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News Week: AUGUST 1, 2021

GraceKennedy notches up profit levels

One of Jamaica’s most successful group of companies, GraceKennedy (GK) Limited, is reporting huge profits for the six months ended June 30, 2021.

For the period under review GK realized revenue of J$63.4 billion, representing an increase of J$6.8 billion or 12.1% over the corresponding period of 2020.

Profit before other income was J$3.9 billion, representing an increase of 26.1% over the same period last year. Profit before tax was J$5.4 billion, reflecting a 20.4% increase, and net profit after tax was J$4.0 billion, a 30.3% increase over the same period last year.

Commenting on the half-year results, GK Group CEO Don Wehby said, “We are pleased to see the positive performance of our company continue. All our business segments showed improved profits and revenue performance year over year, with our international businesses performing exceptionally well.

“Our accelerated growth in revenue and profits before tax in the second quarter is a reflection of the significant progress we have made towards improving our operating performance. For the remainder of 2021 the team will continue to focus on executing our strategic initiatives and managing our operating expenses, liquidity, and supply chain. Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make the outlook for the rest of 2021 uncertain, the accelerated rollout of vaccination programmes in the markets where we operate is encouraging and we support this drive wholeheartedly.”

ZOSO brings social programmes to Denham Town

Since the Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) was declared in Denham Town on October 17, 2017, more than 30 unique social-intervention activities have been completed. Over 2,500 residents have benefited directly and over 8,000 indirectly.

These activities include health services, infrastructure upgrade, educational projects, youth development, behaviour modification and entrepreneurship.

The information is contained in the Denham Town Community Zone Social Intervention Ministry Paper, tabled in Parliament by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang.

To date, more than $320 million has been invested by the Government of Jamaica in the physical infrastructure (roads, solid waste management systems and water), with a further $100 million to be invested over the next 12 months to improve the physical outlay of the community.

Livelihood development programmes inclusive of parenting support, skills training in areas such as the blue economy and entrepreneurship, have, through direct training, benefited more than 250 individuals.

Vaccine for Jamaicans 18 and over, soon

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Christopher Tufton says that approximately 1.4 million doses of vaccines – both double and single doses - are expected in the island.

“The target is to deliver doses to 900,000 Jamaicans between now and the end of September. It’s an ambitious target, but I believe with the support of the population and all of society, we can achieve that target,” he said.

Dr. Tufton noted that as soon as new batches of vaccines arrive, the programme will be opened up to all Jamaicans who qualify, aged 18 years and over.

He noted that once “we get to the 900,000, plus those who have already benefited, then we will be somewhere in the region of 50 per cent of target, given that we are looking at 1.95 million or so”.

As of Sunday, July 25, a total of 302,856 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered. Some 564 doses of the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine have also been administered under special arrangements for the country’s athletes who are competing in the Olympics and the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football competition.

‘We tried to give a little relief, but this pandemic, this virus is serious’

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness is again appealing for Jamaicans to take the vaccine once it becomes available to them. He warned that the country’s unvaccinated population “could become the foundation on which the third wave [is] carried”.

“Therefore, I think every single Jamaican, when the opportunity comes, when your time comes, you should do what is in your best interest, what is in your parents’ and grandparents’ best interest, and what is in the interest of the country, in the interest of your children to return to school. Take the vaccine,” he implored.

He noted that even if persons who have been vaccinated contract COVID-19 they will not suffer the worst effects of the virus. The Prime Minister pointed out that “this virus intends to stick around,” stressing that the only way it will “go away” is if a large percentage of the population, at least 65 per cent, is inoculated against the disease.

“This is serious now. We recognise the psychological strain, the emotional strain. We heard the cries. We tried to give a little relief, but this pandemic, this virus is serious and I can only appeal to the good sense and reason of the people of Jamaica,” he said.

1, 2, 3, Jamaica!

It was one, two, three for Jamaica in the Women's 100m Finals at the Tokyo Olympic Games on Saturday, July 31, 2021.

Elaine Thompson Herah won the event in an Olympic record 10.61 seconds, as she became the second fastest woman in history. The third fastest woman, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took the silver medal in 10.74s and their compatriot Shericka Jackson clocked a personal best 10.76s for the bronze medal.

Canada to focus on people-to-people ties with Jamaica

Newly appointed Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica, Her Excellency Emina Tudakovic, says that her focus is to strengthen the “good relations” between the two countries.

