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september-05-2023
Concrete Wall

News Week: SEPTEMBER 5, 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. 

september-12-2021

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Concrete Wall

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 jamaicaeye@mns.gov.jm.

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.

august-15-2021

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Concrete Wall

News Week: AUGUST 15, 2021

Chef gets new spot for his food truck in Houston

A Jamaican chef has found a new home for his business in Houston in the United States. The popular food truck known for its jerk sandwiches, fish fritters, rum-soaked plantains, and other West Indian dishes is now based in Acres Homes.

Over the past few years, Jamaica Pon Di Road has gained a loyal following by crisscrossing Houston, serving up Caribbean food from Conroe to Katy. Now, the restaurant, helmed by Jamaica native Gareth Powell, has a landed a brick-and-mortar at 2213 S. Victory Drive. The restaurant opened in early August.

Chef G, as Powell is known, was born in Clarendon, Jamaica, and learned to cook at an early age from his grandmother. He attended culinary school in Jamaica, and started working in the kitchens of five-star resorts on the island.

After moving to Houston, Powell first started with a catering business, which he founded in 2013. He then launched Jamaica Pon Di Road in 2017. The truck, which serves up classic Jamaican street food, quickly gained a loyal following, popping up at breweries, festivals and other locations in North Houston.

PICA to storm Hartford, Connecticut in October

Andrew Wynter, the CEO of Jamaica’s Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), is spreading the word about the work of the agency in the diaspora. He recently took the story to Hartford, Connecticut, which maintains the third largest population of Jamaicans in the United States.

His office preparing for a return visit to Hartford and Bloomfield to hold a citizenship drive for Connecticut Jamaicans who are interested in renewing their Jamaican passports and those of Jamaican descent who wish to obtain a Jamaican passport and Jamaican citizenship.

Mr. Wynter announced plans to visit Connecticut between October 5 and 12 for the citizenship drive through its “Access Jamaica” programme that is to include other services such as birth certificates, banking information in addition to passport services. A one-day event will be held in Bloomfield, Thursday, October 7, 2021, followed by a three-day event in Hartford.

The “Access Jamaica” visit to Hartford will be accepting applications for: Passports (i.e. new/renewals/lost/stolen/replacement/special cases); unconditional landing and citizenship.

Participating organizations with “Access Jamaica” extending their services include Jamaica National, Grace Kennedy, National Housing Trust, Tax Administration and the Registrar General’s Department.

Jamaica says it’s serious about energy sector

Jamaica is looking to procure 320MW of renewables this year as part of plans to diversify its energy sector. The government is working towards an ambitious Integrated Resource Plan that has established how the island intends to procure power over the next 20 years.


The initiative has set a goal of adding 1.6GW of additional capacity to facilitate reduced energy prices and decrease vulnerability of the energy sector to external shocks such as oil prices.


Given the “serious interest” in the country’s energy sector, there should be no problems in meeting this target, according to government investment agency JAMPRO. Diane Edwards, president of JAMPRO, said, “While there was a feeling of uncertainty, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, we knew that we had to continue to nurture our relationships and the renewable energy opportunity in Jamaica, and increase our marketing activities.”

Carib Cement to increase production after expansion

As part of their growth strategy, CEMEX will upgrade and increase the capacity of the company’s cement production plant in Rockfort, a part of Jamaica’s capital. This planned increase would strengthen the self-sufficiency of the national cement industry, reduce dependency on cement imports, and reinforce ability of Caribbean Cement Company Ltd (CCCL) to serve the growth of the construction sector in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

The US$30 million investment is designed to align with the company´s climate action goals through the production of low-carbon products. CEMEX anticipate that once this planned expansion is finished, CCCL will increase their existing cement production capacity by approximately 300,000 tonnes through the implementation of state-of-the-art technologies.

The planned upgrade, which is currently scheduled for the second half of 2022, is consistent with CEMEX’s growth plan in Jamaica and seeks to strengthen the company’s capacity to respond to local market demands as well as export needs over the medium term.

‘We look forward to warmly welcoming British passengers from Manchester,’ says tourism minister

Virgin Atlantic is expanding its service to Jamaica with plans for a new route from the UK city of Manchester in November. Beginning November 6, Virgin Atlantic will operate thrice-weekly flights between Manchester and Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport. 


