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News Week: FEBRUARY 06, 2022

Jamaica goes after bigger bucks

Jamaica is passing legislation this year to encourage more large-scale investments in the country.

Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr. Nigel Clarke said the legislation aims to facilitate investments valued over US$1 billion, noting that this is among key priorities being programmed for this year.

He said while Jamaica has facilitated and benefitted from investments valued up to US$1 billion, the country wants to attract more. “We will [therefore] be making special provisions, through legislation to be tabled in Parliament, to attract largescale and pioneer investments in Jamaica of a size greater than US$1b,” he emphasized.

Dr. Clarke said the commenced implementation of the “bold and ambitious” restructuring of public sector compensation is another key focus area for 2022.

The review, slated to begin on April 1, is intended to overhaul the structure of salaries and other emoluments in the public service to make it more equitable.

Nationals abroad love ‘Access Jamaica’

The Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) says its Access Jamaica Initiative has done well for the country’s reputation in the diaspora. Access Jamaica is an event staged by PICA for Jamaicans living overseas, which allows them to apply for new Jamaican passports, renew or replace passports.

PICA said that the last staging, which was held October 8-10, 2021, in Hartford, Connecticut, was well received. Over the three days, 58 applications were received for Jamaican citizenship, 353 passport requests and 15 unconditional landing applications were made. Chief Executive Officer of PICA, Andrew Wynter, said that the agency is encouraged by the reception.

“The feedback has been good. We did it in Atlanta, we did it in Fort Lauderdale and the feedback has been good. In fact, nearly everywhere I’ve gone to have Access Jamaica, they ask us to come back, and if we can make it an annual event.” Mr. Wynter said.

He said that PICA will have to make further considerations for more of these events. “These are things that we now have to take into consideration because sometimes, we in Jamaica don’t understand. You might live in, for example, Hartford, Connecticut, you may say it’s close to New York, but that’s a three-hour drive to reach New York and then three hours back, so it can be challenging.”

Montego Bay to host key free zone confab

More than 1,500 guests from 140 countries are set to attend the Annual International Conference and Exhibition scheduled for June 13 to 17 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St. James.

Jamaica, through the Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority, was selected to host the eighth annual event that is organized by the World Free Zones Organization.

The conference will showcase global business leaders, multilateral organizations, and policymakers, who are to share best practices as well as spread public awareness through panel discussions on the roles and contributions that free zones have on economic growth.

The event will feature several major panel discussions, key among which will be ‘Shaping the Future of Supply Chain Resilience’, ‘Charting the Future of an Inclusive Ecommerce’ and ‘Reforming the Global Task System’.

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Senator Aubyn Hill said that the conference will give Jamaica the platform to showcase its potential as a sustainable investment location.

“It will also serve to introduce new people to our exciting tourism product while exhibiting brand Jamaica to future investors,” said the minister. “This will further our goal of attracting major opportunities for the development of large-scale modern special economic zones.”

Utility firm backs digital nationwide drive

The Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) is supporting the National Broadband Initiative by offering the use of its utility poles for the running of aerial fibre.

“This permission was received last week and already JPS and the National Works Agency (NWA) are in discussions regarding the manner in which the works will be executed,” said Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Daryl Vaz.

He said that tenders have been issued for contractors to erect those cables in the parishes of St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester, and Westmoreland.

“While the tender process for some contractors is complete, the responses to other tenders are currently being evaluated with a view to completing the process in short order,” he said.

Minister Vaz also said that discussions are under way with Flow Jamaica to provide free access to two dark fibre strands on the north coast, to supply end-to-end access from St. James to St. Ann, St. Ann to St. Mary, St. Mary to Portland, and from Portland to St. Thomas.

Dark fibre refers to fibre-optic infrastructure that is not yet “lit” or put into use by a service provider.

The National Broadband Initiative aims to have every household and every community connected to the Internet. The initiative forms part of the Government’s goal of having a truly digital society by 2030.

List of automated services in one place, for all

Government is preparing a catalogue of automated services being provided by ministries, departments, and agencies, which will be available on the GOJ.JM portal.

The online portal brings together information housed on numerous government websites into a single space. It is a quick, easy online reference for persons to find information and do business with the State.

Project Management Specialist, Public Sector Transformation and Modernization Division in the Office of the Cabinet, Trina Richards, said that agencies are being engaged to ascertain whether the services they offer to the public are automated. She noted that if the services are automated or in a digital format then they could be linked to the portal.

