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News Week: JUNE 6, 2021

Nine get prestigious Musgrave Medals

New members are now on list of those receiving the prestigious Musgrave Medal Awards in Jamaica.

 

The Institute of Jamaica said those added have demonstrated excellence in their respective fields of Literature, Art, and Science, going down in history as recipients of the oldest award in the Western Hemisphere.

 

Recipients awarded for eminence in Arts are Mr. Steven Woodham; Mr James “Jimmy” Tucker; and Mr. Fitzroy Russell. Professor Mona Webber; Professor Mark Harris and Mr. Hawthorne Watson are awarded for excellence in the field of Science. In the field of Literature, the awardees are Dr. Ishion Hutchinson; Professor Shara McCallum, and Mrs. Veronica Blake-Carnegie.
 

The Musgrave Medal Awards is an annual presentation held in the month of October, the month in which Jamaica recognizes Heroes Day.

Jamaica celebrates 14-year-old student tutor

Minister of Education Youth and Information Fayval Williams has hailed 14-year-old Kelvin Peart of Discovery Bay, St. Ann, for taking on the selfless task of tutoring students in his community who have been impacted by the closure of schools, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kelvin, a grade-eight student of Ferncourt High School in Claremont, St. Ann, transformed an old bar adjacent to his home into a classroom, where he has been tutoring children at the early-childhood and primary levels since May.

Minister Williams, along with a team from the Ministry’s Region Three office, visited the teenager earlier this month to get a first-hand view of what he is doing as well as to commend the youngster for his noble gesture.

Speaking with journalists following a sit-down with Kelvin, Mrs. Williams expressed gratitude to the teenager for looking out for the nation’s children and recognising the importance of education to nation-building.

“Not a lot of young men of his age would have had the thought to help others in terms of their educational pursuits, but he did. He brought the children here and despite the fact that the circumstances might not be perfect or the best, he gathered them around and is doing the best that he can in terms of engaging them in their educational journey,” she said.

The Minister noted that Kelvin is a prime example of the type of young men that are needed to help transform the nation.

She said: “We value education in Jamaica and we value education among our young men in particular, so when you see a young man like Kelvin who is attending high school and has this sense about him, you have to commend him and hold him up as an example of what we would like to see in our young boys as they progress through life.”

$10m in scholarships for West Kingston students

The Government will be investing $10 million in the provision of new scholarships for outstanding students from the West Kingston constituency under the Edward Seaga Scholarship Awards (ESSA).

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development and Member of Parliament for the area Desmond McKenzie made the announcement earlier this month during a ceremony for the renaming of Denham Town Primary School and Denham Town Infant School in honour of the late former Prime Minister.

The scholarship programme was launched by the West Kingston constituency in 2019 with $3 million from the Government, in recognition of Mr. Seaga’s tremendous contribution to the development of the area and the wider Jamaica.

Scholars who have already benefited from the programme include outstanding performers in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), Primary Exit Profile (PEP), and a student who is pursuing a level-three early-childhood course at the HEART/NSTA Trust, which Mr. Seaga founded in 1982.

Focus on public education during hurricane season, prime minister tells team

Disaster preparedness personnel in Jamaica have been urged to pay special attention to priority areas such as the readiness of shelters and shelter operations, cleaning drain infrastructure, and enhanced public education.

This directive came from Prime Minister Andrew Holness who emphasised the importance to be at top-of-the-class in relation to public awareness of disaster preparedness matters.

“Public education is an integral part of our approach to increase public awareness and engagement to support the disaster preparation and emergency management activities of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), said the prime minister on June 1, the start of the National Atlantic Hurricane Season which will end in November.

Added the prime minister: “The Jamaican people will gain a greater understanding of disaster risk management to be able to prepare for disasters, emergencies and emerging hazards allowing them to safeguard themselves properly, intentionally, and actively, family and property thereby ensuring hurricane readiness in trying times.”

 

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News Week: JUNE 13, 2021

Honour for front-line workers in Jamaica

A special medal to recognise front-line workers of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is to be commissioned by the Government of Jamaica.

Culture, Gender, entertainment and Sport Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, made the disclosure earlier this month while speaking in Parliament. “As we continue to show appreciation, I have been asked by the Minister of Health and Wellness to commission a special medal to recognise the dedicated service of our heroes on the front line in the fight against COVID,” said the minister. “We believe it is fitting that we make this special award to those who have given great service to our nation during this pandemic.”

Added Grange, “I use this opportunity to pay maximum respect to our frontline workers who work so hard to keep us safe and healthy during this pandemic.”

Minister Grange said details for this are being finalised for Cabinet.

She further noted that the funds raised through ‘Telethon Jamaica: Together We Stand’, achieved its objective of funding the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for frontline workers, adding that $60 million was collected through the fund-raising effort.

