COMMENTARY

All The Towns In Jamaica Need Redevelopment, Mister Prime Minister

In a recent newspaper article published in the Jamaica Observer, Prime Minister Andrew Holness is reported to have said that the Government is looking to redevelop the tourist resort town of Ocho Rios in St Ann to accommodate its rapid growth.

However, any casual observer will tell the Prime Minister that every town in Jamaica is in a ramshackle condition and therefore, needs redevelopment.
This of course stems from poor oversight and neglect by the local government, the police force, and civil society in general.

People are allowed to build without permission, hawk and peddle their goods anywhere, and park their vehicles wherever they choose or like, thus lending to chaotic environment.

The Prime Minister further declared that the investment in Ocho Rios will amount to billions of dollars.

“In terms of the size of the investment we are looking to make, it’s in the billions of dollars so it is a huge investment — and the reason for that is because the entire town of Ocho Rios is being looked at for redevelopment.”

Now, no one would question the need for Ocho Rios redevelopment, given the haphazard and dilapidated state of the town, but did it have to come to billions of dollars if there were proper oversight of the infrastructure of the town.

“I know you [the citizens] see that your town is growing, a lot of people are coming into your town, a lot of housing developments are going on around the town; and just outside of the town we see some other areas developing as well,” the Prime Minister further said.

The fact of the matter is the development of Ocho Rios at the neglect of other towns will attract even more migrants from other parishes.

And, in short order, there will be need for another redevelopment.

The truth is the political class has always shunned the heavy lifting and look for the lowest hanging fruit to pick without much long-term strategic thinking.
The Prime Minister remarked that the infrastructure cannot carry all the activities within the town and again that can be said of all the major towns in Jamaica.

“The infrastructure that is here cannot carry all the activities that you have so we are going to have to do some really serious investments — and the first investment that we need to make in improving your town is improving the market,” the prime minister noted.

Holness said the plans to upgrade the market and transportation center will be put into effect in short order.

This is a problem that has been allowed to fester over the years and the irony here is most of the ministers who sit in parliament have some connections to the people who sell in the market and are familiar with the bad transportation system, over the years.

It’s a shame to see the conditions under which people sell in the markets and the “middle passage-like way” under which people are transported in Jamaica.

Any caring government would ensure that preferred attention is given to these important areas, but unfortunately for Jamaicans, they play second fiddle.

“For the last five years we have been refining a plan which will see the upgrade of the market [and] the upgrade of [the] transportation center — and not just the clothes and the food [market] but we also have to do something for the craft markets,” he said.

If the Prime Minister is taking five years to refine a plan, one would hate to see the age on implementation.

“My tour here is to see the actual physical conditions on the ground so that I can reconcile what we have on paper versus what actually exists,” Holness added, and assured stakeholders that they will start to see significant changes soon.

Now, could one assume that the Prime Minister is giving Ocho Rios preferred attention because it’s a tourist mecca – the fact is nothing is wrong with the plan for redevelopment but at some stage one must be honest in one’s approach in matters of public interest.

“We have a comprehensive plan which we are going to start to put into effect very shortly to do some simple things: First to improve the sanitary facilities in this market, and then to improve some of the street areas to create exclusive pedestrian zones,” he said.

Of course, one does not want to be skeptical or cynical, but one can smell a general election and politicking from afar and the people of Ocho Rios should be wary that unfulfilled hope maketh the heart sick.

Readers Bureau, Contributor

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