Principal Director, Office of the Cabinet, Karlene McKenzie Spencer, said that the GOJ.JM is part of the wider service excellence framework of government aimed to improve customer satisfaction.

“We are creating greater efficiency and greater accessibility and so we embarked on developing GOJ.JM the single gateway through which all government services are provided,” she emphasized.

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News Week: FEBRUARY 13, 2022

NIDS cards are coming in another few months

The Government is to begin issuing national identification cards this year, following the passage of the associated regulations for the National Identification and Registration Act.

“With the passage of the National Identification and Registration Act, the implementation of the National Identification System (NIDS) is now fully under way. This is a critical milestone in our digital transformation,” said Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen while delivering the Throne Speech outlining the Government’s plans for financial year that starts April 1.

He noted that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of establishing the unique identity of each citizen to provide efficient, timely and targeted services by the Government.

Jamaica’s national identification system will provide a comprehensive and secure structure to enable the collection and storage of identity information.

This secure voluntary tool can also verify an individual’s identity, facilitate the electronic signing of documents, and securely access a range of government services online.

More houses for rural parishes, says info minister

The Housing Agency of Jamaica Limited (HAJ) is spending $1.9 billion on the construction of additional houses and to provide serviced lots at the Luana Gardens, Phase 3 housing development in St. Elizabeth.

This follows Cabinet’s approval for the award of a contract by the HAJ to Marshall Construction Company Limited, to construct 200 two-bedroom and one-bedroom detached units and 50 serviced lots.

Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for information Robert Morgan said that Cabinet also approved the award of a $1.7-billion contract for the construction of 142 units in Reid’s Pen, St. Catherine. The HAJ has awarded this contract to NF Barnes Construction and Equipment Company Limited.

Additionally, Cabinet gave its approval for the HAJ to remove the 100 one-bedroom starter housing units from the Shooters Hill Project (renamed Hellshire View) and have them replaced with two-bedroom, one-bathroom units.

Massive upgrades for health facilities on agenda

A multibillion-dollar upgrade of the health sector is on the agenda as the Government budgeted a big chunk to ensure that Jamaicans are served in state-of-the-art facilities.

Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen highlighted this while delivering the Throne Speech outlining the Government’s plans for the new financial year that starts April 1.

“The plan, which is being jointly funded by the European Union and the Inter-American Development Bank, will see upgrades to 13 health facilities, comprising three hospitals and 10 health centres. The Spanish Town, St. Ann’s Bay and May Pen Hospitals will be upgraded,” he said.

Health centres to be upgraded under the project are Greater Portmore, St. Jago Park, Old Harbour, St. Ann’s Bay, Ocho Rios, Brown’s Town, May Pen East, May Pen West, Mocho, and the Chapelton Community Hospital.

The Governor-General said that in addition to those facilities, upgrading of the building and equipment at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) is in the design phase, and buildout work is continuing at Cornwall Regional Hospital and the Western Children and Adolescent Hospital.

He said as part of efforts to boost healthcare delivery, especially to mitigate the Coronavirus (COVID-19), several field hospitals were established, which increased the bed complement and capacity of the health system to provide care for affected persons.

Social pension list to grow by 13,000 in 12 months

Another 13,000 persons are being targeted to receive benefits under the Social Pension Programme, the Jamaican government has said. About 7,000 persons have registered, so far, under the initiative.

The new applicants will be added to the initiative during the new financial year that starts on April 1.

The $800-million Social Pension Programme, which was launched in July 2021, provides a guaranteed income for vulnerable persons 75 years and older.

Seniors targeted are those not currently in receipt of a pension, disability benefit or other retirement benefits, cash grants from the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) or Poor Relief Programme, and who do not reside in a government institutional care facility.

The Government noted that $2 billion was spent to provide additional COVID-19 relief grants to 195,000 families across Jamaica.

Super COVID-19 vaccine in the works, says PAHO

Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr., says work is under way by researchers to develop a universal or ‘super’ coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.

It is anticipated that the proposed vaccine will be very effective against all COVID-19 variants and provide permanent protection against the disease.

“We have several candidates [undertaking this research], but they are still in the preclinical… lab-testing phase. We will eventually have some clinical trials,” Dr. Barbosa said.

Reports emerging out of the United States last week indicated that the military has been undertaking the development of  a ‘pan-coronavirus vaccine’ – the spike ferritin nanoparticle (SpFN) – for which phase-one human trials have been completed.

