Gov’t sets sights on growth, squatting, reforming JCF
The Andrew Holness administration has signalled that the enactment of new legislation to fight crime, increasing the capacity of the Jamaican economy to produce goods and services, and seeking to understand the extent of the squatter problem are among the issues that will get priority attention in the new fiscal year.
Further, the Government has indicated that there will be a “significant” increase in the budgetary allocation for rural water and that the long-proposed Police Services Act, the legislative vehicle being used to modernise and transform the Jamaica Constabulary Force, will be presented to the Parliament in the new fiscal year.
Governor General Sir Patrick Allen made the disclosures as he delivered the annual Throne Speech in Parliament yesterday, marking the start of the new parliamentary year.
Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips has, however, dismissed the contents of the speech as “more like Alice in Wonderland”.
Phillips asserted, too, that the presentation was devoid of any plans to tackle corruption.
“There was not one single word about improving governance and quelling corruption, which has overwhelmed [the] Government and the country over the past year in so many areas,” he said.
Citing the proposed merger of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority and the Police Services Commission as an example, Phillips said that many of the announcements were not new.
“If you look in the 2018 Throne Speech, you will see that it was announced there,” he said.
But Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, defended the Government’s priorities, saying that the Throne Speech clearly defined Holness’ vision and how it would be achieved.
“If you look at it, he is connecting the dots. Infrastructure, the economy, health, garbage collection – all the things that make a healthy and prosperous society,” Vaz said.
He rebuffed Phillips’ criticisms, saying that Holness had already spoken and taken action regarding the governance issues that have surfaced in the public sector.
“There have been casualties, and I’m sure that if there are any more that rear their ugly head, the prime minister will take care of it,” Vaz said.
Allen, in his one-hour speech, also announced that the Holness administration plans to carry out a comprehensive multiagency national survey of squatter settlements “to accurately ascertain the extent of squatting in the country”. He said that the survey would also provide critical socio-economic, demographic, and environmental information on squatter settlements “that will inform the policy development process as well as intervention strategies”.
He said that the Government also plans to unveil a new social housing programme that would include the provision of indigent housing, the relocation of vulnerable communities, and the upgrading of tenements or ‘big yards’.