Tue | Jan 19, 2021

Rural Ja REDI for US$40m agri, tourism boost

Published:Thursday | October 1, 2020 | 12:12 AMJonielle Daley/Gleaner Writer
Omar Sweeney, managing director of JSIF.
Omar Sweeney, managing director of JSIF.

The Government is hoping that the second phase of its Rural Economic Development Programme (REDI II) will pump life into rural economies, mitigate migration to urban centres, and spur new earning potential for thousands of persons across the island.

The US$40-million programme, which is aimed particularly at the agriculture and tourism sector, was launched and will provide assistance for small- to medium-scale rural enterprises to be able to supply the needs of private-sector businesses.

According to the Government, this strategy stands to increase the country’s production level and decrease the food-importation bill.

“The objective of the Government is to help to unlock the economic potential that exists. Both (public and private sectors) are needed for the well-rounded development of our society,” said Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

“Economic growth requires the creation of new products, greater volumes of those products, and greater training in these products,” he said at the launch.

The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) will be critical to the success of the project, investing in the modernisation of agriculture through technology and the development of community tourism to increase revenue streams and enhance economic growth.

JSIF Managing Director Omar Sweeny said the REDI II programme will show persons residing in rural Jamaica that they do not have to move into the city to earn a living. He urged them to keep listening out for ways to benefit from the programme.

At the end of the first implementation of the REDI programme in 2016, more than 1,300 jobs were created, contributing to a record 17 per cent growth of the agricultural sector.

Additionally, there was a US$6-million decrease in the country’s food-importation bill. The revenue from the programme also financed the development of the national tourism development strategy.

Holness, whose new administration is making a renewed push for rural development, said that the Government was not just focusing on tourism and agriculture for rural areas, but is also keen on bringing broadband Internet connections and access to electricity to open the door to more opportunities for Jamaicans.