The report indicated that the vaccine is being tested against all COVID-19 variants, including Omicron.

Dr. Barbosa emphasized that while super vaccine development is awaited, “let us use [those] that we have”.

“The vaccines that are available now are [also] ‘super vaccines.’ They have saved and are still saving millions of lives all over the world. They can reduce serious cases [and] deaths,” he added.

The Assistant Director said this has been proven by the data provided by countries across the region of the Americas and globally, “so let us continue to use [those vaccines]”.

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News Week: JANUARY 16, 2021

PROVEN Wealth Portfolio Advisors hand over supplies to the Cornwall Regional Hospital. From left: Howard Dyer, Senior Portfolio Advisor; Jermaine Harvey, Portfolio Advisor from PROVEN Wealth; Shauntte Brown Smith, CEO, Assistant; Charmaine Beckford, CEO of the Cornwall Regional; and Dane Neil, the Managing Director of Neil’s Bulk Chemicals.

PROVEN Wealth donates to two regional hospitals

Although national vaccination efforts have begun, the healthcare sector is still being stressed because of the inherent demand generated by COVID-19 and the various strains of the virus.

In the previous months, we have seen a significant increase in the hospitalization of COVID-19 patients, which resulted in a higher demand for medical supplies. The team at PROVEN recognizes the critical importance for these items and provided support to Cornwall Regional and Mandeville Regional hospitals by way of donation in kind. These items included masks, cleaning agents, hand towel and other essential items.

On receipt of these donations, both CEOs expressed their gratitude to the PROVEN Wealth Team. “The Cornwall Regional Hospital is extremely grateful for the donation which will help us to continue to maintain good infection control standards which is critical at this time. Thank you PROVEN,” said Charmaine Beckford, CEO of Cornwall Regional Hospital.

“This could have not come at a better time, especially given the overcrowded nature of the hospital due to the virus,” said Alwyn Miller, CEO of Mandeville Regional Hospital.

This COVID-19 response aligns with PROVEN Wealth’s social mandate in contributing to community development through meaningfully supporting the health needs. This is just one of the numerous ways in which PROVEN Wealth, and its members, give back.

Said Paul Ebanks, the Mandeville Branch Manager, “Upon receiving the call from Mr. Miller, regarding the needs of the hospital. We coordinated with regional supplier Neil’s Bulk Chemicals to provide some of the much-needed supplies. We understood the need and I am proud to be a part of an organization that stands ready to assist when possible. I would implore all companies in corporate Jamaica to pitch in as much as they can to alleviate the strain on the hospitals and our health system as we continue to navigate this pandemic.”

We will respect your rights, JDF boss tells residents

Chief of Defence Staff Lt. General Rocky Meade is assuring residents of Parade Gardens in Central Kingston, where a Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) has been declared, that their rights will be safeguarded as the security forces conduct their duties in the area.

“While we acknowledge that persons may be concerned about the implications of the internal security operations as they go about their day-to-day business, we want to assure citizens that both Jamaica Defence (JDF) and Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) [personnel] have been adequately trained and oriented to ensure the protection of the human rights of all Jamaicans,” he said.

General Meade informed that the ZOSO will give the security forces temporary additional powers of search, arrest and detention.

“We believe this is necessary in order to give the security forces the space necessary to carry out the operational tasks that will be required to help bring a sense of normalcy to the community,” he said.

Traffic ticketing system will improve public order, safety

Minister of National Security Dr. Horace Chang is confident the electronic Traffic Ticket Management System (TTMS) will be a positive addition towards the transformation and modernization of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in carrying out its mandate to ensure public order and safety.


Minister Chang, along with newly appointed State Minister in the Ministry of National Security Zavia Mayne, Permanent Secretary Courtney Williams, Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson, as well as the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica president Keith Duncan, and representatives from the National Road Safety Unit, observed the system earlier this month.

“The idea for an electronic Traffic Ticket Management System was first mooted in 1988 and although it has taken some time to be fully operational, we believe this development will prove a success and another positive addition in the arsenal of the police in the execution of their duties,” said Minister Chang.

Prime Minister Holness hails big port investment

A US$60 million redevelopment of Kingston Wharves Limited (KWL) is a significant boost for the productive sector and the economy, said Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

The investment will cover three major infrastructural development projects, and the prime minister said that KWL has done well in reinventing and re-establishing itself as one of the most competitive and successful mixed-used ports that has created significant employment opportunities.

