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News Week: OCTOBER 03, 2021

Private sector builds $50m field hospital

A new 48-bed field hospital donated to the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) in St. Andrew, through a private sector-funded and coordinated initiative, has been handed completed.

The $50-million isolation facility is equipped with sanitisation stations, sluice room and shower, donning and duffing areas, piped oxygen, air conditioning, Wi-Fi and video surveillance.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr the Hon. Christopher Tufton commended the donors for their support in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19), noting that the initiative exemplifies the importance of partnership.

Meanwhile, the Field Hospital Project Chairman, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), Gary Allen, said the plight of patients seeking treatment at the overcrowded facility inspired the project. “Working together as private-sector entities, public-sector entities and a teaching institution can bring forward something that is great. We were all motivated to help our fellow citizens,” said Allen.

Gov’t bolstering cyber-security, says Minister Vaz

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Daryl Vaz said that the Government is bolstering the nation’s cybersecurity by creating the necessary legislative framework and strengthening international partnerships.

He noted that as the world embraces digitalisation and there is increased use of the online space, it is imperative for the country to have up-to-date laws that provide safeguards against any possible cyber threat.

The Minister said that currently, the Cybercrimes Act, 2015 is before a Joint Select Committee of Parliament, where technical experts are working alongside lawmakers to ensure that Jamaica has modern and robust cybersecurity legislation.

“As an administration, we take cybersecurity seriously.  We are cognisant that Government must take a lead role in establishing the enabling environment for the development of the information and communication technology (ICT) and cybersecurity ecosystems in Jamaica,” he said.

Get ready for better public sector service!

The Government is creating a culture of service excellence in the public sector, focussing on quality in service delivery and customer satisfaction.

This is being done under the Service Excellence Programme, an initiative of the Public Sector Transformation and Modernisation Division of the Office of the Cabinet, which is leading the Government’s drive for continuous service improvements in the public sector.

Director General of the division Veniece Pottinger-Scott said that the public sector plays a significant role in the realisation of the National Development Plan, Vision 2030 “particularly as citizens become more informed and have higher expectations for service delivery”.

She said that service excellence is at the heart of Vision 2030, which aims to make Jamaica a place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.

Trelawny man reaps success from farming

The lush, green hills of Spring Garden near Albert Town in Southern Trelawny is home to Cecil Robe’s 35-acre farm. There, the champion farmer plants a wide array of crops, including yam, papaya, plantain, banana and coffee, and rears more than a dozen cattle.

Last year, he started cultivating strawberries, for which he receives technical support through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). Mr. Robe said that his over 10-year-old farm, which employs five farmhands, has been a success, enabling him to live a “very comfortable life”.

He said he has been able to send his three children to university and own a nice home. “I have my children… going to university, and I’m trying to do my best to make sure that they do their best and come out and do something with the farm,” he said.

Mr. Robe said that his love for farming emerged at an early age, having watched his father cultivate crops and rear animals and earn a decent living from those ventures.

Students getting improved online service as COVID-19 spreads in Jamaica

The Justice Training Institute has been working to improve support provided to students doing online classes. With primary operations now done online, it has moved away from the original ‘pull system’, where students would initially reach out for support.

Director Principal at the institute Karen Campbell-Bascoe said that they are concentrating on providing support to its students, before issues arise.

“Two staple areas where we are focusing on in terms of support are increasing our level of flexibility as well as increasing our level of communication. Not being able to see individuals in a face-to-face mode, we ensure we turn on videos. For instance, lecturers have their videos on, [and] from time to time, students are asked to turn theirs on as well,” she explained.

Mrs. Campbell-Bascoe also said the majority of administrator-to-student communication is done using the phone. She explained: “If we are communicating on a matter relating to assessments, we do it by email and we post in our student admin system. We use social media and send it by WhatsApp. Many students now easily access their WhatsApp messages more than they do their emails or otherwise.”

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News Week: OCTOBER 10, 2021

Jamaicans abroad adopt clinics, spend millions

The Ministry of Health and Wellness’ Adopt-a-Clinic programme is gaining traction, particularly among the diaspora in the United States, which has adopted several clinics across the island.

Data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness noted that there are 109 clinics up for adoption and of that total, 36 are adopted.

Members of the Jamaican Diaspora in the United States have adopted 15 of these clinics and have spent a total of $43 million upgrading and providing various equipment for these primary-care institutions.

Among the clinics adopted are Cascade in Hanover, Adelphi in St. James, Steer Town in St. Ann, Ulster Spring in Trelawny, Islington in St. Mary and Lambs River in Westmoreland.

