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News Week: MAY 2, 2021

Custos uses his $4m to fund Clarendon health services

The Clarendon Health Services (CHS) has benefitted from more than $4 million in donation from Custos of Clarendon William ‘Billy’ Shagoury to support the fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

He gave the May Pen Hospital and May Pen Health Centre 32,000 surgical and N95 masks, two tables, 16 chairs, two recliners and four thermometers. Custos Shagoury also donated gowns, a microwave and care packages for the mentally ill persons in the parish and food items for staff. Five thousand masks were also shared with the Clarendon police to assist with their fight against the pandemic.

Custos Shagoury, who used his personal funds, explained that he has always recognized the importance of healthcare workers and supporting them with needed resources.

“I have seen how the healthcare workers worked hard and put their lives on the line; putting their families’ lives at risk. I was there with them from March giving them encouragement and was able to get some items for them at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic” said the Custos.

40,000 Jamaicans to get second dose of vaccine in May

Dr Christopher Tufton, the Minister of Health and Wellness, said 40,000 Jamaicans are to receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in May.

The Minister said persons who are to receive the second dose of the vaccine will be contacted by telephone or sent a reminder by text message. He said too that they may call the Ministry’s 888-ONE- LOVE hotline number.

 

The Minister encouraged those who have received their first dose to continue adhering to the protocols that have been set out by the Government to minimise the spread of the virus. “It is not a licence to act in defiance of the protocol. It is very important that we wear the mask, practise physical distancing and sanitise,” said Dr Tufton.

The Minister reminded Jamaicans that one dose of the vaccine does not offer full protection. “It’s important that once you have gotten one, to get the second,” he said.

 

At the end of April, more than 135,000 Jamaicans had received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. “We will continue our efforts to secure more vaccines. There are a number of very positive leads that we are pursuing,” according to the Minister.

More jobs, hotel rooms for Hanover

The tourism room capacity in Hanover is to expand with the start of construction work on phase one of the US$500-million five-star Grand Luxury Princess Hotels and Resorts at Industry Cove in Green Island.

The Hanover Municipal Corporation approved the Spanish hotel chain’s building application at its monthly meeting in April. Phase One of the project will see the construction of 1,010 rooms, a casino, and two waste-water treatment plants. In total, the developers plan to construct four hotels in a 2,037-room resort on approximately 34 hectares of land.

Chairman of the Hanover Municipal Corporation and Mayor of Lucea, Councillor Sheridan Samuels, welcomed the Spanish conglomerate’s project. “They could have chosen many other locations in Jamaica but they chose to invest in Hanover, and for that we are grateful,” he said.

It is projected that about 1,500 tradesmen and labourers will be hired during phase one of the project. On the completion of both phases, 2,852 hotel workers – 1,417 in phase one and 1,435 in phase two – are expected to be employed.

Cosmetic products pilot at Jamaica’s scientific council

The Scientific Research Council (SRC) is to establish a pilot plant for the production of personal care and cosmetic products, according to its Executive Director Dr. Charah Watson.

“We have been supporting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the development and production of products and one of the areas we have seen a lot of interest in is personal care and cosmetic products. In response, the SRC is building out a pilot plant to offer support to entrepreneurs who may want to make cosmetic products,” she said.

Dr. Watson noted that the initiative should come on stream by the end of the first quarter of the 2021/2022 financial year, and will join the likes of its food pilot plant. She added: “The SRC has been offering training seminars and workshops to teach persons how to make products; and a lot of clients have gone on to make these products in their own space. However, as they expand, the capacity to produce may become challenging and that is where we want to offer our services.”

 

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News Week: MAY 9, 2021

National Baking Company supports teacher education

Science education received a tremendous boost to the tune of US$1 million under an agreement to establish the National Baking Company Foundation STEM Enhancement Scholarship Fund.

This agreement is between the Foundation and the University of the West Indies (UWI). It will see the programme dubbed BOOST – Building out our STEM Teachers – contributing J$159,600,000 over a period of six years.

