Golding praises community renewal successes of Project STAR
Opposition Leader Mark Golding has commended the private sector-led initiative, Project STAR (Social Transformation and Renewal) for raising and pumping 10 times more than members of parliament (MPs) get each year towards community renewal programmes, which are now reporting positive results.
While addressing a special meeting with the Project STAR management and beneficiaries last Thursday at the Swallowfield Chapel in St Andrew, Golding briefly addressed how the organisation was handling its funds similar to MPs.
“I’m a member of parliament in a constituency which has a lot of low-income communities in it, and I get $20 million a year to manage several large communities with thousands living there, and it’s a struggle,” Golding said.
“[Project] STAR has been able to, over the past year, spend over $200 million in three [communities], so I think that’s why you’re getting these [positive] results, because you’re not wasting money,” he said.
Golding said that if Project STAR continues on this “positive” track, then ultimately, others will want to come on board and there will be a positive cycle of improvement.
Project STAR is an initiative of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) that is intended to facilitate the implementation of programmes that will enable targeted inner-city communities to become safer and more resilient, with improved social outcomes and reduced levels of violence.
Ten communities have been earmarked for intervention under Project STAR over the next five years.
The initiative has already been rolled out in several east downtown Kingston communities, as well as Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, for seven and three months, respectively, while interventions recently commenced in May Pen, Clarendon.
The administrators have been targeting to raise $250 million for this year, which includes $100 million through a social initial public offering (IPO), with a mixed-financing model, while the ultimate aim is to raise $650 million over a three-year period.
Up to August, Project STAR had raised $135 million before the IPO offering.
Golding stated that he was mindful that the team is aware and focused, and trying to find mechanisms to prevent a failure of Project STAR.
“The sustainability of these types of interventions is always a challenge, and Jamaican history shows many, many attempts to do good things which have worked for a while, and then peter out for one reason or another,” Golding said. “At the end of the day, you’re investing resources, you’re investing time, you’re investing effort, you want it to be sustained so it can have a ... short-, medium- and long-term positive effect on the communities that you’re in.”
Golding also complimented the Project STAR team for the structures put in place that are inclusive, participatory and empowering.
“I am very interested to hear how you manage that as you focus on it and react to the experiences that you are having, the things you are trying, the things you’re refining as you go along,” he said.
He further called for more state agencies to embrace Project STAR.
“The state agencies need to embrace this, and they need to become the agents of sustainability, because there are certain activities that are done, whether it be feeding programmes, which, ultimately, the State may have to take those on board, because private citizens may not be able to fund that forever. So, hopefully, the government, whichever government it is, will see that this is really a good model and will want to scale it up, because there are many communities in Jamaica which need these kinds of opportunities; this kind of approach to help those communities pull themselves out of challenges of underdevelopment, poor infrastructure, weak family systems, crime and violence,” he said.