St. James Parish Forum 2012
(Montego Bay, Jamaica)
St. James Parish Forum 2012
The Social Development Commission hosted the St. James Parish Forum 2012 that was held at the Conference Center in Mount Salem, Montego Bay, Jamaica this Thursday, November 22, 2012.
An impressive number, over 75%, of the ministers of government were in attendance.
These included the finance minister, Mr. Peter Phillips, minister of local government and community development, Mr. Noel Arscott, youth minister, Ms Lisa Hanna, Agriculture Minister, Mr. Roger Clarke, prime minister, Mrs Portia Simpson-Miller and several other ministers.
Senators, current and past members of parliament and councilors were also in attendance.
The significant majority of the audience was comprised of representatives of community based groups and civic agencies.
Designated presenters were invited to speak after which the audience was invited to ask questions or make comments.
Perhaps as expected, the majority of the feedback from the audience was directly related to issues they were having in their communities which ranged from poor infrastructure to lack of opportunity and neglect.
A senior citizen from the Barrett Town area invited the authorities to engage them, a community of returning residents, who has a lot of knowledge and expertise that the government could use.
The local members of parliament (MPs) responded to the questions based on the constituency that the question or issue was raised about.
Prior to the forum segment the main presenters spoke. In the opening presentation, Mr. Noel Arscott announced the acquisition of (10) ten street lights that was to be installed in the Granville division of St. James.
He also mentioned the fact that the government is looking to replace the 96 thousand street lights in Jamaica with more energy efficient ones.
Mr. Peter Phillips, the minister of finance and planning, followed speaking on several issues related to the economy, which included the delay in signing of the current IMF deal (because of the need for a good deal) and the government's plan to transform the economy - from manufacturing to ICT.
One of which was the plan to implement eight (8) agro parks in Jamaica
that will help to reduce the food import bill.
In her address, the prime minister encouraged the group to recognize and embrace the power of communities, but skillfully took jabs at those who were criticizing her administration for the purchase of high-end vehicles for government ministers recently.
The criticisms were levied considering the poor state of the economy and the need for the government to set an example.
The prime minister indicated that she does not embrace lavish living but asked a question -"After many years of study and learning, if any of your children graduated from school and decided to go into politics, wouldn't you want him or her to have the best?", she asked the audience.
She also indicated that many politicians are now earning less that what they were earning in their jobs, prior to representational politics.
The prime minister took the opportunity to defend her administration, at the same time attacking the previous government using what she called "The Three Statistics".
One of which she mentioned, was the increase in debt from 950 billion in 2007 (when they left office) to 1.6 trillion in 2011, when they returned.
She also reported that unemployment was at 9.6% in 2007 but rose to almost 14% in 2011.
Among the other key points spoken on by the prime minister were:
- The strengthening of linkages between tourism and manufacturing.
- The inauguration of direct flights from Moscow to Montego Bay, commencing in January 2013.
- Commendations on the public/private sector employment partnership.
- The second phase of the JEEP program which is now on.
- Renovation of the Craft Market in Montego Bay.
- The setting up of field offices in western Jamaica to support the Land distribution and ownership project.
- The values and attitude program, and
- Housing for hotel workers under the NHT.
The prime minister's presentation was a highlight but another would have to be the strong sentiments and deep emotions that came from the the audience, the constituents, who for the most part were asking for better representation and attention to their needs.
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