Gary ‘Butch’ Hendrickson, chairman and chief executive officer of the National Baking Company, said, “We are delighted to partner with UWI on this ground-breaking programme. The aim of this donation is to literally BOOST Jamaica’s development agenda through improving our competencies in STEM. There is a lot of work to be done”.

He added, “A revolving cohort of the best science and math graduates is one way to increase the number of STEM teachers. This will eventually help to build empowered communities, besides enhancing the capacity of the University of the West Indies to assist and guide young Jamaicans towards a more prosperous future.”

Jamaica is strengthening apiculture industry

The Government of Jamaica spent in excess of $30 million to provide training and capacity building for 23 beekeeping projects last year.

At the same time, in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry, a $5-million grant was provided for a farm feeding support in an effort to preserve the life of roughly 12 per cent of the beekeeping stock across Jamaica.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Floyd Green said that the apiculture sector has continued its growth path in 2020 with 3,000 investors managing just over 3,500 apiaries with about 65,000 bee colonies valued at about $2.6 billion or US$17 million.

Record earnings at Carib Cement

Caribbean Cement Company Limited, the maker of Carib Cement, recorded $1.5 billion of profit in the March quarter, which is three times the earnings recorded in the comparative 2020 period.

The quarter’s outstanding performance already puts the company halfway towards matching the $3.2 billion of profit made over the entire 2020 year. Its outlook on the construction sector and demand for cement remains positive.

Caribbean Cement focused on customer orders, efficiencies, expense controls and risk management during the quarter. “This effort has resulted in another quarter of growth, with the month of March yielding a record production of more than 100,000 metric tonnes of cement. For this, we commend all employees for their outstanding dedication and expert management of the plant and processes,” according to a joint statement from Chairman Parris Lyew-Ayee and General Manager and director Yago Castro.

The increased investments in the plant over the years allowed it to meet the increased demand emerging from the trade, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hotel association targets vaccination drive

The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) is ramping up public education under its COVID-19 Ambassador Programme to encourage more workers in the sector to get vaccinated.

President of the JHTA Clifton Reader said that many Jamaicans, including those in the hospitality sector, continue to “sit on the fence” when it comes to vaccination.

He said that the Ambassador initiative will take aim at these “fence sitters” in communities situated in and around the tourism corridors, in order to highlight the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine, and how it will better help them to protect their families and wider community.

“If we produce the facts to them in a way that they can understand it, then I believe that they would make the decision to go out and take the vaccine,” Mr. Reader said.

He said that many of the initiative’s 40 ambassadors in hotels and attractions in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Negril, St. Elizabeth, Portland and Kingston have already taken the vaccine, which has inspired their colleagues to follow suit.

 

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News Week: MAY 16, 2021

Paper mill to add hundreds of new jobs

The parish of Westmoreland in Jamaica is to get a bamboo pulp and paper mill, according to the Minister with responsibility for industry, investment and commerce, Audley Shaw.

He said that talks are being finalised with an investor to establish the mill valued at roughly US$296 million. It is estimated that the project will add 500 direct jobs and 5,000 indirect jobs to the local economy over the next 10 years.

According to the minister, mill, to be situated in Frome, will be the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, will also create opportunities for local farmers. He added: “The company requires a total of 20,000 acres of arable land to establish bamboo orchards to meet the one million tonnes of bamboo fibre required per year. This opens up opportunities for owners with land suitable for bamboo cultivation to supply the mill.”

Jamaica injects buy-back programme

Jamaica’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is putting an additional $200 million into its Buy-Back Programme.

Minister Floyd Green said that the programme is among “aggressive strategic initiatives” implemented last year in response to the “unprecedented crisis” caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Under the programme, the Government provides money to assist in the movement of excess produce from farmers to domestic consumers. The excess is due to the closure of hotels, restaurants and schools during the pandemic.

Charities get support to manage donations

A local company has come forward to help some charities in Jamaica to manage their donations. The United Way of Jamaica (UWJ) has teamed with JETS Limited, owners and operators of the MultiLink Debit Card system, to provide support for the company’s corporate social responsibility programme.