‘Don’t be fixated on getting employees back into the workplace’

President of the Caribbean Employers’ Confederation Wayne Chen has called for employers to embrace flexible and remote work in order to become more productive and globally competitive, and to design a system to measure employee output when they operate outside of the workplace.

“We have a psychological hang-up in Jamaica about control, so that change in mindset will have to take place before we can get the full benefits of any change in legislation and regulation to flexible working arrangements,” he said.

Mr. Chen noted that although the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced businesses to employ remote work, many still have not embraced the opportunities created by the new normal, and are fixated on getting employees back into the workplace or office.

Their primary concern, he said, is related to the productivity of workers while they operate from home, and is recommending that businesses implement systems to measure output.

“There are progressive companies that quickly embraced remote work, but for every story like that we have the story where the head of a department or a chief executive officer asks for all the workers to come back out as soon as the Government eases the COVID-19 restrictions,” Mr. Chen noted.

“And the answer is that many managers have still not yet put in place a system where they can actually measure output.  We have really wasted, in many instances, a year because without the measurement, they are not confident it (work) is done,” he pointed out.

Press on with logistics hub, UK high commissioner to Jamaica urges

British High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency Asif Ahmad, has expressed confidence in the country to achieve the goal of becoming a global logistics hub.

Delivering an address at a Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority (JSEZA) virtual summit, he cited his experience witnessing the successful implementation and growth of special economic zones in Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

The High Commissioner emphasised that Jamaica, too, can experience exponential success. “It is with the benefit of seeing successes on the ground in these fast-growing economies that I have confidence in lending my support to what Jamaica wants to achieve as a logistics and business hub,” said Mr. Ahmad.

Commenting on Jamaica’s international partnership with the United Kingdom (UK), he underscored the UK’s commitment to the process for development. “In recent years, we have committed over $20 billion as part of our development assistance programme. Our strategy is to work in areas that will sustain growth and not lock Jamaica into perpetual dependence. In fact, Jamaica is on the path to sustainable growth,” Mr. Ahmad noted.

High praise for big agriculture investment

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green has hailed operators of the St. Catherine-based Model Agricultural Production Limited, for investing more than US$2.5 million in farming.

During a tour of the farm in Innswood, Mr. Green said the entity is reaping success from a significant investment and high-tech cultivation. “I am very happy that we are here celebrating a success in your productivity levels for your onion,” he said, pointing out that the company has almost one 100 acres of land in the production of onion, scallion, pumpkin, and will shortly put another 50 acres in the growing of sweet potatoes.

“What we are seeing here is part of Government’s policy initiative to ensure that we facilitate agricultural investments. We believe in agriculture, and we know that if one makes serious investments in agriculture, the returns will come,” he pointed out.

The Minister said he is pleased with the knowledge transfer that the company is providing to the farming sector from Israeli technology. “That is what we want to see. It is not just about providing land to be used for agriculture, the critical part is that the land must be used, and we want to see all lands earmarked for farming contracted to investors at the quickest possible time,” said the agriculture minister.

Central bank head sees signs of growth in economy

Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) Governor Richard Byles says there are signs of improvement in the economy.

He pointed to indicators related to employment and growth, among other areas impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Speaking during the BOJ’s recent digital quarterly briefing, Mr. Byles said the latest data released by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) indicated an unemployment rate of 8.9 per cent as at January 2021, up 1.5 percentage points compared to the corresponding period 12 months earlier.

He noted, however, that this represents an improvement, relative to the 10.7 per cent recorded at October 2020.

“When account is taken of the seasonal patterns in employment, these statistics suggest that more than 25,000 jobs were restored between October 2020 and January 2021, following the approximately 40,000 jobs that were added between July and October last year,” the Governor pointed out.

Mr. Byles said the same pattern of improvement continues to be evident in the growth figures.

He said STATIN’s most recent growth data showed that domestic economic activity contracted by 8.3 per cent for the October to December 2020 quarter.

“Using the quarter over quarter change in the seasonally adjusted real gross domestic product (GDP), as reported by STATIN, the out-turn for the December quarter relative to the September quarter reflected a growth of 0.9 per cent,” he explained.

 

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News Week: JUNE 20, 2021

Entities partner to tackle domestic violence

The Ministry of National Security is collaborating with the British High Commission and Women’s Inc. on a transitional living facility for female victims of domestic violence.


“This initiative is in keeping with the Ministry’s continued thrust to deliver and support crime prevention efforts that are more citizen-focused,” said Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Courtney Williams.
He said the facility’s location will not be disclosed as it is a safe space that provides an opportunity for victims to regain their independence as well as peace of mind.