Speaking in an interview with the Jamaica Information Service, High Commissioner Tudakovic, who officially began her duties in March 2021, noted that Jamaica and Canada have established bilateral cooperation in the areas of security, migration and development and have strong partnership in the multilateral fora.

“So really, it is to make sure that we are a little more coherent in terms of a strategic approach to Jamaica and building on what we already have,” she said.

The High Commissioner, who is from Vancouver, West Coast of Canada, said that the strengthening of people-to-people ties will also be one of her goals “and building on those relationships on the cultural and social diplomacy side as well”.

According to the high commissioner, she will continue discussions with the Government on the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, which facilitates cooperation between Jamaica and Canada in criminal investigations. She noted that the agreement allows the two countries “to share information in a much easier way in terms of preventing crime”.


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News Week: AUGUST 8, 2021

Officials continue plan for new census

e-Learning Jamaica Limited (e-LJam) has partnered with the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) and the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Information (MoEYI) for the procurement of electronic devices to be used in the 2022 National Census.

“The responsibility of e-LJam in this project is to procure 7,525 tablets, 40 charging carts, 40 projectors and 4,000 power banks for the upcoming census, using government procurement guidelines,” Acting Chief Executive Officer of e-LJam, said Andrew Lee.

Deputy Director-General of STATIN, Leesha Delatie-Budair explained that a memorandum of understanding was signed by all three entities and the devices will be donated to the education ministry to support the Tablets in School Programme, once the census is completed.

Police making it easier to get criminal records

The upgrading of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Automated Palm and Fingerprint Identification System is in progress and will come on stream in September.

Senior Director in the Major Technology Transformation Branch at the Ministry of National Security Arvel Grant said the Automated Palm and Fingerprint System serves the JCF as a forensic tool as well as a resource to provide information on criminal record history.

Mr. Grant said the upgrade is “bringing more efficiency to the process of generating criminal records”.

Automated palm and fingerprint identification systems are used by law-enforcement agencies for criminal identification purposes, the most important of which is the identification of a person suspected of committing a crime or linking a suspect to other unsolved crimes.

“When you go to the Criminal Records Office to get your police report, really this is the system that helps the officers to produce those records. These police records are required for certain purposes, for job prospects, travel, et cetera, so we are making that process more efficient, removing all the dated equipment, upgrading the equipment, implementing new algorithms to make the system more efficient and that is coming on stream September this year,” he noted.

Jamaicans urged to take their health seriously

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton says that the crisis of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is an economic problem and a challenge for development more broadly.

He said that the household burden of NCDs has pushed a significant number of people globally into poverty, noting that it has also affected labour productivity and the earning and saving potential of many Jamaicans.

“Estimates have shown that the economic impact of NCDs in Jamaica, including mental-health conditions, will lead to a lost output of US$17 billion over the next 15 years,” he said.

The Minister said that a healthy population with greater longevity can lead to increases in the country’s national saving rates. He argued that a healthy people have a greater incentive and potential to save, noting that the East Asian economic success is partly attributed to this critical factor.

Digital skills training coming for thousands

Over 150,000 Jamaicans are to benefit from a five-year Digital Skills Programme being undertaken by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and Microsoft.

The objective is to equip persons will the digital skills needed to fill in-demand jobs.

Education Minister Fayval Williams said that about 31,000 persons will be trained each year up to 2026, gaining valuable skills to participate in a digital future.

She said that over 62 trainers will be equipped with the necessary knowledge to impart training to the participants.

“The aim is to have these persons trained in one or more of the four courses offered, based on their level of learning. There is no age limit, and there will be no barriers to entry,” she said.

The Education Minister said that the programme, which will improve the employment prospects of the beneficiaries “is most welcomed” as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has taught valuable lessons about the benefits of a digitised society.

JamaicaEye expands to more communities

The Ministry of National Security is steadily increasing the network of cameras that are a part of the country’s national closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance programme, dubbed ‘JamaicaEye’.

The public-private partnership, launched in 2018, is designed to network CCTVs owned by the Ministry as well as accommodate feed from privately owned cameras.

Right across the island where the cameras have been installed, members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are leveraging the cameras to assist their investigations of crime and maintaining public order.

The feeds provide useful footage in relation to criminal activity and other emergencies and are monitored by a team of security professionals.