The partnership valued at $3 million will benefit projects in the areas of education and health, to support clinical services, skills training and various other outreach initiatives. The benefiting projects and organizations include the Jamaica Cancer Society, Mustard Seed Communities, Salvation Army, the R Danny Williams School of the Deaf, the Jamaica Society for Blind and United Way of Jamaica’s Early Childhood initiatives.


CEO of JETS Limited, Mr. Edmundo Jenez, said that, “his organization is pleased that this partnership with United Way Jamaica will ensure the efficient administration and disbursement of donations in keeping with our company’s corporate social responsibility focus on health and education initiatives”.

Jamaican is new Chancellor at Heriot-Watt University

Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland has a new Chancellor. He is Jamaica’s Honorary Consul to Scotland, Professor Sir Geoff Palmer. Sir Geoff, who is an internationally renowned scientist and human rights activist, will assume his new role at an official inauguration ceremony, which will be held during the University’s Bicentennial celebrations in October 2021.

As Chancellor, Sir Geoff will play a central role in promoting Heriot-Watt’s international reputation as a pioneer in  research and education across its campuses in Scotland, Malaysia and Dubai.

 

Jamaican High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Seth George Ramocan, expressed pleasure at Sir Geoff’s new appointment. He said, “This is a proud moment for the Jamaican diaspora and for all Jamaicans across the world. Sir Geoff, who made history in 1989 when he became Scotland’s first black professor, continues to be a stalwart supporter of Jamaica and the diaspora and a tireless advocate for human rights. He exemplifies academic excellence and his research into the history and connections between Scotland and the Caribbean is well known and highly regarded.”

Edna Manley college seals new deal for students

Students specialising in music production at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts will have the opportunity to further hone their skills and create musical content for global advertising campaigns. 

This will be facilitated through an apprenticeship programme as part of a partnership between the college and global entertainment marketing agency, the SMC Group, which will see the company hiring five graduates per year from the college. 

Representatives from college and SMC Group signed an agreement to solidify the partnership during a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, May 12.

With an initial investment of US$30,000, the SMC Group will be establishing a fully equipped music-production studio that will serve to develop the talents of local songwriters, producers, and artistes attending the institution. Work on the music studio is slated to begin by September 2021.

This first phase of the venture will focus on Jamaican-based talent, with a long-term goal of recruiting from across the Caribbean. The partnership will also enhance animation and dance specialisations at the college.

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News Week: MAY 23, 2021

Students get hands-on training at Carib Cement

Tertiary level students from two universities in Kingston received valuable work experience under a programme spearheaded by the Caribbean Cement Company Ltd.

Managing Director Yago Castro wants to see more students enrolled in the programme and encouraged the participants to spread the message. “This is about the future of the country. The role of cement is important especially in creating more resilient infrastructure in Jamaica. Help us to convey this message to all your colleagues. We are trying to create that critical mass of people that can be a part of our company in the future,” he said.

Chairman Parris Lyew-Ayee described the programme as successful, noting that the second staging will open up to students from other universities such as the Caribbean Maritime University as well as to include our companies in Bahamas and Trinidad. “I think it was a success and the co-ordination and the working was good. I have been getting inputs from the professors who note that the feedback from the students are highly appreciative,” he said.

For five weeks, 42 final year students from the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, and University of Technology (UTECH), Jamaica, were exposed virtually to cutting-edge research and development in the cement industry, state-of-the-art technology, and the operations of a multi-national company.

The students, taught by the company’s leaders and technical experts, hailed the work exposure programme, dubbed CEMEX Campus 2021. Final year UWI student Lesmar Murray, 22, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering, described the programme as eye-opening, explaining that she was able to garner hands-on experience about the cement-making process.

Ms. Murray was speaking at a ceremony to hand over certificates to students who participated in the programme at the Carib Cement’s Sports Club in Rockfort, Kingston, on May 19.

