Fourteen sporting facilities within the sugar growing areas island-wide will be upgraded and rehabilitated in an effort to enhance the social lives of the residents in these areas.
The over $200 million rehabilitation works, which will be carried out by the Sports Development Foundation (SDF), through funding from the European Union (EU) and the government of Jamaica, are expected to commence shortly.
Speaking on Wednesday April 18 at the signing ceremony for the undertaking at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Hope Gardens offices, Portfolio Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, said the upgrading effort is expected to last for two years.
He said investments in the development of sports infrastructure will undoubtedly benefit the nation’s people, by unearthing and honing talents. “We have to invest in our human capital, mindful that it was these very facilities, supported by the sugar industry, that produced some of our greatest cricketers,” he said.
For her part, Chief Financial Controller, SDF, Charmaine Hanson, said the projects to be undertaken in the sugar-dependent areas will enhance healthy lifestyles, foster community camaraderie, and also provide a platform for sports careers in the future.
Ms. Hanson said the SDF is pleased to be partnering with the Ministry and the EU in undertaking its mandate of developing the nation through sports.
The agreement falls under the Sugar Adaptation Strategy, which supports the privatisation of the government-owned sugar assets and mitigating the social and economic fallout from the reform of the EU sugar regime.
In the meantime, Mr. Clarke said the Government will be spending some $3.4 billion over the next four years on social programmes.
This, he said, is in addition to the nearly $900 million that “we have disbursed to vulnerable, displaced sugar workers and small cane farmers, to cushion the effect of the fallout” in the industry.
Minister Clarke said the Government is “pleased with the privatisation so far,” and is continuing to ensure that provisions are made for those who may have been affected.
“We have made provisions to resettle some 800 residents, who were in the sugar cane barracks and put them into new communities with modern facilities, and we hope to sign another agreement with Food for the Poor (for housing) in short order because that is also critical,” he said.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter