News Week: SEPTEMBER 05, 2021
Do you have idle lands? Lease them to the government
The Agro-Investment Corporation (AgroInvest) is urging Jamaicans who own 30 acres of land or more to consider leasing their properties for agricultural production.
This would be facilitated through the Agriculture Landowner Match Programme, which began in May of last year.
Marketing and Communications Manager at Agro-Invest, Alecia Brown-Forbes said the programme has piqued the interest of Jamaicans.
“We realise that in Jamaica there are many acres of unused land owned by private citizens that can be used for agricultural purposes. We, therefore, want persons who own large amounts – 30 acres or more – to apply to us. We will research, promote and try to find suitable investors for those lands,” Mrs. Forbes said.
The work of the Agro-Investment Corporation is centred on supporting an environment for the sustainable development of agriculture in Jamaica.
Mrs. Forbes said under the Agriculture Landowner Match Programme, the Corporation makes the leasing process easier for landowners.
There’s a hot market for fresh vegetables
Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) is encouraging entrepreneurs to invest in vegetable cultivation for the hospitality sector.
Manager for JAMPRO’s Sales and Promotions Division, with responsibility for agribusiness, Marlene Porter, says there are numerous market opportunities for fresh vegetables, especially in the hotel sector.
“What we have seen is, with COVID-19 we [had] a dip taking place there. However, we don’t expect this dip to stay and, interestingly, when we look at the numbers, most of the investment interest that we are seeing coming into us surrounds crops – vegetables in particular,” she said.
Ms. Porter pointed out that there are specific crops in high demand that investors can focus on. She indicated that they include cabbage, lettuce, and broccoli, noting that “[these are] things that the local tourism industry needs.”
“What we have found, too, is that a lot of the crops that we are talking about are also consumed by locals… and we have been importing a lot of them. So, these opportunities are seen by investors, and they are looking at them a great deal,” she said.
Female business owners get help from UN body
Ten women business owners will receive financial and business development support to scale up their business operations under the Women in Entrepreneurship Support (WES) Project Phase II.
Under the project, participants will have access to a suite of business development services, including training, with the aim of building capacity, attracting investment opportunities, and increasing market share and revenue of small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs).
It also seeks to facilitate the integration of these SMEs into the national, regional and global value chains.
Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Minister Olivia Grange said the Government is seeking to ensure that women are provided with the requisite technical and financial support to become successful entrepreneurs.
“The WES project was developed to empower female entrepreneurs, so that they have economically viable and sustainable businesses,” she said.
UN Women Multi-Country Office Representative, Tonni-Ann Brodber, said the initiative is supported by the UN Women EnGenDER project. “We know that the economic empowerment is interrelated with reducing inequality, increasing security and safety,” she added.
United Nations (UN) Women is providing over a million dollars under the programme. Each participant will receive $100,000 towards business development activities.
Jamaica tightens screws on human traffickers
The Ministry of National Security National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons says that the recent amendments to the Trafficking in Persons Act signals its intent to reduce trafficking in persons locally.
Head of the ministry’s Trafficking in Persons Secretariat Chenee Russell Robinson said that important amendments were made earlier this year. He explained that “9reviously, it was imprisonment or fine or both. However, now a person convicted of trafficking can only be imprisoned or imprisoned and fined, so you cannot be fined only.”
According to Mrs Russell Robinson, this is a part of the Government’s measures to prevent and combat trafficking in persons. She said, “We believe that trafficking is a dire crime, it has a psychological impact on the victims [whose] lives can be destroyed, and it is a breach of human rights, and it falls under transnational organised crime. We believe that to reflect the nature of this crime, a fine alone is not sending a signal to persons that this is a type of crime that we need to get rid of from our shores.”
She added that the amendments reflected international standards and best practices.
Bobby says trains are ready to roll for students
Robert ‘Bobby’ Montague, the Minister of Transport and Mining, is getting ready for the trains to roll again for students, once schools are reopened following their shutdown more than a year again due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He has just hosted a wide cross section of stakeholders aboard a Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) passenger train for a final test run of the school train service.
The passengers included students and teachers from several St. Catherine schools, and representatives of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the St. Catherine Municipal Corporation, the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
They were taken on a round trip from Spanish Town to Linstead in St Catherine, which is one of two routes that the train service will operate. The other is from Old Harbour to Spanish Town, also in St Catherine.
The rail service is being facilitated through partnerships involving the JRC, the JUTC and the Education Ministry and will initially operate one round trip per day on the two routes.
Minister Montague said that the revival of the passenger train service at this time to transport students was apt and timely, given the current realities.