Deputy High Commissioner Daniel Shepherd spoke about his government’s support. He noted that, as part of the United Kingdom’s emergency response to the increase in social issues since the COVID-19 pandemic, it “approved a multi-sectoral package of support to the Caribbean worth Five Million Pounds; (and) £930,000 was allocated to Jamaica to mitigate the risks of increased intimate partner violence, violence against children and gang recruitment resulting from COVID-19 pressures.”

Robert Morgan says government stepping up action to protect children

Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Robert Morgan says the Government is implementing a “zero tolerance” policy in treating with confirmed cases of child abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice.

“We are implementing a zero tolerance policy where, if somebody reports child abuse and we investigate and there are charges laid, then the police, the Government and the legal system are going to work hard to ensure that those who are abusing children are held to account,” he said.

He said that “our position at the Ministry of Education is to create an environment where young people can strive and shine. We are trying as best as possible to put in place the necessary reforms so that not only young people outside of the Government’s [ambit] can strive but also those in State care”.

The State Minister outlined pieces of legislation that are being reviewed to safeguard the welfare of children. These include the Child Care and Protection Act to facilitate improved protection mechanisms, and the Adoption Act, which seeks to make the adoption process easier and more transparent.

Also being looked at is the zero-to-three policy, which seeks to ensure that no child under the age of three is placed in a State care institution, but is, instead, adopted or placed with foster parents in a safe, nurturing environment.

Taskforce to strengthen ganja sector established

Audley Shaw, the Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, has established a Cannabis Industry Development Taskforce, chaired by his junior minister Norman Dunn. It has been set up to determine strategies critical to enhancing growth and development of the local cannabis industry and build on the gains made to date in the sector.


Minister Dunn has mandated the taskforce to “work together to shape the future developmental path for cannabis by providing strategic and technical guidance, to ultimately ensure that existing and potential investors in the industry can reap the rewards which exist across the medicinal cannabis value chain”.


The taskforce is a multi-sectoral stakeholder group including representatives of public sector, private sector and academia. It will operate for two years and focus on improvements to the legislative framework, business and institutional environment, product development, public education, capacity building, training, investment and export promotion as well as economic inclusion of traditional and small-scale farmers the protection of intellectual property rights.

Jamaicans abroad to sit on state boards

Jamaica is taking steps to strengthen its bond with nationals in diaspora communities. Prime Minister Andrew Holness said a new policy is being developed to guide the appointment of persons to public boards to include measures to better accommodate those abroad.


“When this policy change occurs, which will happen very shortly when we change the Regulations, the scheme will see [an] open invitation for Jamaicans to apply to serve on public boards, and that will be open to, of course, persons in the diaspora,” said the prime minister.

The changes are to make the process of appointing persons to the boards of public entities more open and transparent. The Prime Minister noted that the policy of the Government “is to utilise the talent pool that exists, and so on several public boards there are members of the diaspora”.  He noted, however, that this has been without having a specific procedure in place to address such appointments.


Mr Holness said there may be some requirement for diaspora members to travel to Jamaica for a certain number of meetings “but as we have seen with virtual meetings and the reliability of the virtual technology, that, too, may change”.


“So I would say in the coming months, you should look out for that change in our policy for the appointment of members to boards, which will see to allowing persons to apply to put their résumé in a pool and become eligible for selection on public boards,” he said.

Correctional facilities get attention

Jamaica is moving to improve correctional facilities on the island. It said new perimeter fencing, digital courtrooms and increased water storage are just a few of the most recent investments under Project Rebuild, Overhaul and Construct (P-ROC).


Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of National Security, Senator Matthew Samuda toured some of the facilities falling under the Department of Correctional Services and stated, “we have added 44,000 gallons of water storage as well as our own water truck to the (department’s) fleet, to ensure we are able to manage water supply for sanitation”.


Said the minister, “we’ve also installed a number of wash stations in the facilities but without water supply these wash stations cannot work.”


At the Horizon Adult Remand Centre, where infrastructural work is being undertaken at a cost of about $6 million, Minister Samuda pointed out that the general scope of work falls under maintenance. “The fencing is really some maintenance work. At the end of the day, we have a significant responsibility for rehabilitation. However, our major responsibility is security for those both inside and outside these facilities, which is why we need to ensure that they are appropriately enclosed.”

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News Week: JUNE 27, 2021

Public health needs support, says minister as he thanks Custos for $12m donation

Custos of Clarendon William Shagoury has donated medical supplies and equipment valued at $12 million to the May Pen and Lionel Town hospitals.

The donation, which is in support of the coronavirus (COVID-19) response, includes 800 N95 masks, hospital gowns, adult scale, oxymeters, blood pressure monitors, dental shields, temperature machines, three defibrillators, 40 gallons of paint, among other items.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton thanked the Custos for his continued support to healthcare and other sectors of the parish. “Custos Shagoury is always making a donation, whether it’s for agriculture, for dengue or COVID, so much so he is known as ‘Mr. Clarendon’. When the history of this parish is written, you have a place in it and we thank you for your commitment,” declared Dr. Tufton.

