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Letter of the Day: Urban concentration spiking traffic, eroding jobs

Published:Sunday | September 6, 2015 | 12:00 AM


It is wish great displeasure that I announce the death of formerly vibrant urban centres in Spanish Town, May Pen and soon Kingston (downtown to many), with much more sad news to come.

Unrelenting centralisation of government offices and businesses in the St Andrew section of the Corporate Area is killing formerly vibrant areas of the country, leading to a severe imbalance in the social and economic life of the island.

With massive daily traffic flows from and to Portmore, Spanish Town, Old Harbour, May Pen, and the Bog Walk-Ewarton urban stretch, the country is wasting time, fuel and family life through commuting. And let me not forget the persons coming from the east side of St Thomas, Port Royal and other areas who experience a hard daily commute themselves.

Do things have to be like this? No! The unplanned, unreasonable and insensitive centralisation of jobs, mixed with low-rise housing developments in corporate St Andrew, has given birth to this frustrating reality.

In the 'old days', a more sensible Jamaica spread government jobs across more areas. Spanish Town had important government offices, resulting in a much-reduced need to commute for many. Some people even walked to work. Imagine the reduced need for expensive fuel for transport and the greater time spent with family and friends.

It isn't beyond reason to expect more important government offices and agencies to be transferred from New Kingston, and St Andrew in general, to Portmore, Spanish Town, May Pen, Old Harbour, Bog Walk, Yallahs, downtown Kingston and other centres.

In fact, the taxes that support the Government come from all these areas and should be spent there in the creation of stable and useful jobs. The local boost would be enormous.

The United Kingdom has Companies House and the driving licensing agency in Wales, unemployment agency in Northern Ireland, and benefits administration in north east England. Germany has its Parliament in Berlin, its central bank in Frankfurt and many government offices in Bonn. These attempts at decentralisation have kept smaller urban centres alive and thriving, with citizens happy to live and work in proximity.

It is possible to do this here with similar benefits, while avoiding terminal urban decay in many urban centres. Let's spread the jobs and reduce traffic. Let's make it happen now!