News Week: SEPTEMBER 12, 2021
You have a right, contact legal aid unit
Members of the public who have been charged with criminal offences and are unable to afford private legal representation are being encouraged to access the services of the Legal Aid Council (LAC).
Legal Officer Kerona Spence noted that every person who is charged with a crime or is detained has a right to legal representation.
“So, if you can’t afford an attorney, we implore you to contact the Legal Aid Council. That is what we are here for – to provide you with the assistance that you need, so that you can have a fair trial and you can have access to proper justice services,” she said.
Ms. Spence is also advising persons with family members who have been incarcerated and are mentally ill to contact the Council.
‘We on the rock… proud of Jamaicans all over the world’
Hundreds of Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica gathered on Saturday, September 4 in Paterson, New Jersey, to witness the renaming of one of the major streets in that city, to recognise the outstanding contribution that Jamaicans have made to the city.
Vreeland Avenue, between 17th and 19th Avenues, was renamed ‘Jamaica Way’, and was unveiled by the City’s Mayor, André Sayegh.
“The naming of a portion of Vreeland Avenue, Jamaica Way, is a proud moment for our multicultural municipality,” the Mayor said.
He pointed out that the area has a significant population of Jamaicans and is home to numerous Jamaican businesses.
“I am honoured to support the street naming and would like the world to know that ‘one love’ is what we strive for in ‘one Paterson’, which is a better place because of Jamaicans who call our city home,” Mayor Sayegh said.
In her message to mark the occasion, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange said the Government had taken “note of all that you continue to do to ensure that Jamaica stands at the centre of commerce, culture and social engagement in the city of Paterson, New Jersey”.
“The renaming of this street is a testament to the span of influence spawned by members of the Jamaican Diaspora in the United States. We on the rock continue to be proud of Jamaicans all over the world who, through activism and civic and political engagement, have influenced and inspired development wherever they are to be found,” the Minister said.
Jamaica wants to tighten border to stop flow of illegal guns
The Government is developing a border security policy and strategy that will secure the country against various threats, including the illegal movement of weapons, drugs, and contraband, while promoting lawful commence.
“This policy represents a key priority of the Government to disrupt the drugs-for-guns trade as well as the food-for-guns trade and to bolster our own capacity as a country to fight transnational organised crime and these criminal networks,” said Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Courtney Williams.
He noted that the policy also seeks to provide a more cohesive approach to responding to risks to trade and commerce, the blue economy and public health emergencies of international concern. It further serves to improve cross-sectoral cooperation among key regional and international stakeholders, the Permanent Secretary said.
“It will seek to enhance border intelligence-gathering capabilities, data sharing, risk assessment and the development of responsive security protocols. The policy will also seek to promote coherence and cohesiveness in border security and to modernise and streamline the legislative framework for the effective implementation of the policy and strategy,” he added.
Wider groups lobbied for JamaicaEye to fight crime
The Ministry of National Security is targeting neighborhood watch groups, community associations and businesses across the island as it looks to beef up the number of surveillance cameras available under the JamaicaEye programme.
“In terms of the contribution by the public, we are putting a lot of effort into that at this time,” said Senior Director of Major Technology Transformation in the Ministry, Arvel Grant.
“We are meeting with the community groups, various neighborhood watches and business associations across the island. We go in, we meet with the groups who would have registered their interest by logging on to the JamaicaEye website, we share camera specifications, we sensitise them, we give them information about how the system works and address any concerns,” he noted.
He said that persons are educated about the cameras that best suit the system.
“We tell them about the cameras to buy and those that work best in certain areas. Once they have the cameras acquired and installed, then our technical team will meet with the community group. We establish that connection back to our system, so that the members of the police force inside the monitoring centre are able to access those camera feeds,” he pointed out.
Those wanting additional information may visit the JamaicaEye website at jamaicaeye.gov.jm or email queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
JamaicaEye expands to more communities
The Ministry of National Security is steadily increasing the network of cameras that are a part of the country’s national closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance programme, dubbed ‘JamaicaEye’.
The public-private partnership, launched in 2018, is designed to network CCTVs owned by the Ministry as well as accommodate feed from privately owned cameras.
Right across the island where the cameras have been installed, members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are leveraging the cameras to assist their investigations of crime and maintaining public order.
The feeds provide useful footage in relation to criminal activity and other emergencies and are monitored by a team of security professionals.
Senior Director in the Major Technology Transformation Branch at the Ministry of National Security, Arvel Grant, said that the number of cameras has grown from 180 at the launch to 840 currently.
He notes that CCTVs were recently installed at strategic locations in Santa Cruz and Black River in St. Elizabeth, and they will be brought fully online by the end of July.