Final year UTECH student, Shaneque Edwards, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering in Chemical Engineering, said the programme taught her both the technical and non-technical aspects of running a cement business.

“This is something that will come in handy, irrespective of the programme we are in and I believe that it has allowed us to be more open-minded even after our journey at university has ended,” she said.

The programme was launched in March 2021.

20,000 more land titles coming

Jamaica expects to deliver 20,000 titles over the next two years under a reengineered land titling programme, according to Everald Warmington, the Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.

He said that the titling process is targeting privately held lands at a community or scheme level; and will operate alongside the existing voluntary system of registration of lands, where persons visit the National Land Agency office and request the service to issue a title for their lands.

Warmington said the Government is working through a public-private partnership agreement with Geoland Title Limited to undertake cadastral surveying and titling services.

Jamaica shines at tourism awards

Six Jamaican properties are this year recipients of the prestigious TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best Awards.


In doing so, they have earned a coveted spot on TripAdvisor’s Top 25 Hotels in the Caribbean list. They are Kingston’s Spanish Court Hotel; Negril’s Cliff Hotel and Sandy Haven Resort; Ocho Rios’ Jamaica Inn and Montego Bay’s Round Hill Hotel and Villas and The Tryall Club.

 

Edmund Bartlett, the Minister of Tourism in Jamaica, hailed the teams for their exceptional performance. “I am very proud of the strong Jamaican representation on TripAdvisor’s Top Caribbean Hotels list.  These properties were ranked among the highest-rated locations in the entire region,” said the Minister. “This is a major achievement for these properties and by extension destination Jamaica. We are certain this will have a positive impact on our tourism industry, which is steadily rebounding.”

 

Additionally, the S Hotel in Montego Bay was listed among the Top 25 ‘Most Saved’ hotels in the world, which TripAdvisor described as “hotels that topped every traveller's list.”

 

“I offer my congratulations to the management team and staff of the Crissa Hotels Group for being the only Jamaican entity to be named on the Most Saved list, while their other property, Spanish Court Hotel, also made the Top Caribbean Hotels list. This proves that they have remained top of mind during what has been a very difficult year for travel and tourism globally,” said Minister Bartlett.

 

Established in 2002, the Travellers' Choice Best of the Best Awards are the highest honour TripAdvisor bestows.

Jamaica wants maritime state status

Transport and Mining Minister Robert Montague says Jamaica is making progress in its quest towards becoming a leading maritime state.

“Our plans to position Jamaica as a viable shipping centre, a subset of the Logistics Hub, will continue in spite of the obvious economic shocks of the [coronavirus] COVID-19 pandemic,” said the Minister. “This has the potential to attract more shipping and allied services, and to be a driver of economic development.”

He said this is occurring against the backdrop of “careful observation of international standards, [and] protection and preservation of the country’s natural environment”.

“We must ensure that shipping activities in our entire marine space and for our flagships sailing internationally are in compliance with the IMO’s international regulations for safety and security as well as the prevention of marine pollution, including air emissions by ships,” the Minister stated.

Mr. Montague said the IMO’s application of global standards through robust treaties and regulations has set the bar for member countries to follow.

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News Week: MAY 30, 2021

Sagicor Foundation answers dream for Clarendon College past student

For Kadijah Ricketts, a tertiary-level education was a goal that would not have be immediately attainable out of high school, given her family’s financial challenges. But despite the odds, this Clarendon College alumna is now on track to achieving her lifelong professional goal of becoming an economist and financial analyst.

Noting that her parents always experienced difficulties covering her educational expenses, Ricketts said she applied to various scholarships to help offset the burden on the family as she was determined to succeed despite the challenges.

She was the recipient of Sagicor Foundation Tertiary Scholarship in 2017 and was able to successfully complete her three-year degree programme at the University of the West Indies, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in economics and statistics, with first-class honours.

“I remain deeply thankful to the Sagicor Foundation for giving me the opportunity to obtain my first degree. Without their benevolence, I would not have been able to cover my tertiary expenses without the stress of securing the funds being on my parents. This caused me to focus on my schooling and also allowed me to explore personal interests,” Ricketts said.

