11th February, 2014

(1) Mr Speaker, members of this Honourable House, you would have been aware of the major damage to the road network in St Mary and Portland caused by the heavy rains during the period January 18-20, 2014. The parish of St. Mary was badly affected by the torrential rains which caused blocked drains, fallen trees, flooding, landslides and breakaways threatening life and property. The parish of Portland was affected to a lesser extent.

(2) Approximately thirty-three (33) main roads across the parishes of St. Mary and Portland were affected. These include breakaways in Grants Town and Jacks River in St. Mary.

(3) Mr. Speaker, immediate and urgent action was required on the part of my Ministry to first, reopen the roads and second, to conduct permanent restoration works to restore vehicular and pedestrian movement to the affected areas. The National Works Agency (NWA) was mandated to immediately mobilize its own resources, as well as private contractors to respond to the emergency, ensuring that roads were re-opened to at least single lane traffic. Furthermore, action was taken and to clear Parish Council Roads brought to our attention by the Parish Councils during the emergency restoration works.

(4) As of today, February 11, 2014, over $6 million has been spent to clear thirty two of the thirty three blocked roads in both parishes. The Toms River to Broadgate road remains unopened, as we are awaiting the removal of Jamaica Public Service lines which are entangled with trees along the roadway.

(5) Mr. Speaker, the total cost for the reopening and restorative work is estimated at approximately One Hundred and Ninety Seven Million Dollars ($197,000,000.00). As part of the emergency response, and being acutely aware of limited fiscal space, my Ministry has had to find ways to finance the restorative works without seeking additional resources from the Ministry of Finance.

(6) Approximately $147 million was identified from the Road Maintenance Contingency Fund and given the need to minimize any negative effects on our tourism product, I had consultations with my colleague, the Minister of Tourism and Entertainment regarding assistance for funding. Arising from our discussions, the sum of $50 million which had been provided by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) to carry out various projects islandwide has been temporary reallocated to effect the emergency works. This $50M sum will be made available for the original projects in the new fiscal year.

(7) Mr. Speaker, occurrences such as this one are becoming more common, not only in Jamaica, but worldwide. These are clear examples of the effects of climate change. Abundance of financial resources is no guarantee of any effective timely response. There are several examples of this from North America and Europe. Mr. Speaker, despite our challenges, the Ministry is developing the capability to respond quickly.

(8) In that regard Mr. Speaker, you will recall that I had reported to this House previously the extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, where approximately 2,800 Jamaicans suffered major damage to their homes St. Mary, Portland and St. Thomas. The Ministry took the decision to reallocate resources from the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme/Food for the Poor Wooden House Construction Programme. As a result, 433 houses were constructed; that is, 111 in St. Mary, 181 in Portland and 141 in St. Thomas. By using this approach, there was no additional call on the Government’s budget.  

(9) This significant undertaking was achieved seamlessly in a relatively short period of time with the full involvement of members of the political directorate, the churches and NGOs. Let me emphasize Mr Speaker that the similar approach is being used to address the most recent problems and I reiterate that there will be no need for any special allocation from the Ministry of Finance and Planning to undertake these works.  

(10) Mr Speaker, Cabinet has given its approval for the drawdown of the $147M from the Road Maintenance Contingency Fund. Works for the permanent restoration and reconstruction of the road network will begin this week. The major areas for attention are: Grants Town, Jacks River, Canoe Pond to Airy Hill and Days Mountain, all in the parish of St. Mary. It is estimated that the permanent restorative works for roads in St. Mary alone will be approximately $161M.  


(11) Mr. Speaker, in concluding, I want to take this opportunity to express sympathy to those persons who have been affected by the recent flood rains in that part of the island, and we want to assure them that the Ministry and its agencies are doing all we can to have these works undertaken at the earliest. We understand the inconvenience they are experiencing and crave their continued patience.