Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Underdevelopment fills St Thomas with gloom

Published:Friday | February 27, 2015 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
Alston Stewart: I would like for us, people from St Thomas, to take responsibility for not having lobbied hard enough and not having proposed significant development programmes.
Lorian Peart-Roberts: The things are so challenging and overwhelming at times the people feel helpless.
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Nearly 150 years after the historic Morant Bay Rebellion, there are concerns that a feeling of hopelessness has taken root among residents in the eastern parish of St Thomas.

Lorian Peart-Roberts, parish manager for the St Thomas branch of the Social Development Commission (SDC), believes this feeling of gloom is being fuelled by the underdevelopment of the parish and decades of neglect.

According to Peart-Roberts, this has led to widespread poverty, chronic unemployment - especially among young people - and infrastructure that have not kept pace with the times.

"The things are so challenging and overwhelming at times, the people feel helpless," she said during a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's downtown Kingston offices yesterday.

"The mindset of the people goes back to pre-slavery days. They see no hope, they see no future, and this is what the parish has to try and contend with and move beyond," she continued.

Outlining some of the issues, Peart-Roberts revealed that a parish profile conducted by the SDC identified unemployment as the number-one problem facing St Thomas residents. In addition, she said the level of poverty "is there for you to see".

"We were recently ranked the poorest parish in the island," the SDC parish manager noted.

 

no educational movement

 

Another problem, she said, is that the transitioning of students from the secondary level to the tertiary level "is not happening in St Thomas at all".

"We (SDC) have compiled all the data and we have been sharing this information with other (stakeholders). Out of that a development order should come," she explained.

The plight of the residents across the 56 communities and 194 districts that comprise St Thomas has not escaped one of its leading sons, businessman Alston Stewart.

"I am not proud of Morant Bay. It has not been in a good state," declared Stewart, who was also a guest at the forum.

He noted that this is happening despite the fact that St Thomas has a strong agricultural background along with what he described as "two of the most hidden treasures this country has ever seen".

"We have the Bath Fountain, which is the most natural mineral resort environment that has been neglected significantly, and we have nice beaches, both black and white sand beaches, none of which is being exploited," he underscored.

"It is a failing on our part, including myself, having not paid greater attention to the development of the community in whole. We have been educated because of St Thomas and we have migrated, some of us have maintained some connection, but it is token connection rather than vesting your time and resources in the community," he added.

Stewart gave the assurance that he is prepared to be part of any serious effort to re-establish St Thomas to its leading role "as it was 150 years ago".

The well-known businessman said while it would be easy to blame successive administrations for the underdevelopment of the parish, he wants to see residents take responsibility for not lobbying hard enough or recommending meaningful development initiatives.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com