Golding welcomes $21-m allocation to each constituency but…

OPPOSITION Leader Mark Golding has welcomed the Government’s increased allocation of $1.32 billion to carry out road rehabilitation, de-bushing, and other activities across the island’s 63 constituencies but has called on the Administration to improve its capacity to efficiently deliver basic public services.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the increased allocation during a statement in Parliament on Tuesday in which he highlighted that each constituency will receive $21 million to carry out mitigation works.

Responding to the announcement, Golding said many Members of Parliament (MPs) will be glad for this allocation “because…there have been tremendous pressures on us to respond because the State is not responding”.

“Many of our communities, the National Works Agency (NWA) or the other agencies will never come in there and fix roads, or very rarely, and the roads are in a terrible condition with the amount of rain we have been having and so on. So being able to respond to that to do some rehabilitation or repair is obviously something that any representative would want to be in a position to do,” said Golding as he argued that the need for the allocation to the constituencies represents a failure on the part of the State to execute basic functions in an efficient way.

“I don’t think anybody in here would disagree with the idea that we need to improve the delivery of service by the State,” Golding told his colleague MPs.

He pointed out that MPs are not service providers of basic public goods but are rather lobbyists for their constituents in Parliament and among State agencies and providers of information to their constituents regarding how to access whatever goods and services the State will provide.

In announcing the $21-million allocation to each constituency, Holness had pointed out that this was increased from $16 million last year because the Government has heard the cry of the people.

“I know everyone would like to see a bigger spend, but we are still under serious fiscal pressure,” said Holness.

In giving a breakdown of how the money is to be spent, Holness said that $10 million was for road rehabilitation, and that no reallocation from this area will be allowed. However, a maximum of $5 million may be reallocated from other areas for road rehabilitation.

“So, in other words, up to $15 million may be spent on road rehabilitation. Just to be clear, this is not to do a new road. This is rehabilitation, which includes patching. So this gives the Member of Parliament the ability to respond to urgent areas where the national agency’s budget may not stretch, or they may not have the capacity,” said Holness.

“This is just to ensure that communities that would not have gotten the attention of the parish council or the attention of the NWA or any other entity responsible for their maintenance that the MP has some capacity, but the MP will not be able to repair all roads,” he said.

Holness further noted that $5 million is to be spent on de-bushing, but up to $4 million of this amount may be reallocated to other areas. The minimum amount that a constituency can spend on de-bushing will be $1 million.

He said that for drain cleaning the allocation is $1 million, “but you can, if you choose, reallocate from elsewhere $1 million into drain cleaning.”

The prime minister further noted that $5 million has been allocated for garbage collection and that a maximum of $2 million can be relocated from this area.

“But I encourage MPs not to do the reallocation but to spend the $5 million on cleaning up as much as you can your constituency,” he said.

The prime minister told the House that improper garbage collection is of great concern to the Government and it is not satisfied with how municipal garbage is handled.

He noted that the 50 new trucks, which have been allocated for the country, “are on the high seas as we speak” and further allocations will be made to bring in more new trucks to increase the country’s capacity to collect garbage.

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