Government to uplift several rural communities

Homer Davis, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, is encouraging business operators in Montego Bay to work with the Government to improve the aesthetics of the business district.

“Downtown Montego Bay needs a makeover; the aesthetics of the town need to be revisited… to make it more appealing to customers and visitors alike,” he said.

He said that the Old Shoe Market should be transformed into a more modern facility. “This is where I think central government, local government, along with the private sector, should form an alliance to upgrade that area,” Mr. Davis said.

Mr Davis cited urban drift as one of the issues that have affected the area’s infrastructure and impacted the rural communities. “This has redirected the Government… to focus its energy and available resources on improving the infrastructure and welfare of these rural communities across the landscape of Jamaica,” he said.

Five pilot communities have been identified for improvement under the Rural Development Programme that is being undertaken by the Ministry. They are Chamber’s Pen in Hanover; Cheesefield in St. Catherine; Cheswick in St. Thomas; Banks in Clarendon; and Lawrence Tavern in St. Andrew.

JAMPRO targets small businesses for support

The Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) continues to assist local small business owners to access export markets for their products.

JAMPRO President, Diane Edwards, noted that the agency has been successful in sourcing markets in the United States for cosmetics producers.

“We took a group of cosmetics manufacturers to Atlanta, found them distributors, and they are rolling out their business and doing well in Atlanta,” she said.

She noted that Jamaican entrepreneurs are also “doing well” in suppling regional and international markets with in-demand goods, such as sanitising products.

Ms. Edwards is urging small business operators to make use of the agency’s various support services. “We help businesses to focus. If you decide that your business needs to scale and you need an equity partner, we can go out and find an equity partner for you. JAMPRO is a free service, and there is no qualification required. You come with your plan and we will help because we are a free government service,” she noted.

Jamaica, Nigeria cementing ties, says high commissioner

Nigeria is exploring opportunities for greater trade and business linkages with Jamaica, according to Nigerian High Commissioner Dr. Maureen Tamuno.

She said that since assuming duties in June, she has had several meetings with government ministers and businesspeople to explore opportunities for increased business between the two countries.

The High Commissioner noted that Jamaica and Nigeria have been working to strengthen relations in trade, air services and culture since establishing diplomatic ties on April 29, 1970. She said that the Fourth Session of the Nigeria-Jamaica Joint Commission should provide a “formidable platform for rejuvenating existing bilateral agreements and scaling up relations in critical areas of mutual interest”.

The event is scheduled to take place in Abuja, Nigeria, during the first quarter of 2022.

PM Holness targets 1m vaccine jabs by November

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has set a new target of administering one million doses of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines by November 30.

This new target comes as the Government ramps up efforts to increase vaccine take-up to return the country to normality as soon as possible.

“The connection is not made in our minds that if we don’t take the vaccines, we cannot return to normal. Those people who want to return to normal without taking the vaccine… nutt’n no go so.

“Your freedom of choice comes with the obligation and duty of consequence. The problem we are facing now in the society is that the people who have taken the vaccine have to bear the consequences for those who do not take it,” the Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister Holness reminded the public that those who do not take the vaccines remain the host population for the reproduction and possible mutation of the virus. This, he said, could result in vaccinated persons being infected by a mutated version of the virus for which the vaccine they received may not be as effective.

Diaspora group supports health, education institutions

Fifteen schools in St. James, Trelawny and Kingston, and three health institutions in Western Jamaica are the latest beneficiaries of gifts from the Atlanta Montego Bay Sister Cities Committee.

The gift comprised medical assistance scholarships, tablets and laptop computers, valued at US$120,000.

Cornwall Regional Hospital, Falmouth Hospital and the Noel Holmes Hospital received well-needed oxygen valued at US$70,000.00.

Chairman of the Atlanta Montego Bay Sister Cities Committee, Dr. Yvonne Smith, said the oxygen was donated to the hospitals in July to assist with the shortage that they were experiencing at that time.

She noted that her organisation had distributed 131 tablets and 26 laptop computers to 15 educational institutions, of which 13 are in St. James, one in Trelawny and one in Kingston.

Among those receiving tablets and laptops were Adelphi Primary School, Adelphi Gardens Basic School, Goodwill Primary School, Sudbury All-Age School, Barrett Town All-Age School, Dumfries All-Age School, Muschett High School, Cornwall College, and the University of the West Indies.

Dr. Smith said the package of tablets and laptop computers is a joint project undertaken by the Atlanta Sister Cities Committee, in association with the Victoria House Foundation, headquartered in Washington DC.

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News Week: OCTOBER 17, 2021

Needy getting more support in Jamaica as part of COVID-19 fight

About 350,000 Jamaicans are expected to benefit from new grants under the Government’s COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) programme that is being expanded with a further budgetary allocation of $5.3 billion.

