Fri | Nov 22, 2019

$550M RAIN BILL - Gov’t to spend big to repair roads ravaged by recent showers

Published:Wednesday | October 2, 2019 | 12:31 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
This photo taken on Monday shows a section of Spanish Town Road which has caved in because of recent rainfall in the vicinity of Six Miles, 
St Andrew.
This photo taken on Monday shows a section of Spanish Town Road which has caved in because of recent rainfall in the vicinity of Six Miles, St Andrew.

Heavy rains in recent days have left the Government with an emergency bill for more than $550 million to clear and reinstate over 200 roadways across the island.

At the same time, however, citizens grappling with severe water restrictions will get some relief as Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced that the National Water Commission (NWC) will relax some of its conservation measures.

According to Holness, a report by the National Works Agency (NWA) has revealed that 215 roadways have been damaged by “flood events” since the start of the current fiscal year in April, resulting in a “bill of some $640 million to reopen and reinstate those roads”.

Of this amount, $554 million is to cover damage caused by the recent heavy rains.

“At present, all roads have been reopened to at least single lane while work continues to remove blockages and silt and landslides,” Holness said in a statement to the House of Representatives yesterday.

Approximately $54.75 million of the remaining $84.73 million was spent to carry out emergency road repairs earlier this year.

Holness noted that his administration has already tabled in Parliament a revised Budget for the current fiscal year and is, therefore, “not in a position to somehow find money”.

“So what we will be doing is re-examining the Budget that we have and do what governments have to do, which is make priorities,” he said.

But just over a week after Jamaica successfully completed its financial arrangements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the prime minister sought to make it clear that his administration is committed to fiscal discipline.

“The real test is not the IMF test. The real test is if the Government can maintain fiscal discipline without any external supervision,” he insisted. “Great sacrifices were made. Under my watch – and I’m certain that if any favours should fall otherwise that anyone else that would have the watch would ensure that Jamaica would not return to the days when we are profligate with our finances.”

Up to yesterday, according to Holness, the two main water storage facilities in the Corporate Area – the Mona Reservoir and the Hermitage Dam – were at 54 and 72 per cent of capacity, respectively.

“The NWC will seek to relax some of the restrictions,” Holness announced, while insisting that “we are not going to abandon all our conservation methods”.

“It [NWC] now has some capacity and, frankly, I think the level of frustration the public is experiencing is tremendously high and it would not be easy to explain to people why we are having rain and they still can’t get any water.”

Number of roadways blocked or damaged by parish and the cost to repair them:

Kingston 29 roads $13.8M

St Andrew 18 roads $46.4M

St Catherine 38 roads $56.7M

St Thomas 16 roads $55.2M

Portland 6 roads $7M

St Mary 5 roads $2.3M

St Ann 8 roads $2.5M

Clarendon 42 roads $188M

Manchester 10 roads $53M

St Elizabeth 9 roads $39M

St James 8 roads $15M

Westmoreland 5 roads $25M

Hanover 14 roads $23M

Trelawny 7 roads $25.5M

Total = $554M Source: National Works Agency