Senior Director in the Major Technology Transformation Branch at the Ministry of National Security, Arvel Grant, said that the number of cameras has grown from 180 at the launch to 840 currently.

He notes that CCTVs were recently installed at strategic locations in Santa Cruz and Black River in St. Elizabeth, and they will be brought fully online by the end of July.

Mr. Grant says that expansion continues through both Government-owned cameras and private partnership.


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News Week: AUGUST 15, 2021

Chef gets new spot for his food truck in Houston

A Jamaican chef has found a new home for his business in Houston in the United States. The popular food truck known for its jerk sandwiches, fish fritters, rum-soaked plantains, and other West Indian dishes is now based in Acres Homes.

Over the past few years, Jamaica Pon Di Road has gained a loyal following by crisscrossing Houston, serving up Caribbean food from Conroe to Katy. Now, the restaurant, helmed by Jamaica native Gareth Powell, has a landed a brick-and-mortar at 2213 S. Victory Drive. The restaurant opened in early August.

Chef G, as Powell is known, was born in Clarendon, Jamaica, and learned to cook at an early age from his grandmother. He attended culinary school in Jamaica, and started working in the kitchens of five-star resorts on the island.

After moving to Houston, Powell first started with a catering business, which he founded in 2013. He then launched Jamaica Pon Di Road in 2017. The truck, which serves up classic Jamaican street food, quickly gained a loyal following, popping up at breweries, festivals and other locations in North Houston.

PICA to storm Hartford, Connecticut in October

Andrew Wynter, the CEO of Jamaica’s Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), is spreading the word about the work of the agency in the diaspora. He recently took the story to Hartford, Connecticut, which maintains the third largest population of Jamaicans in the United States.

His office preparing for a return visit to Hartford and Bloomfield to hold a citizenship drive for Connecticut Jamaicans who are interested in renewing their Jamaican passports and those of Jamaican descent who wish to obtain a Jamaican passport and Jamaican citizenship.

Mr. Wynter announced plans to visit Connecticut between October 5 and 12 for the citizenship drive through its “Access Jamaica” programme that is to include other services such as birth certificates, banking information in addition to passport services. A one-day event will be held in Bloomfield, Thursday, October 7, 2021, followed by a three-day event in Hartford.

The “Access Jamaica” visit to Hartford will be accepting applications for: Passports (i.e. new/renewals/lost/stolen/replacement/special cases); unconditional landing and citizenship.

Participating organizations with “Access Jamaica” extending their services include Jamaica National, Grace Kennedy, National Housing Trust, Tax Administration and the Registrar General’s Department.

Jamaica says it’s serious about energy sector

Jamaica is looking to procure 320MW of renewables this year as part of plans to diversify its energy sector. The government is working towards an ambitious Integrated Resource Plan that has established how the island intends to procure power over the next 20 years.

The initiative has set a goal of adding 1.6GW of additional capacity to facilitate reduced energy prices and decrease vulnerability of the energy sector to external shocks such as oil prices.

Given the “serious interest” in the country’s energy sector, there should be no problems in meeting this target, according to government investment agency JAMPRO. Diane Edwards, president of JAMPRO, said, “While there was a feeling of uncertainty, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, we knew that we had to continue to nurture our relationships and the renewable energy opportunity in Jamaica, and increase our marketing activities.”

Carib Cement to increase production after expansion

As part of their growth strategy, CEMEX will upgrade and increase the capacity of the company’s cement production plant in Rockfort, a part of Jamaica’s capital. This planned increase would strengthen the self-sufficiency of the national cement industry, reduce dependency on cement imports, and reinforce ability of Caribbean Cement Company Ltd (CCCL) to serve the growth of the construction sector in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

The US$30 million investment is designed to align with the company´s climate action goals through the production of low-carbon products. CEMEX anticipate that once this planned expansion is finished, CCCL will increase their existing cement production capacity by approximately 300,000 tonnes through the implementation of state-of-the-art technologies.

The planned upgrade, which is currently scheduled for the second half of 2022, is consistent with CEMEX’s growth plan in Jamaica and seeks to strengthen the company’s capacity to respond to local market demands as well as export needs over the medium term.

‘We look forward to warmly welcoming British passengers from Manchester,’ says tourism minister

Virgin Atlantic is expanding its service to Jamaica with plans for a new route from the UK city of Manchester in November. Beginning November 6, Virgin Atlantic will operate thrice-weekly flights between Manchester and Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport. 

