Thu | Apr 27, 2017

Tap JEEP, PetroCaribe to fight chikungunya

Published:Monday | September 29, 2014 | 9:00 AM
Shaw

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

ARGUING THAT Jamaica's
fiscal austerity programme has left the health sector on life support,
the parliamentary opposition last week said the government should seek
to tap various funding pools for money to help fight the chikungunya
virus.

Audley Shaw, the opposition spokesman on finance, said
Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, notwithstanding the tight fiscal
space in which he operates, must seek to find creative ways to bail out
the health sector.

"Say to minister (Omar) Davies, how do we take
some money from the JEEP programme and go and clean all those wretched,
dirty drains ...," Shaw said.

He suggested that the $80 million
that has been set aside for contingency under JEEP should be used to
clear drains in the fight against chikungunya.

"You are telling me
that we have a budget of over $600 billion in this country, we have raw
cash sitting around in the PetroCaribe fund, we have money at the JEEP
and we cannot reorder our priorities to treat this as a matter of urgent
national importance," Shaw added.

The national budget is $540
billion. Included in this amount is $630 million which is allocated to
members of parliament under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme
(JEEP) to do infrastructure works in their constituencies.

Shaw also suggested that the Government seeks to get funds from the National Health Fund (NHF) to treat with the matter.

"We are not treating this thing as if it is an urgent matter," Shaw said.

Sitting on resources

He
said the ministers of transport and works and local government "are
sitting on resources that can be used to address this urgent matter and
they are not doing it".

"They are guilty of gross dereliction of duty," he added.

The
parliament has approved a housekeeping budget of $34.7 billion for
spending in the health ministry this year, down from $36.6 billion last
year. The ministry's capital budget is $1.2 billion down from $1.8
billion last year.

The entire Capital A budget is funded by the
NHF. Just over $1 billion is to use for improvements to health
facilities, $100 million for the acquisition of medical equipment and
$162 million for disease prevention and control. The amount allocated to
disease prevention and control is $98 million more than last year.

Meanwhile,
Dr Ken Baugh, the opposition spokesman on health, said yesterday that
Jamaica is facing a widespread epidemic of the virus and blamed the
government for not doing enough to deal with the situation.

Jamaica
has recorded 35 positive cases of the chikungunya virus and the health
ministry has decided against continued publication of the numbers.

Baugh,
however, feels that the incidence on the island could reach as high as
60 per cent, due primarily to the fact the virus is new to the region
and the Government has been slow to react.

"What we are addressing
today is what appears to be the social consequences of severe austerity
programmes which have contracted the economy and severely compromised
the ability of the ministry of health to respond meaningfully for
emergencies such as this," Baugh said.

"We always have to make
provisions that from time to time especially this time of the year,
there can be crisis, not only hurricane crises but that we can have
epidemic of diseases," he added.