Mr. Grant says that expansion continues through both Government-owned cameras and private partnership.
News Week: SEPTEMBER 19, 2021
Jamaica eyes expansion of overseas work programme
Minister of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda said he is looking forward to working with stakeholders for further development of the Overseas Employment Programme.
Mr. Samuda reiterated plans to expand the number of workers participating in the US work programme from 13,000 to 30,000 per annum.
He said that the number of expert liaison officers to guide the expansion of the programme would also need to be increased.
“We need to get more liaison officers to promote the programme consistent to the objective as I have set to expand it threefold. We have got to get appropriate supervision for the United States, to push this programme forward,” Mr. Samuda said.
At the same time, Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Jamaica, Scott Feeken, noted that despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamaica remains only second to Mexico as a participant in the temporary worker programme globally.
Workers on the US temporary-work programme bring an estimated $100 million in earnings back to Jamaica.
Plant trees, protect the environment, says minister
The Ministry of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change is encouraging citizens to participate in an ongoing National Tree Planting Initiative.
“The Government is encouraging every Jamaican man, woman, child – everyone – to plant a tree, whether inland or on the coast. It is a very simple but important activity,” said Pearnel Charles, Jr.
He explained that the tree-planting initiative will help the nation safeguard food security, water security, conserve biological resources and assist with the adaptation and mitigation of the effects of climate change.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness launched the national tree planting initiative on October 4, 2019. The objective is to plant three million trees within three years to support national development in the areas of climate change and reforestation to increase forest cover and establish high-value urban green spaces for all Jamaicans.
“Through the initiative, the Government wants to create an understanding of the importance of trees and the synergy between human and plant life resulting in a change of behaviour, starting with our children up to our adults, in terms of how we interact with, protect and treat our environment,” said Minister Charles.
Customs workers buy 60 laptops for schools
The Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) has donated 60 tablets valued at $1.2 million to two primary schools in St. James and St. Andrew.
The institutions are Farm Primary and Infant in Green Pond and Edward Seaga Primary in Denham Town, which received 30 tablets each.
Director of Internal Affairs at the agency and chairperson of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Committee, Tameka Goulbourne, told said that the funds used to purchase the devices came from personal donations by employees.
She said that the social responsibility committee focuses its efforts in and around communities where the agency’s offices are located.
“We have community locations in Montego Bay and our head office and other Customs locations are not very far from Edward Seaga Primary, so we engage the schools that are within our reach, within our own communities, to see how best we can assist them,” she said.
PM urges vaccine ‘heroes’ to inspire others to take the jab
Prime Minister Andrew Holness is hailing Jamaicans, who have taken the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccinate as heroes and is urging them to go back into their communities and encourage others to get the jab.
“You, who are here, are the heroes. You have looked past all the naysayers, all the negative, all the mischief information that is out there and you have said, ‘I am going to do what is in the best interest of me, my family, my community, and the country,” he told residents of his West Central St. Andrew constituency.
“You are the heroes, who have decided to take the vaccine and now I am going to ask you to be the ambassadors, who will go back and say to the people in your community ‘please come and take the vaccine. See, I am an example of someone who has taken the vaccine and I am hearty, I am well.’ You are the heroes on the scene, thank you for taking the COVID vaccine,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister continued to implore Jamaicans to exercise greater personal responsibility and compliance with the established COVID-19 protocols and guidelines.
He noted that while curfews and extended periods of lockdown assist in slowing the spread of the virus, Jamaicans must manage their personal behaviour.
A strong food systems hold key to healthier diets
Strengthening and transforming food systems are critical to ensuring healthier diets and securing zero hunger in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), according to United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Dr. Garry Conille.
SDG 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030. Dr. Conille said that poverty, income inequality and the high cost of food continue to keep healthy diets outside of the reach of three billion people around the world.
“Hunger and malnourishment have been on the rise for a number of years around the world, even before the coronavirus (COVID-19). Before the pandemic, the percentage of the population not consuming enough calories per day –and that is the percentage of the population that is undernourished – has been on a very slight rise, according to the state of food security and nutrition in the world,” he pointed out.
He noted that in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, there has been a consistent rise in obesity and persons who are overweight.
“It goes hand in hand with anaemia among women and other micronutrient deficiencies in children. We have also witnessed the slight rise in the stunting of children under five before 2020. COVID-19 has made things worse and made clear, the linkages between inequality, poverty, high food prices and disease,” he said.
New trucks to solve garbage collection weaknesses
Executive Director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), Audley Gordon, said the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development is seeking to procure 50 compactor trucks to improve garbage collection across the island.