Prime Minister Holness underscored that these investment is a signal that the Jamaican economy is getting back on track.

Education Ministry plugging the ‘digital divide’

The Ministry of Education, through e-Learning Jamaica Limited, will be procuring 42,311 devices for lower primary and secondary students.

Portfolio Minister Fayval Williams said that eLearning Jamaica has already acquired 11,500 tablets and is preparing to start the distribution to lower secondary-school students in the rural schools across the island.

“This will help to significantly reduce the digital divide. To date, we have distributed approximately 130,000 tablets and laptops to our teachers and students with a special focus on students on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH),” she said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry continues to provide audiovisual lessons via the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) and the Ministry’s two new TV channels through the eHomeSchool Network.

One channel focuses on offering live and recorded lessons for the primary level and the other is focused on secondary-school students.

Apply now for grants to fund community projects

Twenty million dollars in grant funding will go to community-based organisations and committees, under the Social Development Commission (SDC) Grant Call for Proposals.

This is the SDC’s second call for proposals for fiscal year 2021/2022, with the funding available in four categories of grants.

Public Relations Manager at the SDC Mandel McKulsky said that application forms can be found on the SDC’s website at Criteria for eligibility are also on the SDC’s website, and applicants can contact their respective parish offices for support in completing the various forms.

McKulsky said that 164 grants were issued from the agency’s first grant call for proposals for the fiscal year and the SDC stands ready to issue even more.

Holland Primary targets reading skills as classes resume

Principal of Holland Primary School in St. Elizabeth Simone Doctor said focus is being placed on improving the reading levels among the critical grades as face-to-face classes resume in schools across Jamaica.

Her team is already been devising strategies to improve students’ reading across all the grades. Mrs. Doctor said that special emphasis will be placed on some grade four students.

“They would have left the face-to-face setting at grade two when they needed that teaching. So, we are recognising that there are several slow students [and] what we are doing now is have them go through a trial,” the principal noted.

She explained that on Tuesdays the grade-four students will be separated based on their reading ability, where special reading lessons will be taught to bring them back up to speed.

“It is not throughout the whole period that they will be separated [and] we have already brought that to the parents that we are trying that for now, because some of them will need some intervention that others won’t need,” said Mrs. Doctor.

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News Week: JANUARY 23, 2021

COVID-19 in 75 per cent of communities

Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, is reporting that the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is now in 75 per cent of communities across the island, with 828 hospital admissions.

She said that over the past two weeks the number of deaths has been climbing and warned that persons should not regard the Omicron variant of the virus as only “mild”, as “it still causes severe illness”.

According to the CMO, the Delta variant might be among the population, and with 95 per cent of persons on COVID beds unvaccinated, there is a need for an increase in the rate of vaccination.

“This certainly means that persons need to get vaccinated, because vaccination will prevent severe illness, decreases hospitalizations, and will decrease the number of persons with poor outcomes,” she said.

‘I look forward to benefiting from her wise counsel,’ says PM Holness as first female takes top post in JDF

The first female to head the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Rear Admiral Antonette  Wemyss Gorman, has assumed office as Chief of Defence Staff.

Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen presented her with the Instrument of Appointment during a ceremony at King’s House, which also saw her subscribing the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office.

Admiral Wemyss Gorman succeeds Lieutenant General Rocky Meade who retires from the JDF after serving for 38 years, the last five as Chief of Staff.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness; Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Juliet Holness; and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr. Horace Chang, headed the government and other officials attending the ceremony.

Mr. Holness, in congratulating Admiral Wemyss Gorman, said her selection through a competitive process by the Defence Board was based on that body’s conclusion that she has the requisite leadership skills, experience, commitment, and strategic vision “to lead the men and women of the JDF and drive them to achieve even greater levels of success”.

In highlighting notable achievements of Admiral Wemyss Gorman’s 29-year military career, Mr. Holness said her tenure in the Coast Guard allows her to treat significantly with issues relating to maritime security and the blue economy.

Added the Prime Minister, “She will, therefore, bring a unique perspective to our discussions and efforts to strengthen our borders and prevent illicit inflows, protect the lives and livelihoods of our coastal communities, and ensure Jamaica can derive sustainable benefits from our maritime resources. I look forward to benefiting from her wise counsel on matters relating to defence and security.”

Chukka Caribbean, Appleton Estate celebrate partnership

Chukka Caribbean Adventures and Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum are celebrating their new partnership, aimed at bolstering the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience.

