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Holness says controversial de-bushing programme not new

Published:Friday | November 25, 2016 | 11:32 PM
Holness ... a similar project which cost $592 million excluding fees, was undertaken last year by the previous administration.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has declared that the controversial $600 million de-bushing programme is not new saying a similar amount was spent by the previous government last year.

The Opposition has accused the Andrew Holness-led administration of using the bush-clearing programme to 'buy' support in Monday's local government elections.

This afternoon, Holness in a release, said today he received a full brief on the programme during a meeting with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Audrey Sewell and the Chief Executive Officer of the National Works Agency (NWA) E.G Hunter.

The Prime Minister says he has been informed that the programme is a routine annual activity conducted by successive governments.

Mr. Holness also says a similar project which cost $592 million excluding fees, was undertaken last year by the previous administration.

He says the last mitigation programme was conducted in December 2015, under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme model which was distributed on the priorities of the Members of Parliament.

But he says in light of the heavy rains and the threat of Zika, the Government announced in Parliament on November 2, that it would roll out a new island wide mitigation programme.

It is being carried out by the NWA under the emergency contracting procedure.

Holness says this programme is designed to continue to January 2017.

The PNP has supported the de-bushing concept but has raised concern that it is only being done in JLP-dominated areas by people purporting to be supporters of the party.

Contractor General, Dirk Harrison, has opened a probe into the bush-clearing programme.