Serious crimes tumble in Jamaica, says minister

Dr Horace Change, Jamaica’s minister of national security, said the country is witnessing its lowest recording of serious crimes in over 20 years.


He claims this is because of the massive investment made over the last five years and direct government policies.


“Over the last five years, serious crimes, which include murder, shooting, rape, robbery, and break-ins, have declined by an average of 5 per cent per annum,” the Minister said.


He added that “between 2015 and 2020, total serious crimes declined by approximately 24 per cent, moving from 6,667 in 2015 to 5,086 in 2020. This is the lowest recording of serious crimes in over 20 years.”

According to him, the transformation of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) also played a significant role in this reduction. “We are now seeing significant improvement in policing capacity and response, as well as the crime trends,” said the national security minister. “There is a renewed confidence and heightened reassurance that this modern, more agile and efficient police force is transmitting to the public, and rightly so. The citizens of the country can take comfort and be confident that the re-equipped and restructured Jamaica Constabulary Force is impacting on the level of criminal violence in our society.”

Wolmer’s schools’ hail supporters

Alumni groups connected to the Wolmer’s Schools in Jamaica have made donations valuing $10m since January.

Said Chairman of the Board of Management Courtney Wynter:
“As we celebrate Wolmer’s Day (May 21), we want to say thanks to our partners in education, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, thank you for the continuous support of our schools; to our alumni groups across the globe, PTA, sponsors, donors and well-wishers, we are grateful for your continuous contributions to assist in enabling a fully functional institution. It would be impossible to maintain the standard we have over the years without your financial, moral and spiritual support.”

It was noted too that since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in Jamaica in March last year, various alumni groups have come to the support of the schools. The groups have assisted with converting the traditional teaching and learning space into a digital format, primarily using the Google Classroom and Microsoft 360 platforms.
 
Additionally, $250,000 worth of tablets given to neighbourhood schools, Central Branch and Allman Town Primary. The devices were donated by Wolmer’s Trustee Douglas Orane.  In expressing her appreciation, Ms. La-Toya Nesbitt, Principal of Allman Town Primary, said that “with every donation, it means that it would have been one more life that is being impacted; one more student being able to participate in online classes and one more life in which a difference has been made.”

Jamaica’s central bank puts up $20m for education

The Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) has launched a $20 million initiative that will see 60 students from selected primary, secondary and tertiary schools benefitting from bursaries aimed at assisting with tuition, the provision of devices for e-learning, books and other miscellaneous expenses for the academic year 2021/2022.

BOJ Governor Richard Byles said this is part of activities to mark the central bank’s 60th anniversary.

The participating schools will be selected by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information. Winners will be announced in August.

The BOJ Governor said, “Nation-building is something we at Bank of Jamaica take pride in and this initiative seamlessly aligns with that. This pandemic (COVID-19) has inspired many Jamaicans to be more innovative in all aspects of our lives and I must say we have adjusted and adapted in how we serve Jamaica – both economically and educationally.”

Another appeal for vaccine support for small nation states

Jamaica, through its minister of tourism Edmund Bartlett has stepped up lobby for players in the global community to make their voices heard about the issue of vaccine equity and its implications for global economic recovery.

This appeal was renewed at the recent Global Tourism Recovery Summit in Saudi Arabia.  The summit focused on efforts by the global community to restart the tourism industry with leadership and coordination.

During the summit, Bartlett, who was supported by his colleague, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator Aubyn Hill, said that the unequal distribution of vaccines may lead to a global humanitarian challenge, that will have direct implications for smaller states such as Jamaica.

“We are concerned that a greater humanitarian challenge will emerge if this process of vaccine inequity continues,” said the minister. “Too many countries will find their economies in tatters and the livelihood of their people in peril. Jamaica is at risk because we have a low vaccination level of less than 10% and that is of concern. If categorization is to be made in relation to levels of vaccination, countries like Jamaica will be left behind due to our limited access to vaccines.”