He said that the estimated cost for the units is approximately $1.3 billion. He said it the acquisition of the new units will assist in addressing the waste collection challenges currently being experienced.
“We are behind in a lot of communities across the country. We have been getting a lot of calls and we want to assure the public that we have heard, and we are doing the best we can to remove the garbage as quickly as possible,” he noted.
Board Chairman of the waste agency, Dennis Chung, indicated that the procurement process for the 50 units is expected to take place over a six-month period. “With the situation we have with the garbage collection now, it can be a big challenge… We ask for the understanding of the public,” he said.
News Week: SEPTEMBER 26, 2021
System of verifying vaccination status coming
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said his Government is moving to make travel with Jamaica’s vaccination card seamless by establishing a system for verifying the validity of the vaccination status of Jamaicans.
The Prime Minister’s announcement comes following concerns raised after it was reported that the United Kingdom’s Government does not recognise the vaccination status of Jamaicans who travel to that country, based on new travel guidelines established.
“If you need to travel and you arrive in… the foreign country and you present your card, we will develop the appropriate system to ensure that there is the ability to validate that card so your destination of travel will be able to verify on the Jamaican database that your vaccination is accurate and appropriate and valid,” he said.
The Prime Minister added, “Whilst there are concerns, we wish to reassure the country that the way in which Jamaica has gone about its vaccination programme places us in good standing for this kind of validation to take place.”
Staff at two hotels fully vaccinated; minister impressed
Edmund Bartlett, the Minister of Tourism, has lauded the South Coast’s renowned resort complex, Jakes Hotel and Jack Sprat Restaurant and Bar on achieving 100 per cent staff take up of both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
They are the first and only establishment in Jamaica so far to have accomplished this under the tourism vaccination initiative of the Ministry of Tourism and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association working in tandem with the Private Sector Vaccination Initiative.
In hailing Jakes and its staff, Minister Bartlett said, “I commend Jakes for setting the pace in the drive to get all tourism workers vaccinated. The tourism industry is on the rebound globally and travellers are looking for COVID-safe destinations for their travel experiences.”
In highlighting the “Jakes Family” accomplishment, Jason Henzell, Chairman of Jakes Hotel, Villas & Spa said, “We are proud of our staff of 125 persons achieving this milestone. Jakes strives to be a good steward of community tourism, knowing that the health and safety of our staff and guests, as well as the wider community of Treasure Beach, and in fact Jamaica and the world as a whole, are of great importance to us as a resort destination.”
Private security supports anti-crime fight
In the last three years, the private security industry contributed to a notable decrease in serious and violent crimes, robberies and break-ins, according to Senator Matthew Samuda, the Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of National Security.
“This downward trend is partly a result of the significant expansion of private security industry, with an average annual growth of six per cent in the number of registered private security guards within the last ten years,” he said.
The Minister pointed out that last July, more than 200 private security companies with staff complements surpassing 21,000, were registered with the Private Security Regulation Authority.
Real estate board moves to clean up sector
The Real Estate Board is clamping down on dealers who fail to complete the risk assessment survey, which is part of the entity’s anti-money laundering efforts.
Chief Executive Officer of the board Sandra Garrick said that 13 real estate dealers’ licences were suspended earlier this month for failure to complete and submit the board’s Anti-Money Laundering Risk Assessment Survey Questionnaire issued in 2020.
“The survey takes a risk-based approach by identifying factors in dealers’ operations or that of their clients which would put the dealer at a heightened risk for being used for money laundering or terrorism financing,” she noted.
These risks include, but are not limited to unnecessarily complex transactions or opaque beneficial ownership clients, transactions that are unusually large and complex and lack an obvious economic or lawful purpose, or transactions including politically exposed persons such as politicians or someone holding a prominent public position, she explained.
Farmers battered by storms getting government support
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is providing $250 million in relief support for farmers affected by the recent passage of Tropical Storms Grace and Ida.
The funds, which also aim to stimulate recovery in the agricultural sector, are being redirected from the Production Incentive Programme.
Portfolio Minister Audley Shaw noted that the tropical storms that impacted the island in August, caused significant loss of crops, livestock and farmlands, and extensive damage to road and infrastructure.
Just about $100 million will go towards support for crop and livestock farmers and of that sum $28 million will be made available for distribution through the Members of Parliament (MPs).
Twenty nine 29 constituencies have been identified with significant damage, and the MPs for these areas will be receiving $750,000 each; and MPs for 13 constituencies that have been identified with less substantial damage will receive $500,000 each. The remaining $71 million will be disbursed under the recovery programmes being executed by the Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA).