The Ministry of Transport, Works & Housing held a Press Conference focusing on Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath; the flooding which took place in the weeks following Sandy; JEEP as well as its intention to apply for a fare increase for the JUTC, at its Maxfield Avenue Offices on Friday, December 14, 2012.

Speaking at the Press Conference, Minister Omar Davies took the opportunity to give an update on Sandy and its impact on the country. In terms of Housing, he said that approximately 500 were totally destroyed, 6,386 severely damaged and a further 8,593 sustained minor damage. He noted that the most severe damage was contained in the parishes of St. Thomas, St. Mary and Portland.

Continuing, the Minister said, “ Cabinet took the decision to re-prioritise the construction of an existing 1,200 wooden houses to allow their Joint Venture partner, Food for the Poor to proceed forthwith with the construction of the approximately 500 houses that were totally destroyed. This will be done in collaboration with the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Engineering Unit that will help to speed up the process. These housing units will be provided free of costs as they will be targeting the very vulnerable in the three worst affected parishes.”

He outlined the cost of the intervention as:

500 houses @ US$6,400.00 each

J$144M (Petro Caribe Funds) Govt.

J$144M FFP contributions

In terms of the construction of the houses, some 115 families have not been able to access the assistance for a variety of reasons; these include: site limitations such as the area not being suitable for construction; persons will have to be re-located (re-location is necessary as there are some houses destroyed which were built in hazardous zones – these suffer from storm surges and or flooding and the intention is to have the re-constructed houses in safer areas); they are squatting and or additional information is required.

The recent incidence of inclement weather has somewhat retarded the process of constructing the first 250 units; however with the JDF Engineering Unit on board, all efforts are still being made to have at least 200 Units ready by Christmas and the remainder by the end of the year. As far as progress to date is concerned; 118 foundations are in various stages of completion while 70 houses are in various stages of completion.

JEEP

The Jamaica Emergency Employment Program (JEEP) is in its 2nd Phase and has employed some 20,624 parsons to date. This is broken down as follows:

 

• Ministry of Agriculture                                      3,248
• NWA                                                                   15,145
• Ministry of Labour                                            405
• Ministry of Education                                       624
• Ministry of Transport, Works & Housing     128
• Ministry of Tourism/TEF                                 1,074

PROJECTS

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has been implementing several JEEP projects these include:

• Turmeric Cultivation Project
• Ginger Industry Resuscitation Project
• Reengineering of the Cocoa Rural Economy
• Tractor Service
• EU Banana Support Programme
• RADA Managed Projects (School Feeding Programme;
• Expansion of RADA Twickenham Industry (Agri-Marts; Twickenham Bammy Factory)

National Works Agency (NWA)

This a labour intensive programme involving primarily road support infrastructure rehabilitation and maintenance.

Project scope includes, but not limited to: drain formation, cleaning of earth drains and gullies; repair of road surfaces; construction of retaining walls; construction of river training structures; and repairs to various public facilities island wide.

Ministry of Education/HEART Trust/NTA

The slate of projects which falls under this Ministry are as follows:

• Data management
• Career Advancement Programme (CAP) -
• Upgrading of Sanitary Facilities in 26 Primary Schools -
• Teachers’ assistant programme

Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS)

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security has been partnering with private sector entities for the attachment of 450 unemployed young adults (18-30 years) over a two year period. Participants will be engaged for a period of six months, for the first three months; the Ministry will pay each participant a wage of Six Thousand Dollars ($6,000.00) per week. Thereafter the participating entities will be encouraged to continue payment of wages for the remaining three months. To date four hundred and five (405) persons have been employed under the programme with three hundred and seventy nine (379) currently being paid by the employers. Approximately 40% of these trainees have been permanently employed by the employers.

Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment (TEF)

The Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment through the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) has funded various projects through the Parish Councils, Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA); Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) and the Hope Zoo Foundation. Under the Tourism Improvement Programme One Thousand and seventy-four (1074) persons have been employed to date.

WORKS INFRASTRUCTURE

In the case of the road network, a significant portion of the island’s road network was adversely affected during the passage of the hurricane and weeks later during the flood rains that wreaked havoc in the same parishes that suffered during the storm – Portland, St. Mary, St. Thomas and to a lesser extent S. Ann. This of course is in addition to heavy rains in September. Damage was done to gully networks, walls collapsed, inverts were washed away, road surfaces scoured and breakaways rendered many roads impassable.

Every weekend since the passage of Hurricane Sandy, there has been some disastrous rain event. Rains occurring over November 1-3, 2012 created an entire new river channel around the Fern Gully in the Milford Road area. The period of November 8-12, 2012 is well documented as this rain event resulted in the widespread flooding of the town of Port Maria, St. Mary. This brought the attention of the media and all stakeholders to the serious impacts that regular rainfall can have especially when the land is already saturated from previous events. The Outram, Pagee and White Rivers overflowed their banks bringing torrents of water into the town and the communities nearby which caused destruction of property and devastation of livelihoods. In some ways, the impact on specific locations was much more serious than Hurricane Sandy. Schools, hospital, Police Station, Fire Station, churches, stores and houses were inundated and many fragile structures collapsed and/or were washed away. A separate report has been done to document the extent of the damage suffered by St Mary.

A third episode arising from rains over the period November 25-28, 2012 wreaked havoc on the upper reaches of the parish of Portland and on the low lying areas of parishes of St. Mary and St. Ann. Many communities in Portland were completely cut off leaving them marooned on Monday, November 26, while the communities of Runaway Bay in St. Ann experienced unprecedented levels of flooding.

The rains have persisted into the month of December and each event brings its own problems.
To date the total value of works completed to re-open roadways, which includes temporary restoration and permanent works is $630.8M

Permanent restoration works are being executed along the following areas:

1. Rousseau Road (Gully/ Bridge)                       Gully Works
2. Ramsay Gully                                                       Gully Works
3. Greenvale Crescent                                            Gully Works
4. Mount Oakley                                                        River Training
5. Castleton Protective Works                               River Training/Civil Works
6. Port Maria Primary                                               Base Works
7. Mannings Hill Drain                                            Drain Construction

JUTC

The Minister also used the opportunity to give an update on operations at the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC). The most recent matter of course pertains to the application for a fare increase at the JUTC. The Minister said that despite the various interventions, the JUTC continue to lose money. The attached table gives a tabular view of expenses and the subvention provided by the government.

• The respective overall expenses for the Company as well as Govt. subventions over the last five financial years are as follows:

FINANCIAL YEARS

EXPENSES

SUBVENTION

2007-08

$4.86B

$140M

2008-09

$4.36 billion

$852.84 million

2009-10

$5.24 billion

$707.6 million

2010-11

$6.27 billion

$600 million

2011-12

$5.48 billion

$450 million

2012-13 (ytd – Oct 2012)

$3.18B

$316.5 million

In looking at the data, one can see that for the last four years there has been some improvement in the overall financial expenditure but the Company is still in a loss position. It is also noteworthy that Government’s subvention to the Company has steadily decreased over the last four financial years as well. The last time that a fare increase was granted was in 2010 when the fare moved to $80.00 for the adult fare and $20.00 for Concessionary Passengers (children, senior citizens etc.) which incidentally even at that time was insufficient to address the shortfall. Additionally, the JUTC continues to suffer from unfair competition from other operators which prevents it from achieving its budgeted passenger trips. The Office of Utilities Regulations (OUR) at the time of the last increase had said that the economic fare that was required was $131.00 for adults and $40.00 for Concessionary passengers.

According to the JUTC’s calculations, the present fare structure is well below the economic cost per passenger of $100.00. This means that the economic cost for a passenger (whether Adult or Concessionary) is $100.00. When one considers that for the last four financial years the Ratio of Concessionary fares to Adult fares has been significant, then that adds to the cause for an increase.

Year

Adult Fare

Concessionary Fare

08/09

61%

39%

09/10

38.62%

61.38%

10/11

43.57% 

56.43%

11/12

43.57% 

56.43%

YTD

41.49%

59.41% 

Given that reality then, we are in the process of applying for a fare increase which would hopefully take effect on January 1, 2013.

One has to also remember that the JUTC is a business so there are staff members to pay, overhead costs and loans to repay that have been borrowed to keep the operations going. And contrary to popular belief, the Company has undertaken several initiatives to improve its lot.

The following is an account of buses acquired and initiatives taken to improve operations at the JUTC:

•  Under the existing loan arrangements for the acquisition of new buses for the JUTC, a total of 65 buses have so far been received, 50 of which have been put into the JUTC’s fleet. The 15 other units have been forwarded, as instructed by the Ministry, to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (5), the Jamaica Defence Force (5), and Montego Bay Metro (5).

•  The average daily roll-out of buses for the financial year to date (up to October 2012) is 335 units.

•  The major initiatives that have been taken to reduce the cost of operation include the following:

a) Reduction of dead mileage and toll charges - $1 million per month in saving so far this financial year in respect of this new initiative.
b) Reduction of accidents – 30 per cent reduction, from 591 to 411 YTD (April to October 2012 in comparison to the same period the year before) this financial year.
c) Reduction of incidents (injuries sustained from non-crash incidents) by 26 per cent or 159 to 117 YTD (April to October 2012 in comparison to the same period the year before) this financial year.
d) Maintenance restructuring - $8 million per month in savings YTD (April to October 2012 in comparison to the same period the year before) this financial year.
e) Reduction in overtime work from 182,000 hours to 140,000 hours, or a reduction from $93 million to $80 million in overtime cost YTD (April to October 2012 in comparison to the same period the year before) this financial year.

•  A comprehensive driver training and re-training programme has been embarked upon, with clear evidence of success being achieved so far, as outlined above.

•  The Company engaged in a successful implementation of the ‘Jamaica 50 Park and Ride’ initiative during the Independence period which yielded a passenger lift of approximately 25,000 passengers and a handsome profit over the period.

•  There has been an increase in advertising revenue, especially now with a new contract being signed; in fact a number of new partners spanning both the Corporate world and NGO’s have come on board.

• Five new markets have been embarked upon which are all proving very profitable. These are:

o Route 131 – New Harbour Village (St. Catherine) to Cross Roads
o Route 132 - New Harbour Village (St. Catherine) to New Kingston/Cross Roads
o Route 24Express – Spanish Town to UWI Back Gate via Papine
o Route 22Ax – Spanish Town to Downtown via Toll Road
o Route 73Ax – Half Way Tree to UWI Back Gate via Papine

•  In terms of revenue, whereas prior to September, intake was averaging between $8M and $9M; since September it has been averaging approximately $11M daily.

•  PLANS IN THE PIPELINE – Plans are on stream to implement the Portmore Park and Ride System come January 2013; a site has already been identified and plans are proceeding apace.

•  The introduction of the new Fare Collection System. Already the machines to facilitate this have been installed and the procurement process and other pertinent matters are being finalised. This initiative will allow the JUTC to become cashless.