Ten months is a relatively short period of time in the life of any Administration, but since my appointment as Minister of State in the Ministry of Water and Housing in September 2007, I have seen what can be accomplished with vision, planning, focus and commitment to the task at hand. For these, and many other reasons, I want to acknowledge and thank a number of people.
First and foremost I want to thank my family, especially my son, my daughter and son in law, for the support they have given me, and for their acceptance and understanding of my many duties and assignments as Member of Parliament and State Minister. You are my foundation.
To the people of South West St. Catherine, I offer my heartfelt thanks for once again giving me the opportunity to serve in this esteemed House as your Member of Parliament.
It is a responsibility I have never, nor will ever take lightly, and I look forward to serving you for many more years to come.
My gratitude also goes out to the dedicated staff who run my Constituency Office, the Councilors, and Managers whose hard work on behalf of the constituents is greatly appreciated.
My thanks also to the many campaign workers who ensured that the election process was carried out smoothly and fairly.
To the Permanent Secretary Mrs. Genefa Hibbert, and the staff at the Ministry of Water and Housing, I thank you for your guidance, co-operation, and professionalism.
It may not always be an easy road, but if we continue to work together, keeping in mind the bigger picture of a better Jamaica, we will achieve and perhaps even surpass some of our stated targets.
I also want to say a special thank you to the Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding, for giving me the opportunity to serve Jamaica as Minister of State in what is undeniably a Ministry with critical portfolio responsibilities.
I want to give him the assurance that I will do my best to live up to the expectations of this Administration as well as those of the people of Jamaica.
Last but not least, I want to acknowledge you Mr. Speaker, and all my colleagues here in this Honourable House.
Despite being on opposite sides of the floor, and our occasional differences in opinion, respect is due. I urge us all to remember that as we engage in the many spirited debates that will no doubt ensue during the course of this legislative year, what we do here is not for ourselves, but for the development of our beautiful country and the well being of the people who have entrusted us with the responsibility and the privilege of serving them as Members of Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, It is a well known fact that adequate housing and proper infrastructure such as water and sewerage services, are vital if we are to build healthy, robust, and dynamic communities and by extension, a healthy, vibrant and productive nation.
The aim of this Administration is to make this nation among the strongest and most successful in the world, and so as the Honourable Minister Dr. Horace Chang noted in his earlier Sectoral Presentation, we cannot fail in meeting our goals for these two key deliverables.
Water is a resource that we have been blessed with, and for quite a number of us, safe, potable, running water is a basic part of our daily lives. Because of this, the sad but true reality is that many of us take it for granted, even though it is sometimes unsuitable. But without this precious resource, life, as we know it, would cease to exist.
Imagine no water to rinse out our mouths after we brush our teeth. No shower or bath, no way to wash our face or shampoo our hair. No flushing of the toilet, and no coffee or tea in the morning. Unless we have the financial resources to go to the store every day, our clothes would be full of dirt, stained and smelly which would make us unbearable to be around.
Our homes and businesses would be filthy, havens for disease causing germs, leading to a serious loss of productive man hours from illnesses.
In addition, our children, those who could survive, would almost always be sick and out of school which in turn would impact on their ability to learn and ultimately their futures as productive members of society. Food preparation would be a nightmare and we would literally take our lives in our hands while dining.
Our hospitals would be unhygienic. Doctors would be unable to perform surgeries and their patients would almost always die from infection as a result of not being able to clean wounds.
Thousands of Jamaicans would be out of work, as without water crops could not grow. In addition to our drinking water, we would have to import all our food as well. Without adequate water infrastructure there would be no tourist industry, and construction and manufacturing would be virtually non-existent.
My point in all this, Mr. Speaker, is that water touches every aspect of our existence, and is an essential, indeed a critical component if we are to live healthy, dignified lives.
Significant progress has been made by the Ministry of Water and Housing and its water agencies (The National Water Commission, Rural Water Supply Limited and the Water Resources Authority) in providing water and sewerage services to the people of Jamaica. Approximately 70-percent of Jamaican households now have piped water and that number is trending upwards.
But while this is positive news, Mr. Speaker, there is still much to be done, as 20 percent (20%) of households across the country, mainly occupied by the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, still rely on untreated and potentially unsafe water sources such as rivers, springs and ponds
It is indefensible for even one Jamaican to be without a safe source of drinking water much less 20-percent of our population.
It is indefensible that in the 21st century, women and children in particular still have to be travelling for miles to perform the backbreaking task of bringing water back to their homes for domestic use.
It is indefensible the man hours lost to this task, hours that should be spent in productive use elsewhere.
It bears repeating Mr. Speaker, that access to safe water and adequate sanitation represent a significant contribution to the well being of individuals and communities and is part of the basis on which economic progress can be achieved.
Even as I stand to make my presentation to this Honourable House, the Ministry and its portfolio agencies are working tirelessly to build on the foundations already laid, to ensure that each resident in each district in this little island of ours, has access to a safe and reliable supply of potable water.
It means fewer persons, particularly children, will get diarrhea or some other illness from drinking untreated water, It means healthier, cleaner households, and by extension, healthier, cleaner and more productive communities.
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