Over a period of six months, one-off grants, ranging from $10,000 to $18,000 will go to vulnerable persons in six categories at a total cost of $3.75 billion.

Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. Nigel Clarke made the announcement and reiterated the Government’s commitment to “put more resources in people’s hands” as economic conditions improve.

“The interventions…have to be targeted to those who need it most. Everyone is affected but in the interest of social cohesion, the Government is assisting those who are most in need,” Dr. Clarke said.

Outlining the various targeted social assistance, which will be carried out by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in collaboration with the Finance Ministry, Dr. Clarke informed that an automatic one-off grant of $10,000 will be provided to all heads of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH)-beneficiary households.

Sagicor Bank supports vaccination drive with rewards

Sagicor Bank Jamaica (SBJ) is rewarding Jamaicans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with free savings accounts for their children for two weeks. During this period, the bank will also automatically deposit $5,000 into the accounts of the first 100 children, and randomly select three students to win learning corners and education grants valued at $150,000.

CEO of Sagicor Bank Jamaica, Chorvelle Johnson Cunningham, said the Vax and Win promotion was created to incentivize Jamaicans to better secure their children’s future.

“We want to encourage Jamaican parents to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and also to instil in our children healthy money management habits from an early age, so they can develop the tools needed to secure their financial futures,” she said.

Johnson Cunningham said that in addition to waiving the account opening fees for all new Sagicor Bank Star Savers accounts during the period, the bank will also deposit $5,000 into each account – no strings attached.

Pandemic accelerates digital tourism

Plans are advanced to create a digital experience for Jamaica’s tourism product, according to Director of Tourism, Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), Donovan White.

“Our digital experience is a part of our growth over the last three years.  Building a product takes some amount of time and we are very well advanced. We have spent a lot of the time during the pandemic creating new content,” he said.

Mr. White noted that digital experiences are based on the ability to convey real experiences virtually. He said that to date, “We have created some 12 or 13 virtual tours of interesting places across Jamaica that are now currently available at coupled with written content as well.”

He said that over the next several months, the Ministry and its agencies will work on a data management system and the transfer of data to information experiences.

“Using data mining is a critical component to address our ability to target, retarget, reach new markets and to penetrate markets even deeper and wider than we can today,” he pointed out.

Don’t ink deals with developers without contacting the real estate board!

Chief Executive Officer of the Real Estate Board (REB)/Commission of Strata Corporations (CSC), Sandra Garrick, is urging prospective homebuyers to contact the agency before entering any contractual arrangements.

“When you are purchasing units, prior to getting involved in the transaction, contact the Real Estate Board to ensure that the developers are registered, so that your investment can be protected,” she advised.

She said that while the REB is pleased with the number of developments taking place on the island and that communities are being built, it is important that the persons undertaking these projects are registered developers.

For his part, Chairman of the REB, Andrew James, said that the entity is playing its role in driving construction, by giving the necessary support to developers, while ensuring that buyers are protected. He said that the REB is pushing for greater focus by developers on long-term needs when planning residential projects.

“We are encouraging harvesting of rainwater, we are encouraging [solar energy], because we know the issues that will come, and as such, we have to encourage the developers to put these things in place,” Mr. James said.

Private developers supporting housing needs in Jamaica

Minister of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change Pearnel Charles Jr. said private developers have been diligently endeavouring to deliver high-quality houses for prospective homeowners.

He said a strong partnership had been forged with reputable established developers “who understand their role and responsibility in ensuring that what they are producing for our people is at a standard that is respectable and incorporates the Ministry’s objectives.”

These objectives, which he said are being advanced by the Government, encompass proper wastewater management and sound environmental planning, noting that developers are adhering to these guidelines.

While acknowledging that more needs to be done, Mr. Charles maintained that developers appreciate the need to integrate sustainable best practices in their operations. He cited, as an example, the developers of the Orchards, noting that their installation of systems to treat wastewater for use by the National Irrigation Commission was forward-thinking, given the challenges posed by climate change.

Schools get laptop from Atlanta-based charity

Just over 160 computers have been donated to 13 primary and high schools in St. James to enable needy students to access online learning.

The 138 tablets and 25 laptops were provided through a partnership between the Atlanta-Montego Bay Sister Cities Committee and the Victoria House Foundation, in collaboration with the Adelphi Community Development Council (CDC).

The devices were presented to representatives of the beneficiary schools during a ceremony at the Holiday Inn Resort and Spa in St. James which was attended by Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett.

