Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke yesterday broke ground for the start of infrastructure construction works at two sites in St Thomas where a total of 225 housing units are to be built to relocate 486 current and former sugar workers living in mostly ramshackle barracks.
Simpson Miller and Clarke earlier participated in the contract-signing which will see 80 houses built at Hampton Court for 184 persons and another 302 persons relocated to 145 units at Stokes Hall. The European Union (EU) is funding the project at a cost of $308 million.
That money is part of the accompanying assistance the EU is providing to the Government in the form of budgetary support for use at its discretion on the rehabilitation and sustenance of various segments of the sugar industry. It is intended to offset the fallout caused by the new common agriculture policy effected in Europe, which saw Jamaica losing its preferential rates and guaranteed market access for sugar, among other benefits.
Some of the money has already been used to make redundancy payments and establish a cane-expansion fund and this project is just one aspect of support for persons who work or worked in the sector and now, because of the changes, are worse off economically and require assistance. One such coonceern is in housing (barracks) which those in St Thomas described as among the worst in the country.
The barracks traditionally were introduced to provide temporary housing for migrant workers who came from all across the islands to work in the cane fields and factories, particularly during crop time.