Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
THE REOPENING of the Windalco Ewarton alumina plant in St Catherine, after more than a year of non-operation, provided some hope for the parish in a year which saw a severe downturn in the local economy, underpinned by the global recession.
The Russian firm, UC RUSAL group of companies, was the wind beneath the wings of more than 600 Jamaicans who were employed to staff the plant.
With agriculture being one of the major economic activities in the parish, several strides were made to boost production and enhance the marketing strategies of farmers during 2010.
The Ministry of Agriculture stepped up its initiative to increase onion production to satisfy the local demand of approximately 12,000 tonnes annually.
In North East St Catherine, 80 farmers were selected to participate in the $43 million 'Diversify to Compete' project, a joint initiative funded by the European Union Banana Support Programme and Member of Parliament Gregory Mair's Constituency Development Fund.
"The whole idea is that from Top Mountain going to Pear Tree Grove, going all the way up into Seasfield, Ragsville, Middlesex to Bonnet, all that belt becomes like a high-tech belt, so the whole concept is that I will see the farmers operating differently, not only in the field, but the way they market, package," Mair told The Gleaner, as he reflected on the project.
In August 2010, the five-year Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme, which will see rehabilitation of major and parochial roads, as well as the construction and repair of bridges and drains, was rolled out at the Ebony Baptist Church. Several roads in the parish, including Bog Walk to Zion Hill, Riversdale to Pear Tree Grove and Old Harbour to Old Harbour Way, will be rehabilitated under the US$400-million (J$36 billion) project.
During the same month, Transport and Works Minister Mike Henry officially opened the Bog Walk bridge, one of 15 new bridges completed under the R.A. Murray International Limited Jamaica Bridge Development Programme. Construction began in 2007, but delays dogged the project, which ended up costing taxpayers US$1.7 million.
During the past year, the St Catherine Parish Council erected 80 street signs at a cost of $900,000.
The Old Harbour Bay Fishing Village received a much-needed upgrade, valued at more than $3 million. The rehabilitation work included the reconstruction of the market house, the fishing shed and bathroom facilities.
With assistance from corporate Jamaica last year, the council established a $2.5-million feeding shelter for the homeless on Monk Street in the Old Capital.