Growth Forum: Lucea falling for want of good leaders
Despite producing many influential national leaders over the years, stakeholders in Lucea, Hanover, think the town is currently suffering from a deficiency of quality leadership, which is stifling its prospects in terms of attracting investments and luring tourists.
"We live in a town that is really neglected. There are several concerns on the cleanliness of the town. The other is a lack of vision. We are lacking in leadership; our leaders have insufficient vision," said Nerris Hawthorne, president of the Lucea Development Initiative.
Hawthorne, who was speaking at The Gleaner's Job Creation, Investment and Growth Forum in Lucea, went on to bemoan the fact that, despite its ideal location within the western Jamaica tourism belt, the town is without a plan to promote investment and development.
"We do not have a plan for the town and I think for us to make good progress, we have to start with a plan," said Hawthorne.
The parish capital is sand-wiched by two of the Western Hemisphere's most popular tourist destinations - Negril and Montego Bay - and boasts a collection of historical treasures such as forts, churches and sites dating back to the days of the Tainos. Additionally, it has hotel accommodations and attractions that are the envy of other regions, albeit not enjoying the heavy tourist activities being experienced by its two resort neighbours.
"We really don't have what it takes to encourage the tourists to stop in Lucea and partake of an offering. We have some serious issues to deal with - some of them infrastructural. The town is filthy, the roads are disgusting, there is some improvement to the water supply, and public lighting is intermittent," said Dr David Stair, custos of Hanover.
"It pains to see where we are at in 2015," Stair continued. "From I was a child growing in this town, you would hear of plans to develop the site, but it has come to naught. If you dig up file 13 in some organisations down here, you will see these plans repeated over and over again."
However, Jennifer Taylor-Wilson, general manager of the Hanover Co-operative Credit Union, is still optimistic that, if the basic needs of the town are addressed, the situation could quickly change.
"As a leader of this town and this parish, I think the Hanover Credit Union is and continues to lead change. I have been looking and it has been on my mind as to what we can do for Hanover, (because) it is a few persons that have been working," said Taylor-Wilson.
"I intend to continue to work and seek the expertise to do what must be done. We have Hanoverians all over the world and across Jamaica," added Taylor-Wilson.
While sharing the optimism of Taylor-Wilson, the Reverend Glenroy Clarke, chairman of Rusea's High School board, believes the parish's location, along the tourist belt, is key to increased revenue flow into the town, but he, too, is championing the need for strong leadership.
Hanover is the second smallest parish in Jamaica, with Lucea having a population of just over 6,500, but according Anthony Walker, councillor of the Cauldwell division in the Hanover Parish Council, only 30 per cent of the populace have been paying their property taxes, and only a mere five per cent are going to the local authority to seek building permits.
"The challenges we face are easy to fix, and given our size, it will not cost a lot, but I believe that strong leadership is required in terms of changing the way we think as private owners and also the way we regulate the parish council for the cleanliness of the town and building-code enforcement," said Kelvin Hall, president of the Hanover Chamber of Commerce.