He said that the items donated will help to “save lives” and called for increased partnerships in healthcare. Said

Dr. Tufton: “While doctors and nurses are trained for this, if they don’t have the supporting cast, such as those who give, we cannot do anything. Public health needs partnerships. Too many of us depend on the system to rescue us and, thereafter, we don’t care what happens to the system.”

PM urges help for new arts centre at his old school

St. Catherine High School, the 73-year-old alma mater of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, is to have a new performing arts centre by December.

Ground was officially broken for the centre at a ceremony on June 18, in which the Prime Minister participated.

Supreme Ventures Limited donated the first $5 million towards the building project. The CHASE Fund will construct a section of the centre on the ground floor, stage area with lighting and sound, a multipurpose seating area for 850 people, male and female restrooms and dressing rooms at a contract value of $50 million.

In his address, the Prime Minister thanked the CHASE Fund, Supreme Ventures Limited, members of the Alumni Association and other donors for their contribution, enabling   construction to begin before the official ground-breaking ceremony.

He also called on other donors and corporate groups who can assist, to donate towards additional segments of the plan.

Seaforth Health Centre in St. Thomas gets relief

The Seaforth Health Centre in St. Thomas has been adopted by the Seprod Foundation and Canco Ltd., under the Ministry of Health and Wellness Adopt-a-Clinic Programme.

Executive Director of the Seprod Foundation, Lisa D’Oyen, said that St. Thomas and the community of Seaforth are very special to the Foundation. “In addition to Seaforth being home to the Serge Island Dairy Farm, the largest dairy farm in the English-speaking Caribbean for over 50 years, Seprod has been supporting educational and community-driven initiatives since the formation of the Foundation over five years ago,” she said.

The Executive Director said it was only fitting that Seprod was deepening its investment in the community through the adoption of the Seaforth Health Centre, pointing out that capacity issues have been identified and will be addressed, and that this will be done while ensuring that each of the clinical spaces are fit for purpose.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Christopher Tufton, thanked both entities for their combined commitment to the facility of $6 million over three years.

Search for oil, gas continues in Jamaica

Exploration for oil and gas is continuing on the island of Jamaica, says its Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Daryl Vaz.

In the first quarter of the 2020/2021 financial year, Cabinet approved the United Oil and Gas (UOG) acquisition of Tullow’s 80 per cent interest and operatorship by United Oil and Gas to continue drilling.

Vaz said the company has identified 21 possible reservoir targets within the Walton-Morant Basin. He said that to further reinforce the potential, an independent Competent Persons Report was performed by renowned Gaffney, Cline & Associates where they estimate that the acreage is capable of containing a potential mean, unrisked prospective resource of over 2.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil across 11 of those identified leads and prospects.

The Minister said the company has started its global marketing campaign to attract an investor to commit to funding the drilling of an exploration well before January 2022 and executing that well by January 2024.

Carib Cement steps up environment protection action in deal with Government

Caribbean Cement Company Limited and the Government have signed a memorandum of understanding for a national programme that will allow for end-of-life tyres located at Riverton city and other disposal sites across the island to be disposed of by the company.

Under this 10-year National Programme for the Environmentally Sound Management of End-of-Life Pneumatic Tyres, Carib Cement will safely destroy roughly 320,000 tyres a year, which will be used to make clinker – a nodular material used as the binder in cement products.

Costs associated with the programme, which includes an inventory of the tyres and the sorting, handling, and transportation from disposal site to Carib Cement, will be borne by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development/ National Solid Waste Management Authority and the Ministry of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change.

The programme is being implemented on a phased basis with the first phase beginning on July 1, 2021. It will target over two million used tyres at the Riverton City disposal site.

Phases two and three, which will commence on July 1, 2026, and end on June 30, 2031 and will see the development and implementation of an action plan to facilitate the ongoing collection and disposal of tyres at seven other disposal sites.

Managing Director of the Caribbean Cement Company, Yago Castro underscored the importance of the initiative as an extension of the company being responsible corporate citizens and protecting the environment from the harmful emissions of greenhouse gases.

He noted that the parent company, CEMEX aims to reduce 35 per cent of CO2 emissions from cement products by 2030. Mr Castro added: “Because of this project, we will be importing less fossil fuel into the island. Through the co-processing process of the tyres, rubber and other elements will make its way into clinker and cement. This will also align with our operations at CEMEX in reducing CO2 by finding alternative materials to be used in the processing of clinker/ cement for a full roll-out of delivering net-zero CO2 concrete to all our customers by 2050.”