Master blender, Joy Spence, for whom the facility is named, took attendees through the history of Appleton from its inception in 1749 to its status as a reputable brand today, and which continues to be a major force in the worldwide spirit industry.

Ms. Spence, who is celebrating 40 years at Appleton, with 24 as master blender, said that Appleton rum, with its rich history and global appeal, continues to be an integral part of brand Jamaica.

The master blender said she is passionate about the Appleton brand and creating various mixes and blends that everyone can enjoy.

For his part, Chief Strategist/Senior Advisor in the Ministry of Tourism, Delano Seiveright, hailed Ms. Spence, as “a national treasure”. He noted that the Appleton brand is easily one of the best in the international spirit industry, and is a “first-class brand, which remains an integral part of our tourism product”.

Mr. Seiveright also welcomed the partnership between Appleton Rum and Chukka Caribbean Adventures, which went into operation on December 1.

“I am confident that the JSAERE tour will remain a must-see and will be having a major impact on south-coast tourism,” he said.

The arrangement will see Chukka handling all sales, marketing, ticketing, and invoicing for the tour, and the full customer experience from point of departure to arrival.

Appleton will continue to maintain full control of the operations and maintenance of the facility to include delivery of the tour experience, retail, and food and beverage.

It is expected that Chukka will use its relationship with the cruise lines and the destination management companies to bring visitors to the south coast.

European Union funds security agenda

The Government of Jamaica-European Union Partnership to Support Citizen Security in Jamaica has been formally launched. The initiative seeks to contribute to the improvement of the security environment and the promotion of social inclusion in communities.

Under the programme, the European Union will provide Jamaica with J$3.5 billion over four years through budgetary support.

Minister of National Security Dr. Horace Chang said that citizen security is the most fundamental objective of national security in Jamaica today.

“It presents the most comprehensive approach to guaranteeing the delicate balance between the security of persons and their democratic coexistence. It is regarded as the concept that best lends itself to addressing the problems of crime and violence from a human rights perspective,” he said.

The funds are being directed mainly to the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs) in order to have measurable results as it relates to reduced criminal activity and enhancing opportunities for the residents to engage in self-improvement and empowerment initiatives.

Japan gives money to rural school for two buses

Lacovia High School in St. Elizabeth has received a grant to purchase two school buses for the improvement of the transportation system in school communities.

The grant was approved under the Ministry of Education and Youth Expanded Pilot School Bus Programme and the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project of the Government of Japan. The total value is US$135,014.

Ambassador of Japan to Jamaica, His Excellency Masaya Fujiwara, said the buses will be purchased from Toyota Jamaica. He noted that during “pre-COVID times, approximately 30 per cent of students face delay in arriving at school on time, daily”.

“In this regard, the people and the Government of Japan saw the need to provide funding to alleviate the transportation woes being faced by the current student population of over 1,200 students,” Mr. Fujiwara said.

Chairwoman of Lacovia High School, Lola Marshall-Williams, said the school is grateful for the assistance. “I assure you that this is a very generous gift and with the participation of the Ministry, we will utilise these buses to enrich the lives of the entire Lacovia school family,” she said.

NWC accelerates tech to serve customers better

As Jamaicans continue to embrace technology and the thrust continues for real-time information in the virtual space, the National Water Commission (NWC) has proactively been transforming its services as part of an overall drive to be a more customer-centric organisation.

To this end, the NWC will launch its Customer Web Access (CWA) Portal in February 2022. This portal, which will be hosted on the company’s website, will provide a “self-service desk” for customers who want to get information about their accounts in real time.

Customers will be able to access a summary of their account details, including billing, consumption and payment history for up to 13 months, and access the NWC’s iPay portal to make payments. Additionally, those customers who would like to initiate requests for payment arrangements and updates to their contact information (namely mailing addresses, email addresses and telephone numbers) can do so via the CWA Portal. It will also facilitate customers with multiple properties to be serviced under one login profile.

As part of the requirement to access the CWA Portal, customers must ensure that their Taxpayer Registration Numbers (TRN) and a government-issued ID are registered with the NWC.

Customers are, therefore, encouraged to submit a scanned copy of their TRN cards and a government-issued ID to or visit one of the NWC’s commercial offices with these documents to update their account information. Persons who do not have a physical TRN card may submit a certified letter from the Tax Administration Jamaica bearing their TRN information.

