to make this differentiation and make every effort to refrain from engaging in behavior which demeans this unique institution.
5. My new ministry covers Transport, Works and Housing and is indeed a huge establishment. Apart from the central ministry, falling under its aegis are 29 public companies, public bodies and institutions, the NWA, as well as that special programme which has benefited from so much attention – JEEP.
6. What I have learnt is that the Ministry, to a large extent, represents the face of the State in terms of interactions with a majority of the population, on both the domestic and international levels. This is true whether we are speaking about the NWA, the Transport Authority, the JUTC or the Island Traffic Authority on the local scene – or the Port Authority, the Civil Aviation Authority and Airports Authority, geared at our international linkages.
7. Clearly, a ministry of this size is much too large for any one person to manage and so I gratefully acknowledge the support of the two other members of the political directorate who have been assigned to work with me – the Minister without Portfolio, the member for St Mary Central, and the Minister of State, the member for Clarendon North West.
8. Each has been given special assignments and will report on them in detail when this turn comes around in the debate. Suffice to say that the Minister without Portfolio has main responsibility for the housing section of the Ministry and, but for a special project for which I have taken personal responsibility, the Minister of State is literally the man on the road. He is the member of the political directorate within the Ministry who is fully acquainted with every major project being undertaken by the NWA. He will also provide fuller details in terms of a progress report on, as well as the Ministry’s approach to such projects.
9. Must take opportunity to express thanks to Permanent Secretary, the CEO of the NWA, the two Directors General as well as the Heads of all the various bodies and institutions.
10. This Ministry, perhaps more than any other, interfaces with the public in diverse ways. I have indicated to the central ministry as well as to the associated institutions that not only should our interaction with the public be characterized by the highest level of integrity and efficiency, but also by an explicit acknowledgement that courtesy and respect for members of the public are non-negotiable requirements.
11. This may seem to be an innocuous statement, but I intend to ensure that in all our interactions this role is observed and all complaints to the contrary will be seriously examined and remedial actions taken when justified. We ask the public to hold us to this commitment
12. A major challenge will be completion, within this fiscal year, of the JDIP projects. As I have said previously, what had been originally projected to be a 5-year project will see all resources exhausted in a little over two years. Furthermore, it has been a major struggle to “refine” the various lists of projects which was presented to MPs at different points in time and produce one credible output.
13. We are now there and I wish to express appreciation to all colleagues for their understanding as we seek to bring order to this project.
14. No question that the infrastructure needs remain but we recognize the fiscal constraints. Will have to make do with a Capital A Budget of $700M to address patching and basic maintenance. Simply wish to assure the country and my colleagues that whatever we have will be spent equitably.
15. In this presentation, will not try to cover all subject areas. Will begin by speaking briefly about a constituency project. Will then discuss JEEP, the Land Transport Sector and finally the three mega projects which we anticipate will contribute significantly to economic growth in the medium term.
16. I must pause to make reference to a question posed in the media – why did we not, as promised route JDIP through the Central Budget. Answer: when the commitment was made we simply had no idea as to the fact that the (US)$400M had been spent or totally committed.
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