Editorial

Snail's pace of project implementation hurting Jamaica

Friday, October 25, 2019

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We can appreciate the joy with which residents of Junction in St Elizabeth greeted the formal commissioning of the Essex Valley Water Supply Project on Wednesday.

However, the fact that this project took 18 years to move from conception to reality is a vivid and painful reminder of the tortoise-like pace at which vital services are delivered to Jamaicans.

That reality, we recall, was addressed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in January this year when he broke ground to formally begin work on an irrigation scheme under the Essex Valley Agriculture Development Project (EVAD) in St Elizabeth.

“Sometimes we need to look in the mirror at ourselves, because this project took a very long time to be implemented,” Mr Holness said at the time, referencing the fact that the EVAD was conceptualised in 2009 under a previous Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government.

In the case of the Essex Valley Water Supply Project, we reported that the idea was first voiced by the now late People's National Party (PNP) Member of Parliament Derrick Rochester in 2001 because residents' water catchment tanks were being polluted by bauxite/alumina dust.

The following year, the then PNP Government launched the project, but since then all that happened was a lot of talk by successive administrations. In fact, on Wednesday Mr Layton Smith, the PNP councillor for the Myersville Division, spoke to that issue, saying that he blamed his party, as well as the JLP for the excruciatingly long time that the State took to implement the project. He and a group of PNP protesters made special note of the fact that their own party had let them down badly by not delivering the project, particularly between December 2011 and 2016 when the Portia Simpson Miller-led Government was in office.

So, finally, after 18 years of State dithering, the residents of Junction, Gazeland, Cheapside, Comma Pen, Dunder Hill, Ballards Valley and their environs, Myersville housing scheme, Long Hill, Content, Stephen's Run and Nain are now receiving a service that should have long ago been afforded to them.

According to the prime minister, a total of 3,300 households will benefit, even as the protesters on Wednesday condemned what they said was a “disrespectful” decision to bypass many living closest to the Alpart alumina plant, for whom the water scheme was originally conceptualised.

That is a complaint that the Government needs to address.

At the same time, this country needs to get past the counter-productive practice of some official or bureaucrat deciding that Jamaican citizens must suffer inconveniences simply because they, as public servants, deem it so.

Project implementation timelines, we hold, can be shorter if the individuals with responsibility for the projects are held to account.

That, as Mr Holness said in January, is where the real deficit is. “We are great conceptualisers; no doubt about it. We have the biggest brains, but we need to get some muscles and some strong hands to move quickly to get things done,” he said.

We agree.

In that same address in January, the prime minister said that there are many more projects awaiting the completion of the implementation process, and the aim of his Government is to ensure that they will not lag.

We reiterate our hope that he will keep his word.


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