“We’re thrilled to announce that we have added Jamaica to our portfolio of destinations flying from Manchester, our home in the north, along with increasing frequency to Barbados,” said Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic. “We are seeing a real demand from our customers in the northwest for luxury holidays in the sun as they are keen to escape on their next adventure after a challenging year.”


“We are heartened by Virgin Atlantic’s decision to begin offering a new airlift service between Montego Bay and Manchester, England this November,” said Jamaica Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett. He added, “This thrice-weekly flight will be a great addition to the numerous new and returning flights the island has been welcoming this year, as we continue to recover from the impact of the pandemic.


“We look forward to warmly welcoming British passengers from Manchester starting this November, to enjoy a truly unforgettable Jamaican experience, in an environment which is safe, seamless and secure.”

august-22-2021

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Concrete Wall

News Week: AUGUST 22, 2021

Lawyer is new point man at the United Nations

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, has announced the appointment of Brian Wallace as Jamaica’s new Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Mr. Wallace succeeds Ambassador E. Courtenay Rattray who demitted office in May 2021 to take up an assignment at the United Nations.

A lawyer by profession, Wallace has considerable experience in international, administrative and employment law as well as in national and international legal and administrative systems. He began his legal career in the International Law Division at the Attorney General’s Department and is currently a Director of the private company Manley Wallace and Sons Ltd. His previous roles at the international level include tenures at the United Nations Secretariat in the Office of Administration of Justice and the Department of Management. He also served as a member of the prosecution team on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Many get business support services, new jobs

A total of 404 local economic initiatives (LEIs) have benefited from business support services provided under the Local Economic Development Support Programme.

This resulted in the generation of jobs for 1,659 persons, inclusive of 189 youth. A total of 840 of these persons gained full-time employment, 542 were employed part-time, while 277 were engaged seasonally.

This is contained in the Planning Institute of Jamaica’s 2020 Economic and Social Survey Jamaica 2020, which was tabled in the House of Representatives recently.

A total of 52 capacity-building sessions were also held with over 398 community members and grassroot entrepreneurs, and 96 civil society organisations/LEIs.

The training covered business idea development, management principles and entrepreneurship, costing and pricing, business registration, social media marketing, product development, financial planning, basic bookkeeping, and packaging and labelling.

Jamaica wants you to invest in Clarendon mango park

The Agro-Investment Corporation (AIC), an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, is establishing a Mango Agro Park in the Toll Gate area of Clarendon and is seeking investors to participate in the venture.

Chief Executive Officer of the AIC, Dr. Al Powell, said that already 15 applications have been received, including from overseas interests. He said that the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the project, such as roads and irrigation systems, is being developed.

“Once those things are in, the selected entrepreneurs will move in to take up the relevant areas that they have been awarded. It is a business venture,” Dr. Powell said, noting that by middle of next year, the area is expected to be fully planted.

He said that there are ready markets for mangoes in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

‘We have to ramp up our training programme,’ says agriculture minister

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green says the Ministry will be allocating resources to transform the Hounslow Research Station in St. Elizabeth into a centre of excellence for small ruminant production in western Jamaica.

He noted that the facility, which is currently underutilized, “is part of a project that has already been approved by our public infrastructure committee to rehabilitate all our research stations”.

Minister Green said that part of the focus is to enhance training, particularly for young people. “We have to ramp up our training programme. We should be here with students right now training because in order to support a modern ruminant sector, we have to have a cadre of young professionals who are trained in small ruminant management so that they can go out into the field to help our farmers,” he said.

In the meantime, Mr. Green indicated that the Bodles Agricultural Research Station in Old Harbour, St. Catherine, is to be rehabilitated and equipped with modernised training tools for best practices in meat processing, storage and packaging.

Manchester’s Patrick Town Primary gets more classrooms

Teachers and students of Patrick Town Primary and Infant School in Manchester will have the benefit of additional classrooms when the 2021-22 academic year commences in September, following the completion of a new building at the institution.

The facility, which was constructed at a cost of $32 million with financing from the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, is expected to significantly address the issue of inadequate classroom space at the school.

The institution, previously a stand-alone primary school, incorporated an infant department in 2016 following a rationalisation exercise by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information. This saw several basic schools in proximity to Patrick Town Primary being merged with the institution.

Chairman, Reverend Barrington Bailey, tells JIS News that the rationalisation exercise resulted in the school’s administration reorganising the available space to accommodate new students and teachers.

