Fri | Dec 15, 2017

On the Corner with EPOC | 'They are raping the parish' - St Thomas residents demand greater share of the revenue from its resources

Published:Sunday | August 20, 2017 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines
An animated Winston ‘Danny’ Thompson (left) makes a point as co-chairman of EPOC Keith Duncan listens.
Businessman Denver Howell making a point during The Gleaner On The Corner with EPOC in Duhaney Pen, St Thomas, last Thursday.
Elaine Edwards was adamant that the Government can do way more for the people of St Thomas.
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For years, residents of St Thomas have complained that they are not benefiting from the numerous resources in the parish.

Those cries were repeated last Thursday as The Gleaner On The Corner, with the Economic Pro-gramme Oversight Commit-tee (EPOC), made its latest stop in Duhaney Pen.

Leading the charge was businessman Denver Howell, who argued that St Thomas is being raped, with none of its resources used to move the parish forward.

"How can it be that the water from St Thomas supplies Kingston and yet still the people who live in the hills of St Thomas where the water is coming from have to bore the pipeline to get a little water to do the basics?" asked Howell to loud cheers from his neighbours.

Howell noted that the parish is uniquely blessed with construction aggregate, which has been used to build numerous hotels, highways and roadways outside of the parish with no monetary returns from the material.

"It has been said that St Thomas have the best aggregate but yet we don't have a proper road. It's foolishness," declared Howell.

The businessman argued that if successive governments had collected even a small contribution from every litre of water and tonne of aggregate to leave the parish, St Thomas would be among Jamaica's most developed and richest parishes.

With co-chairman of EPOC Keith Duncan engaging the audience as he outlined the role of EPOC in monitoring the Government's performance under the three-year International Monetary Fund standby agreement, Howell argued that St Thomas would take off if a more active role was played in applying taxes to the resources.

In the meantime, Winston Thompson charged that over the years, respective administrations have favoured urban Jamaica at the expense of rural communities.

"The people here try hard to access social services but is just pure runaround we get. This country seem to only check for town areas and tourist resorts and avoid investments in the rural communities because they fear it will fail," charged Thompson.

Fellow St Thomas resident Elaine Edwards agreed, as she argued that despite the willingness of the people of the parish to work, employment opportunities are scarce because of a lack of state investment.

"Government can do way more," charged Edwards. "We have a lot of resources that can be put to good use and create employment, we just need the Government's assistance and we're not getting much, if any."

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com