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Jamaica to get lions share of UK money

Published:Thursday | October 1, 2015 | 2:08 PMGary Spaulding

Jamaica is to be the recipient of the lion's share of the £300-million infrastructure grant from the United Kingdom (UK), to be administered by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Department for International Development (DFID) that leads the UK's work to end extreme poverty.

The disclosure was made yesterday by the British High Commissioner to Jamaica David Fitton during a press briefing at his residence in St Andrew.

He said more details on the package will emerge in coming days as the UK government is moving with dispatch to implement the plans.

Fitton said that United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron had issued instructions that implementation of the programme must be expedited to conclude his current electoral career.

"A large proportion (of the £300 million) will be welcomed in Jamaica, in addition to an extra £30 million to help facilities to cope with effects of climate change," said Fitton.

He revealed that it was Cameron's idea to make the visit to Jamaica. "It was his initiative and his alone to come to Jamaica," asserted Fitton.

Speaking to media practitioners following Cameron's visit, Fitton stressed that expectations of an election in Jamaica did not influence the visit. "It would have been an entirely different matter if an election was announced," he said.

Fitton said that another £100 million worth of renewed export credit for Jamaica was also on its way, along with the doubling of the number of scholarship to Jamaicans.

"All of that is grants, not loans, not tied aids. It's grants," said Fitton. "Across the board, there is new amounts of money, new initiative and I hope new relationships."

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Fitton said that export credits are loans and guarantees to loans to back up British businesses in Jamaica. Included in the package is another £30 million to assist with economic development.

"The new £30 million will be on top of that, which DFID is providing for the reform programme and economic growth," he said.

"Which countries will benefit, Jamaica is one of the biggest, to benefit largely from that," said Fitton. "But all those Caribbean countries which are eligible, will be entitled to bid for money under the programme."

Added Fitton: "I think we have a good story to tell, but I think we need to tell it better," added Fitton, who graded the success of Cameron nine out of 10.

Fitton stressed that no stipulations or conditionalities are tied to the grants and stressed that they were not linked to reparation calls and predicted increased trade missions and ministerial visits to Jamaica.

He dismissed reports in the British media that the visit was marred by talks of reparation. "To say that it was marred by that is wrong, but people have their own agenda on what they want to be discussed and he did touch on that (the issue of reparation)."

Declaring that he didn't wish to be viewed as "heartless", Fitton repeated Cameron's position on reparation. "Our position is very clear: slavery must not be condoned but condemned."

He argued, however, that it was not appropriate for the current British Government to apologise for something that happened 200 years ago.

Fitton stressed that, in addition to the memorandum of understanding to facilitate the £25-million grant towards the construction of a new prison, another $5.5 million is to be added to help with the reintegration of and rehabilitation of prisoners who return to Jamaica under future agreement.

He said he was unable to state what percentage of the construction expense the £25 million would form as the Jamaican Government would decide on the details of the penal facility.

Responding to concerns by Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, Fitton said the building of a prison did not preclude assisting in other critical areas such as education, in which the UK has been assisting.

Gift package to the Caribbean

n £300 million infrastructure projects to be done over the next five years - open to Jamaica, Guyana, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, and Montserrat.

n £30 million to improve climate relief and disaster resilience of health facilities (UK is already implementing a £8.4 million programme). Funding will be available to the eligible countries listed above.

n £30 million for economic development to support private-sector development and to improve public-sector effectiveness

n A doubling of tertiary scholarships to the region.

n Beginning 2016, UK is making available an additional £5.8 billion (US$9 billion) in climate-finance funding, which could be of benefit to Jamaica and the Caribbean for adaptation. Funding is to be delivered through the International Climate Fund.

n £25 million for prison reform and towards new prison build.

n £5.5 million for rehabilitation and reintegration of any returnees.

n UK is extending £100 million in export finance to Jamaica.

n £17 million for anti-corruption programmes.