Jamaica battles poverty with EU

In the region of €90 million is being spent by the European Union on Jamaican projects ranging from crime prevention to road building. Scarlette Gillings, managing director of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, states that the support of the Union has been critical in the interventions made to improve the quality of life of Jamaicans in inner-city and rural communities.

“We are well aware that we compete with other developing nations for donor funds, and so we are doubly thankful for the investment made by the European Union in Jamaica.”

Its role is critical to the Government’s drive to improve the quality of life in inner-city areas, especially as it relates to crime prevention. It also enhances the GOJ’s rural-development efforts, Gillings notes.

With the commemoration of May 9 as European Union Day, the JSIF – a government organisation dedicated to poverty alleviation – offers a salute to the Union, which has become the single largest provider of funds for poverty-reduction programmes in the island.

The JSIF has just about completed 61 projects in eight categories in 2010 in inner-city and rural communities, and an additional 72 are ongoing, much of it with EU support.

EU funding represents 42 per cent of all grant funds. It is the single largest source of donor support for JSIF activities from grant sources.

With a total budget, increased by 40 per cent, of $2.8 billion in grants and loans for 2011-2012, the JSIF has a planned programme of over 130 subproject interventions. Support agencies and loan sources, in addition to the EU, include the World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, and the Japan Social Development Fund.

Most recently, under the European Union Banana Support Programme, the JSIF completed the rehabilitation of 3.7 kilometres of farm roads in Moore Town and Cornwall Barracks, Portland, as well as agro-business and craft training in the area at a cost of $43.5 million.

At the official handover ceremony held in Moore Town on May 4, local head of the Moore Town Maroons, which sponsored the project, Colonel Wallace Sterling, said, “Banana was once sold for good money in pounds sterling to the extent that farmers could change over their thatched roofs to zinc, and daub walls to wood. Those days are now gone, but the European Union has stood up to fill the gap in more ways than one. We say thanks to them.”

Basic infrastructure

Shakierah Cowan, JSIF project coordinator for the Second European Union Poverty Reduction Project, funded with €11.6 million, states: “We are providing basic infrastructure and social services to volatile and vulnerable communities. Twenty-one infrastructure projects are to be financed under the programme, with 11 of these projects already completed, and I am significantly pleased with how much the project has already impacted people’s lives.

“We have also given community-based organisations the opportunity to implement their own project ideas through the award of small grants, and it is amazing to see the transformation which happens when people have to manage their own resources and bring to fruition ideas that belong to them.”

Under crime prevention, the European Union funds the Second Poverty Reduction Programme for €10 million.

The PRP ll targets the rehabilitation and upgrade of roads, schools, and community centres in volatile and vulnerable communities including Mountain View, Maverley, Maxfield Avenue, Waterhouse, Olympic Gardens, and Windward Road.

The JSIF’s Gustav Emergency Recovery Project, financed by the EU through an agreement with the World Bank, is costed at US$10 million. The project will end on June 30, 2011.

For rural economic development, the European Union Banana Support Project is a €$1.5 million grant aimed at the upgrading of agricultural feeder roads and educational facilities in Portland, St Catherine, St Mary, and Clarendon. It is expected to help farmers diversify their crop production as a result of the decline in banana production and export.

The EUBSP seeks to enhance the Government of Jamaica’s rural-development efforts and will facilitate improvement in the key sectors of education and transportation. The project is aimed at improving access to basic social infrastructure, namely agricultural feeder roads and schools.