He thanked the Committee and Foundation for their gesture, noting that the provisions will serve as tools that aid in building the nation’s human capital and repositioning Jamaica “to become competitive in this new world [of technology].”

Mr. Bartlett encouraged the institutions to use the devices to “enhance the knowledge of our children and make our country a strong and powerful nation.”

Atlanta-Montego Bay Sister Cities Committee Chair, Dr. Yvonne Smith, said that the need for virtual classes “is now greater than ever”, based on the restriction of face-to-face learning due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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News Week: OCTOBER 24, 2021

Children’s hospital gets help from diaspora group

The Bustamante Hospital for Children received a donation of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the Diaspora for Children Foundation, to assist with the fight against the coronavirus.

The donation includes 360 PPE gowns, 1300 disposable face mask with ear-loops, 720 N95 masks, 224 face shields, 1750 Powder free nitric exam gloves, 2400 Rhino Original Nitrile powder free gloves , 175 cloth face covering, 35 wipes and 22 hand sanitizers.

Dr, Michelle-Ann Richards-Dawson, the hospital’s Senior Medical Officer, in accepting the donation noted that it will boost the assurance of the healthcare workers as they continue to fight during this pandemic.

“The foundation is pleased to make this donation to the hospital as we play our part in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The children are our future and we know how strained the health care facilities have been,” said Mr. Ibrahim Konteh, the foundation’s Executive Director.

Bright future for cruise shipping, says port boss

The Port Authority of Jamaica has expressed confidence in increased cruise shipping activities across all cruise ports islandwide.

President and Chief Executive Officer Professor Gordon Shirley said that, “we are beginning to see cruise shipping restored to normalcy and bookings are on the increase”.

The CEO expressed optimism in the expected return on investment in the upcoming season. “We are even more hopeful that as a result of the investments the organisation has made in cruise infrastructure this year, the calls for next year’s season will surpass those slated for this year.”

Unemployment rate drops in July, but women not fearing well

The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) is reporting that the unemployment rate for July 2021 was 8.5 per cent. This is 4.1 percentage points lower than the 12.6 per cent out-turn for the corresponding period last year, according to STATIN’s Labour Force Survey for the month.

Director General Carol Coy said that data from the survey show that the number of unemployed persons went down by 49,200 or 30.4 per cent to 112,500.

“The number of unemployed males fell by 43.4 per cent. In comparison, the number of unemployed females declined by 17.5 per cent,” she said.

Ms. Coy indicated that the unemployment rate for youth, aged 14 to 24, was 23.9 per cent, 6.4 percentage points lower than the July 2020 out-turn of 30.3 per cent.

The Director General advised that the rate for male youth was 18.4 per cent and 30.8 per cent for females.

Jamaica, US in technology, cyber-security talks

Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Audrey Marks said that the island’s relationship with the United States under the Biden-Harris administration remains strong, and that Jamaica continues to value its enduring partnership with the US.

She was speaking at the end of high-level consultations on information and communications technology (ICT), cyber-security and energy in Arizona and Washington DC.

“It is a distinct pleasure to host my Jamaican and American colleagues, as it is a fitting end to a productive week of engagements between the Government of Jamaica and our partners in the US Government, private sector, and academia,” said Ambassador Marks.

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Daryl Vaz led Jamaica’s 12-member delegation. It included Minister of Education and Information Faval Williams; Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Senator Aubyn Hill, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of National Security Senator Matthew Samuda, and head of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) Dr. Wayne Henry.

Fair exam results, says education minister

Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams said the results of this year’s secondary school external examinations were satisfactory, particularly given the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID -19) pandemic.

Students across the island sat the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) in June and July.

For public schools, 38.2 per cent of students had a passing grade for CSEC Mathematics, while in Applied Mathematics for CAPE, 47.3 per cent of students had a passing grade.

Mrs. Williams noted that the Ministry will “need to make changes in their approach across the education system to help students raise their mathematics scores”.

“I want to commend all the students, who persevered and did their examinations under very trying and challenging circumstances this year. I also want to encourage those who may not have done as well as they would have liked to look for opportunities that will contribute to improved performance,” the Minister said.

For CSEC, 30,188 students from public schools were registered to sit the examination, of which 27,789 (92.1 per cent) sat papers across 34 subjects ranging from Agricultural Science to Principles of Accounts.

Of those students who registered and sat the exams, 23,760 or 85.8 per cent received Grades One, Two or Three in at least one subject.

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News Week: OCTOBER 31, 2021

Water company gives 140 tablets to multiple schools

Several schools are praising the National Water Commission (NWC) after receiving devices from the Commission through its Tablets For Learning Initiative.