Due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, customers are encouraged to use the various portals provided by the NWC to pay bills and have their queries addressed as we strive to adhere to the Disaster Risk Management protocols stipulated by the Government.

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News Week: JANUARY 30, 2021

Jamaica will defeat crime, vows security minister

Minister of National Security Dr. Horace Chang said the Government is determined to defeat crime and disrupt the activities of well-resourced persons who are bent on causing mayhem in communities.

He noted that the society is being challenged by persons, who abide by no rules and will do anything for their own success; but stressed that the State will win the battle against crime and encouraged citizens to stand united against the scourge.

“We are going to win because we are committed to our principles, we trust in God, and we have faith in the Jamaican people. We have the men and women out there, and we will overcome those challenges,” he added.

Dr. Chang urged the security forces to build trust with citizens, “so that we can achieve unity under Christ, and achieve the success that we all [strive] for, to ensure that there is public safety and good order for all of Jamaica”.

COVID-19 measures to go shortly, says PM Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said over the coming months the Government will be looking to remove more of the measures that have been instituted to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission.

“Barring any extreme change in circumstances, our approach will be to gradually scale back restrictive measures once we get out of the fourth wave that we are now experiencing. We will not keep the measures longer than is necessary,” promised the prime minister.

Mr. Holness said the national approach adopted to counter the COVID-19 pandemic of saving lives and livelihoods “has served us well”. He noted that almost two years into the pandemic, “we have both the knowledge and means to protect ourselves”.

The Prime Minister maintained that citizens have access to adequate reliable information and resources “to assess [their] own health and risks as well as their handwashing and sanitizing, and physical distancing.

Agri training continues for youth farmer

More young Jamaicans are being trained and certified as youth famers through the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, in partnership with HEART/NSTA Trust.

Executive Director of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Dr. Ronald Blake, said the programme was developed to meet the growing demand for certification by youth farmers.

“The Jamaica 4-H Clubs has always been certifying our youth farmers,” he emphasized. “A lot of them have been certified under our mastery level programme.”

The certification is based on the knowledge that youth farmers have already acquired from working in the field. Dr. Blake said that 323 youth farmers are currently being assessed to receive certification under the programme.

Dr. Blake added, “The Youth Farmer Certification Programme is based on training on a whole and prior learning assessment, and it takes into consideration that these youngsters have been practically doing a particular activity over time and they have participated in various training by the 4-H Clubs and other agencies.”

Foreign ministry has big plans for Jamaica’s 60th year

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade is celebrating Jamaica’s 60th anniversary of Independence with a slew of activities throughout this year.

Dubbed ‘Reigniting a Nation: Global Excellence, Our Mission’, the celebration will also recognize the establishment of the Foreign Ministry in 1962.

“Our intention is to use existing and new opportunities throughout the year to showcase the work undertaken by the Ministry… and the impact it has had on national development,” said Portfolio Minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith.

Activities to be included in the anniversary celebrations are the annual Diplomatic Week and the Jamaica 60 biennial diaspora conference.

Senator Johnson Smith said that the Ministry will support national events, which may include State and official visits to Jamaica and from Jamaica to other countries.

The Ministry will also join the national Independence activities in August as well as mark Jamaica’s 60th anniversary of membership to the United Nations.

“We will work directly with the diaspora in its plans to celebrate within the respective jurisdictions as well as the national activities, which will unfold in Jamaica,” Senator Johnson Smith added.

Pearnel Charles Jr. focuses on food security

Jamaica’s food security is a top priority for the Government, according to Pearnel Charles Jr., the Minister of Agriculture.

He noted that there is global demand for Jamaican produce, adding that the Government is seeking to increase local production of several crops, particularly onion. He informed that the Ministry has set a target of increasing onion production from 20 per cent to 70 per cent to meet local demand.

He noted that onion production is just one of several crops targeted for increased production, to satisfy local and global demand. He said, “There are several – ginger, potato and others that we will be focusing on because right now, our import bill is too high. We want to make sure that through our parish managers and our extinction services, that we at least bring it up so that we can feed our country. First order is that Jamaica be able to feed itself, feed its tourists, and then go out and stretch across the world.”

Noting that agriculture is a critical component of the country’s economic recovery, Mr. Charles Jr. urged all Jamaicans to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the sector.

“Get involved. As we reset our economy, and we move to get economic recovery booming, farming and fisheries are presenting opportunities to you,” said the minister.

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