This undertaking, he points out, included converting the staff and math rooms into classrooms.

“The rooms that were used for grades one and two students were transformed to accommodate the little ones, and that resulted in a change in the overall infrastructure,” Rev. Bailey explains.

The infant department has an enrolment of 29 youngsters, comprising 18 boys and 11 girls, and a staff complement of two trained teachers and a caregiver.

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august-29-2021
Concrete Wall

News Week: AUGUST 29, 2021

WiPay comes forward with COVID-19 relief

Digital payment solutions facilitator, WiPay, will be providing COVID-19 relief grant support, totalling $4 million, to persons islandwide requiring assistance.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Aldwyn Wayne, said the provision, which will be disbursed through Food For the Poor Jamaica, forms part of a larger undertaking involving other stakeholder interests.

Mr. Wayne advised that the total value of the overall provision will be determined after those partners’ contributions are received.

Under the grant initiative, recipients from the Food For the Poor’s database will be given a QR code to be scanned at any approved collection outlet islandwide. Mr. Wayne noted that these locations include gas stations, supermarkets, and pharmacies.

Cruise ship passengers are coming again!

President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), Professor Gordon Shirley, says he is confident Jamaica will once again be a preferred cruise destination once the COVID-19 numbers are curtailed.

In fact, Professor Shirley said that with all things being equal, the major Jamaican ports could start seeing ships by November 2021. “So, the next stop (Falmouth and Montego Bay)… we are talking to others (cruise lines)… I call it one baby step at a time. This is the process,” he said.

“I don’t want [information] second-hand. Hopefully things will improve… by November… if we get the COVID numbers down… we think Jamaica stands a good chance of regaining its position”.

Professor Shirley, however, added that while the PAJ has been working overtime to get the cruise ships back to Jamaica, the agency has also been working closely with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to ensure that all persons follow health and safety guidelines.

Jamaica targets more ‘social houses’ for the poor

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said his Government has secured an additional $400 million for the social housing programme. He said that with the additional funds, more than 500 units are expected during the current financial year.

“The programme is being expanded, we are finding ways to get it [done] cheaper, and very soon we will be able to scale it up,” he said, noting that the Government is finding ways to put more resources into the construction of the houses.

He said that a clear criterion to benefit from the programme, is that persons must demonstrate that they can’t afford a mortgage. He said they will pay back in how they care for the units, and also, they must be outstanding citizens in their communities and ambassadors of peace.

An initial $500 million was budgeted for the programme, and the Prime Minister reported that approvals have been done for 259 units from a list of 327 submissions; 49 have been completed.

The two- and three-bedroom houses are built under the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment Programme (HOPE), which was initiated by the Prime Minister, and launched in 2018.

A plea to Jamaicans abroad: Your country wants you

More Jamaicans in the diaspora must come on board to help rebuild the country following the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr. Wayne Henry.

“Let us, Jamaica and the diaspora, especially now when COVID-19 has altered our way of living, build back stronger together for a sustainable future where every Jamaican, at home or abroad, can be proud to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business,” he said.

“Being a brand ambassador of one of the world’s best known global brands is no easy task and we must continue to hold each other’s hand to partner, advocate and drive the economic, political and social changes that we want,” the Director General added.

According to him, ministries, departments and agencies of the Government will work with them to guarantee and assure an enabling environment that has active inclusion and participation in national development.

Dr. Henry added, “For the Government of Jamaica to help you, our brand ambassadors, you have to play your part. Therefore, we encourage you to communicate and provide timely feedback and insights on our national development plans and initiatives, actively participate in home associations, and support and provide accurate and timely data during our diaspora exercises.”

Triplets ace primary exams, get support for back to school

Twelve-year-old triplets, Dennis, Denrique, and Tomoya Barrett have been rewarded with Alcatel tablet computers and a $50,000 education grant to assist with back-to-school supplies, for performing outstandingly during the 2021 Primary Exit Profile (PEP) exams.

The two brothers and their sister aced the exams at their former school, Mountainside Primary in St. Elizabeth. Dennis, who was the school’s top-performing candidate, and Denrique were placed at Munro College, while Tomoya will attend Hampton High School.

State Minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Zavia Mayne commended the youngsters on their performance, and committed further support through the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).

The children’s mother, Tamara Barrett, said she was elated and grateful for the assistance.

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