Through the initiative, the Commission donated 140 tablets to schools across Jamaica. Eleven schools from 11 parishes received 10 tablets each while six schools from three parishes received five tablets each. In addition, the NWC donated 70 SIM cards that were provided free of cost by Digicel Jamaica.

The schools that benefited from the donations are Iris Gelley Primary, King Weston Primary, Robert Lightbourne High, Mineral Heights Primary, Crescent Primary, Horace Clarke High, Oracabessa Primary, Ferncourt High, Priory Primary and Junior High, Buff Bay Primary, Draper’s All-Age, Cambridge High, Troy High, Porus High, Pondside Primary, George’s Plain Primary and Middlesex Corner Primary.

Claude Rowe, the principal of the Iris Gelley Primary School in St Andrew, expressed sincere gratitude to the NWC after receiving 10 devices for his school in September.

“I’m excited,” said Mr Rowe, noting that some of his students had difficulty accessing devices for online schooling. “These 10 gadgets will change the lives of 10 of our students.”

Aware of the teaching and learning challenges being experienced at schools across Jamaica, NWC President Mark Barnett said that the commission was moved to make the donations. “NWC is not awash with cash. Notwithstanding, we believe this is part of demonstrating our fulsome support of the community and how we ensure that community upliftment is achieved through education,” he said.

Germans upgrade St Catherine health centre

The Above Rocks Health Centre in St. Catherine has received a $2.7-million upgrade with funding from the German Government and the Charitable group, VFKE (Verein zur Forderung von Kleimprojekten).

Nurse at the centre, Johanna Burgher, said she was grateful for the donations, noting that a lot of persons in the community volunteered their skills during the construction process.

“We got a lot of support from people, and we appreciate and thank all of them,” she said, adding that, “more people are now coming and showing care about their health, and to me it is very important”.

Mrs. Burgher said that with the upgrading of the facility, it centre will now open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to serve the more than 100 persons who make weekly visits.

Ambassador designate from the Federal Republic of Germany to Jamaica, His Excellency Dr. Stefan Freidrich Keil, said “we looked at it, and found it to be a good project, because it is a clinic which gives help to the community, and it is very much needed, it is a wonderful project”.

Vaccination protocol mooted for certain workers

Chairman of the National COVID-19 Vaccination Operationalisation Task Force, Professor Gordon Shirley, is recommending a protocol for the vaccination or testing of certain categories of workers as part of measures to improve coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination coverage in the country.

He said that implementation of the protocol should be preceded by a robust education programme aimed at addressing vaccine hesitancy and obtaining the buy-in of workers.

“We need to set a timeline for the vaccination or testing programme. We recommend that in the case of the public sector… the Government should support the programme [testing]… for a while but the workers will eventually go on their own,” he said.

“In all cases, the companies involved, whether public or private sector, should undertake a strenuous process of educating the workers, trying to understand the source of their hesitancy, and providing support to help them overcome that hesitancy, and offer as much counselling as necessary. We believe that this is an essential part of the process,” he pointed out.

Professor Shirley argued that vaccine hesitancy among various essential groups is having a negative impact on the vaccination programme. He cited the case of public health nurses, where vaccine take-up is about 50 per cent.

“It’s a particular problem because public health nurses are one of the most trusted sources of information on medical matters throughout Jamaica, particularly in the rural areas and in our inner-city communities. The public health nurse is their go to person when they are ill.

“We think that the public health nurses’ [low vaccination rate] has potentially cast a pall over the national vaccination programme, which should be removed, if we are to improve the vaccination rate,” he said.

Women, youth target for business grants

Approximately 3,721 women and youth in the agriculture and tourism sectors within various vulnerable communities across parishes will benefit from the Jamaica Social Investment Fund-REDI II Income Generation Grant valued at J$150.

This initiative includes the supply of critical inputs targeting women entrepreneurs and youth between the ages of 18 and 35 in both rural and urban areas. Under this sub-project, beneficiaries are required to make contribution of 5% in-kind to support the implementation of the initiative. These main deliverables will include the provision of tools, equipment and inputs for crop production, broiler and layer operations equipment, fisheries inputs, the provision of safety gears as well as apiculture and small stock and inputs.

The JSIF, in its quest to support the agriculture and community tourism sectors, has sought to join forces with several partners. These partners include; the Tourism Product Development Company, Rural Agricultural Development Authority, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Jamaica 4-H Clubs and the Social Development Commission.

Said Managing Director of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, Omar Sweeney: “the (COVID-19) pandemic has caused a disproportionate impact among the most vulnerable in society, including our Jamaican female workers within farming and community tourism…. We see this as an opportune time to extend support to both our women and youth who have been negatively impacted in order to make their operations more viable.”

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