Sun | May 28, 2017

Dwayne Vaz wants more money for Central Westmoreland

Published:Friday | September 18, 2015 | 9:00 AMDaraine Luton

Dwayne Vaz, the newest member of the House of Representatives, made his parliamentary-debate debut on Tuesday with a call for proportional allocation of funds to constituencies.

Vaz, who entered the House of Representatives following a by-election in Central Westmoreland last December, told parliamentarians it was unfair to give constituencies with fewer people and less land mass the same amount of money as bigger and more populated ones.

"Central Westmoreland is the largest constituency in Jamaica by the number of registered voters - over 42,000 on the voters' list. It is also one of the largest constituencies, geographically speaking, and also one of those unique constituencies which is part urban and part rural, which makes it more difficult with these challenges," Vaz said.

At present, all members of parliament (MPs) receive an equal annual allocation of $15 million under the Constituency Development Fund, for spending in their constituencies. Additionally, each of the island's 63 MPs is allocated $10 million for project development under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme.

"For a constituency like Central Westmoreland, which has the most people and is one of the largest, we ... don't think it is fair for us to be getting the same allocation as constituencies that have half the number of people and half the size of the area," Vaz said.

Fellow first-time MP Damion Crawford, whose East Rural St Andrew constituency has more than 36,000 voters, has made a similar argument in the past but has not received much support.

On Tuesday, Vaz said the way in which allocation is done "makes it more difficult for us to be able to channel the resources in the most effective and efficient way".

The five biggest constituencies, based on electorate, are Central Westmoreland, South East Clarendon, North East St Ann, Western St Thomas and Central Manchester.

ADDITIONAL CONSTITUENCY

The Electoral Commission of Jamaica has said that if the current trend continues, Westmoreland and St Thomas will each qualify for an additional constituency, while Kingston and St Andrew are likely to lose a constituency each. There are currently 93,669 registered votes in Westmoreland, which has three constituencies.

The two smallest constituencies by voters on the list are St Andrew North Eastern with 18,299 electors and Trelawny Southern with 18,370 electors.

Vaz told Parliament that despite not competing on a level playing field, Central Westmoreland is on the way to being transformed into the envy of the country. He said one of the interventions being made is the Integrated Community Development Programme (ICDP) which is to be implemented in Russia, Savanna-la-Mar.

"This programme will see some $200 million being spent in Russia over a five-year period," he said.

The ICDP is being funded through a loan from the World Bank in the amount of US$42 million and is being implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com