KINGSTON –– Prime Minister Andrew Holness said yesterday that government will revisit the budget to identify funds for infrastructural repairs following extensive rainfall on Tuesday which caused significant damage in several communities across the island. Holness, who who toured sections of damaged areas in St Catherine and St Ann yesterday, said there will be “significant fallout” from the showers but that the government is responding.
“The government has to now go and take a second look at the budget to see what areas we may have to reallocate [and] postpone expenditure because this is now a priority for people to recover from this disaster,” Holness said while examining damage done to the main road at Guy’s Hill, St Catherine.
He said, too, that a master drainage plan has already been done and is now awaiting implementation.
“But I think there are greater issues. Where people choose to live will now have to take on greater scrutiny. Informal settlements, haphazard settlements, those things cannot be allowed to continue in our future. The cost of it is just too much and it’s not just the cost in the infrastructure but it is the cost in lives.
“The government has already formed the view and we will now try to put that into policy to take a far more proactive approach to how we deal with settlement of our land and where people choose to live. It is instructive that the areas that we’ve toured so far and areas that we’ve seen are areas that are close to river banks.
“Greater effort should be taken to ensure that the rules are enforced as it relates to where people are allowed to live and the government has to be far more proactive in ensuring that people do not settle in areas that we know they are at potential risk and are vulnerable,” he stressed, adding that climate change is a “real phenomenon”.
He added: “So we will almost have to take a revolutionary view as to how we settle our lands in Jamaica and where we provide those housing solutions.”
Holness returned to the island Tuesday night from an official visit to the Dominican Republic. He was originally scheduled to return yesterday, but cut short his visit as a result of the heavy rains that have impacted the island.
In the meantime, National Works Agency (NWA) Chief Executive Officer E G Hunter said the priority is to restore access to communities. He said very little reconstruction will take place in coming days.
“Simultaneous with the clearance of the road, we’ll be doing an assessment and then we’ll be doing costing and then we will be prescribing the permanent solution to the challenges which have manifested themselves.
“There has to be a process of prioritisation because, given our fiscal position, one has to be very smart and very intelligent in terms of how we choose what we work on. So I think the government is going to require some patience and some understanding. Given the enormity of what we have seen, it is not going to be a cheap exercise,” Hunter said.
A team from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security is currently assessing damage done to identify where assistance is needed. Portfolio minister Shahine Robinson said supplies will be airlifted to residents who have been affected in sections of Clarendon.