JEEP revs up
The Government's Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) is to commence shortly with the provision of more than 700 jobs across seven parishes, according to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.
Addressing the People's National Party's (PNP) first National Executive Council meeting since its victory in the December 2011 polls, the party president said the Government would likely launch an aspect of JEEP on Wednesday.
"I think it is Wednesday that we will launch just one small part of JEEP where we will be creating jobs for about 700 persons starting in seven parishes," Simpson Miller said.
JEEP was one of the PNP's election promises which the party, as Government, is now seeking to roll out.
In January, the Government held talks with China regarding re-directing money from funds loaned for the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme towards JEEP. The outcome of the discussions is not clear, but Simpson Miller said various ministries are now working to ensure that, "as soon as we can, the other areas of the JEEP will be unveiled in agriculture and in ICT (information and communication technology).
"I know, for example, in agriculture, Minister (Roger) Clarke is continuing discussions that we started with some investors, bothlocal and foreign, so that we can put people to work in the agricultural sector."
The prime minister refrained from divulging details, saying she would leave the agriculture minister to make the announcement in Parliament.
She said, however, that the island's hotels were in need of eggs and vegetables and this was an opportunity for jobs in agriculture.
Simpson Miller said the Government would be looking at creating incentives for private-sector partners who come aboard the JEEP.
Turning to Jamaica Employ, another job-creation initiative by the Government which it believes has the potential to employ 40,000 people, Simpson Miller said the initial response has been positive, as employers have been calling to say they would be employing persons in order to take part in the proposal.
Simpson Miller clarified her stance on Jamaica Employ, saying: "I just want to make it clear. I'm not saying I'm compelling people. I'm making a call in the interest of this country. We have an awesome responsibility; and for those who feel that my appeal might be careless to ask the private sector to help create some jobs in partnership with the Government, if it is not going to be done that way, how is it going to be done?"
She added: "There's one former prime minister that said governments don't have any responsibility to create jobs. I do not feel that way. I feel that Government has a responsibility to help to facilitate job creation in the country."
The prime minister, however, warned of dire consequences if there is no support for JEEP.
"If you don't want to go this road with me, I am not the only one who will face the consequences. It's the entire country. It's a partnership, it's not just about Government, it's a public-private sector partnership for us to pull this country and move it forward; and it can be done."
She said: "I have the will, I am ready, I have the strength, I have the capability, I have the capacity. You have it too. Let us move together hand in hand. We need to get it right in Jamaica, once and for all."