“We’re thrilled to announce that we have added Jamaica to our portfolio of destinations flying from Manchester, our home in the north, along with increasing frequency to Barbados,” said Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic. “We are seeing a real demand from our customers in the northwest for luxury holidays in the sun as they are keen to escape on their next adventure after a challenging year.”

“We are heartened by Virgin Atlantic’s decision to begin offering a new airlift service between Montego Bay and Manchester, England this November,” said Jamaica Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett. He added, “This thrice-weekly flight will be a great addition to the numerous new and returning flights the island has been welcoming this year, as we continue to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

“We look forward to warmly welcoming British passengers from Manchester starting this November, to enjoy a truly unforgettable Jamaican experience, in an environment which is safe, seamless and secure.”


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News Week: AUGUST 22, 2021

Lawyer is new point man at the United Nations

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, has announced the appointment of Brian Wallace as Jamaica’s new Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Mr. Wallace succeeds Ambassador E. Courtenay Rattray who demitted office in May 2021 to take up an assignment at the United Nations.

A lawyer by profession, Wallace has considerable experience in international, administrative and employment law as well as in national and international legal and administrative systems. He began his legal career in the International Law Division at the Attorney General’s Department and is currently a Director of the private company Manley Wallace and Sons Ltd. His previous roles at the international level include tenures at the United Nations Secretariat in the Office of Administration of Justice and the Department of Management. He also served as a member of the prosecution team on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Many get business support services, new jobs

A total of 404 local economic initiatives (LEIs) have benefited from business support services provided under the Local Economic Development Support Programme.

This resulted in the generation of jobs for 1,659 persons, inclusive of 189 youth. A total of 840 of these persons gained full-time employment, 542 were employed part-time, while 277 were engaged seasonally.

This is contained in the Planning Institute of Jamaica’s 2020 Economic and Social Survey Jamaica 2020, which was tabled in the House of Representatives recently.

A total of 52 capacity-building sessions were also held with over 398 community members and grassroot entrepreneurs, and 96 civil society organisations/LEIs.

The training covered business idea development, management principles and entrepreneurship, costing and pricing, business registration, social media marketing, product development, financial planning, basic bookkeeping, and packaging and labelling.

Jamaica wants you to invest in Clarendon mango park

The Agro-Investment Corporation (AIC), an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, is establishing a Mango Agro Park in the Toll Gate area of Clarendon and is seeking investors to participate in the venture.

Chief Executive Officer of the AIC, Dr. Al Powell, said that already 15 applications have been received, including from overseas interests. He said that the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the project, such as roads and irrigation systems, is being developed.

“Once those things are in, the selected entrepreneurs will move in to take up the relevant areas that they have been awarded. It is a business venture,” Dr. Powell said, noting that by middle of next year, the area is expected to be fully planted.

He said that there are ready markets for mangoes in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

‘We have to ramp up our training programme,’ says agriculture minister

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green says the Ministry will be allocating resources to transform the Hounslow Research Station in St. Elizabeth into a centre of excellence for small ruminant production in western Jamaica.

He noted that the facility, which is currently underutilized, “is part of a project that has already been approved by our public infrastructure committee to rehabilitate all our research stations”.

Minister Green said that part of the focus is to enhance training, particularly for young people. “We have to ramp up our training programme. We should be here with students right now training because in order to support a modern ruminant sector, we have to have a cadre of young professionals who are trained in small ruminant management so that they can go out into the field to help our farmers,” he said.

In the meantime, Mr. Green indicated that the Bodles Agricultural Research Station in Old Harbour, St. Catherine, is to be rehabilitated and equipped with modernised training tools for best practices in meat processing, storage and packaging.

Manchester’s Patrick Town Primary gets more classrooms

Teachers and students of Patrick Town Primary and Infant School in Manchester will have the benefit of additional classrooms when the 2021-22 academic year commences in September, following the completion of a new building at the institution.

The facility, which was constructed at a cost of $32 million with financing from the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, is expected to significantly address the issue of inadequate classroom space at the school.

The institution, previously a stand-alone primary school, incorporated an infant department in 2016 following a rationalisation exercise by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information. This saw several basic schools in proximity to Patrick Town Primary being merged with the institution.

Chairman, Reverend Barrington Bailey, tells JIS News that the rationalisation exercise resulted in the school’s administration reorganising the available space to accommodate new students and teachers.

This undertaking, he points out, included converting the staff and math rooms into classrooms.

“The rooms that were used for grades one and two students were transformed to accommodate the little ones, and that resulted in a change in the overall infrastructure,” Rev. Bailey explains.

The infant department has an enrolment of 29 youngsters, comprising 18 boys and 11 girls, and a staff complement of two trained teachers and a caregiver.

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News Week: AUGUST 29, 2021

WiPay comes forward with COVID-19 relief

Digital payment solutions facilitator, WiPay, will be providing COVID-19 relief grant support, totalling $4 million, to persons islandwide requiring assistance.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Aldwyn Wayne, said the provision, which will be disbursed through Food For the Poor Jamaica, forms part of a larger undertaking involving other stakeholder interests.

Mr. Wayne advised that the total value of the overall provision will be determined after those partners’ contributions are received.

Under the grant initiative, recipients from the Food For the Poor’s database will be given a QR code to be scanned at any approved collection outlet islandwide. Mr. Wayne noted that these locations include gas stations, supermarkets, and pharmacies.

Cruise ship passengers are coming again!

President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), Professor Gordon Shirley, says he is confident Jamaica will once again be a preferred cruise destination once the COVID-19 numbers are curtailed.

In fact, Professor Shirley said that with all things being equal, the major Jamaican ports could start seeing ships by November 2021. “So, the next stop (Falmouth and Montego Bay)… we are talking to others (cruise lines)… I call it one baby step at a time. This is the process,” he said.

“I don’t want [information] second-hand. Hopefully things will improve… by November… if we get the COVID numbers down… we think Jamaica stands a good chance of regaining its position”.

Professor Shirley, however, added that while the PAJ has been working overtime to get the cruise ships back to Jamaica, the agency has also been working closely with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to ensure that all persons follow health and safety guidelines.

Jamaica targets more ‘social houses’ for the poor

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said his Government has secured an additional $400 million for the social housing programme. He said that with the additional funds, more than 500 units are expected during the current financial year.

“The programme is being expanded, we are finding ways to get it [done] cheaper, and very soon we will be able to scale it up,” he said, noting that the Government is finding ways to put more resources into the construction of the houses.

He said that a clear criterion to benefit from the programme, is that persons must demonstrate that they can’t afford a mortgage. He said they will pay back in how they care for the units, and also, they must be outstanding citizens in their communities and ambassadors of peace.

An initial $500 million was budgeted for the programme, and the Prime Minister reported that approvals have been done for 259 units from a list of 327 submissions; 49 have been completed.

The two- and three-bedroom houses are built under the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment Programme (HOPE), which was initiated by the Prime Minister, and launched in 2018.

A plea to Jamaicans abroad: Your country wants you

More Jamaicans in the diaspora must come on board to help rebuild the country following the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr. Wayne Henry.

“Let us, Jamaica and the diaspora, especially now when COVID-19 has altered our way of living, build back stronger together for a sustainable future where every Jamaican, at home or abroad, can be proud to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business,” he said.

“Being a brand ambassador of one of the world’s best known global brands is no easy task and we must continue to hold each other’s hand to partner, advocate and drive the economic, political and social changes that we want,” the Director General added.

According to him, ministries, departments and agencies of the Government will work with them to guarantee and assure an enabling environment that has active inclusion and participation in national development.

Dr. Henry added, “For the Government of Jamaica to help you, our brand ambassadors, you have to play your part. Therefore, we encourage you to communicate and provide timely feedback and insights on our national development plans and initiatives, actively participate in home associations, and support and provide accurate and timely data during our diaspora exercises.”

Triplets ace primary exams, get support for back to school

Twelve-year-old triplets, Dennis, Denrique, and Tomoya Barrett have been rewarded with Alcatel tablet computers and a $50,000 education grant to assist with back-to-school supplies, for performing outstandingly during the 2021 Primary Exit Profile (PEP) exams.

The two brothers and their sister aced the exams at their former school, Mountainside Primary in St. Elizabeth. Dennis, who was the school’s top-performing candidate, and Denrique were placed at Munro College, while Tomoya will attend Hampton High School.

State Minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Zavia Mayne commended the youngsters on their performance, and committed further support through the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).

The children’s mother, Tamara Barrett, said she was elated and grateful for the assistance.

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