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Lower electricity cost to attract more int’l investors, Tapia tells Jamaica

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Lower electricity cost to attract more int’l investors, Tapia tells Jamaica

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — United States Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia says the high electricity cost in Jamaica is a major stumbling block when it comes to attracting world-class companies willing to set up factories here.

“The cost of energy must come down. It has to come down,” Tapia argued.

The current electricity rate is 28 American cents per kilowatt-hour.

But Tapia argued that even though energy cost has been lowered in Jamaica over the past five years, the need still exists for a further slashing of the rates.

“You have done a great job in the last five to six years in bringing the cost of energy down. And if you can bring it down another six cents per kilowatt-hour, Jamaica would explode because now we are in the marketplace. We are in the marketplace that we can attract manufacturers, and so forth, here,” Tapia said.

He noted that the same renewable energy sources which the United States have utilised to bring down electricity cost, are available in Jamaica and should be employed to bring affordable electricity to rural areas.

“We (America) have brought down the electricity cost through liquefied natural gas (LNG), wind and and solar power — this is something that is here. We (Jamaica) have the sun, we have the wind, let’s use it for our own benefit to be able to transform electricity out to the other areas where it’s hard to reach some of the Jamaican people. This is not right,” the US ambassador said.

“It’s our job, as entrepreneurs and so forth, to see what we can do to help out parishes that we all know about…I have been here only for four months and I can tell you, I have visited all [the] parishes.”

He was speaking at the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) Awards Banquet at the Montego Bay Convention Centre on Saturday night.

Tapia said he has “actively helped Jamaican companies find US suppliers”.

“In September I led a delegation of Jamaicans, private and public sector, to Salt Lake City, including Energy Minister Fayval Williams, to a power international North American renewable energy conference. We took private sector, we showed electric buses, LNG buses that could be used here in Jamaica to cut down on carbon footprints, also save energy in Jamaica. My team at the embassy, as well as the Government officials from Washington, has so far been assisting Jamaican companies,” Tapia remarked.

President of the MBCCI Janet Silvera, who trumpeted Montego Bay’s contribution to the country’s economy, noted that the city’s success did not happen overnight.

“It didn’t happen by accident. It happened because at every juncture in our history, not just once, not just twice, but over and over again, we came together to recreate ourselves; we came together, as one, and did what was necessary to win the future,” Silvera said.

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Education ministry says PEP 2020 off to ‘smooth’ start

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Education ministry says PEP 2020 off to ‘smooth’ start

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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REPORTING no major issues across its six regions as the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) Ability Test got under way yesterday, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information says all went smoothly.

“The exam started on time, all scripts were in place and the centres were observed to be properly arranged and the students were settled,” the ministry said in a release yesterday.

Just over 39,000 students were registered to sit the exams this year, the release said.

The second component of the Grade 6 assessment — Performance Tasks — is scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20. This will be followed by the Curriculum-Based Tests, which are set for Thursday, April 23 and Friday, April 24, 2020.

PEP replaced the national high school entrance examination, the Grade Six Achievement Test. The curriculum is designed to sharpen critical thinking skills and is intended to facilitate a more complete profile of academic performance.

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Jamaica blocks cruise ship amid coronavirus caution

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Jamaica blocks cruise ship amid coronavirus caution

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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Fears about the threat of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) were again brought to the fore yesterday after the authorities blocked a cruise ship carrying 4,500 passengers and more than 1,600 crew from calling at Ocho Rios, St Ann.

According to the health ministry, the MSC Meraviglia was denied docking after port health officials discovered that a crew member was in isolation on-board.

“The crew member had a cough, fever and associated muscle pains with a travel history to a country of interest relating to the COVID-19,” the Ministry of Health and Wellness said.

The vessel, which arrived yesterday morning from Miami, is slated to set sail for George Town, Cayman Islands, this morning at 8:00.

Yesterday, the Daily Mirror newspaper in the United Kingdom said that reports on the ship suggested that Jamaican immigration had denied disembarkation after a crew member fell ill on-board. “Passengers have been seen standing on deck but there has been no confirmed cases detected, with one report saying action has been taken as a precaution,” the national daily reported yesterday afternoon.

One person posted on the cruise review portal cruisecritic.com, “Our ship was supposed to port in Jamaica today from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm but was not given clearance by the Jamaican port authority. At 1:30 the ship’s captain made the decision to depart since there would not be enough time to disembark, even if we got clearance. We found out at 1:00 pm the reason for denial was because we have a sick crew member from The Philippines who has confirmed Influenza A – NOT the virus. Either way, Jamaica decided to be over cautious and deny us port. Sure hope this is not the case at our next 3 ports.”

On its website MSC Cruises said it had, on Monday, updated precautionary health measures for all guests and all crew who are due to travel on any of its cruises.

“The enhanced changes are to ensure the health and well-being of everyone on-board every one of our ships. These are additional measures to the ones we introduced on 24 January in light of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak that originated in China. We want to reassure you that everyone’s health and safety on our ships is our top priority and we can confirm there have been no cases of coronavirus on-board any of our ships,” the Italian cruise line said.

In the meantime, The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) sought to allay fears, stressing that it continues to closely monitor the situation at the island’s ports through effective management and consistently ensuring that all health and safety protocols are always observed.

Assistant vice-president for marketing communications at the PAJ Kimberley Stiff pointed out in a statement that the customary health and safety protocols that form part of routine port operations at both cargo and cruise ports have been heightened in light of the threat of the coronavirus.

She stressed that the multi-agency protocol that was developed in 2015 for a national response to the ebola threat still applies to all infectious diseases.

The PAJ’s Security Department is responsible for monitoring all ports in Jamaica to ensure compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. Currently, there are 20 port facilities across the island that trade internationally. Three of these ports are public ports which receive containers from all over the world.

The PAJ said that since the threat of the coronavirus, the cruise industry has implemented strict screening policies for home ports before allowing passengers to embark.

There are now 80,239 confirmed cases of the dreaded virus, and 2,666 deaths recorded worldwide as of yesterday.

The World Health Organization said it is working closely with the International Air Transport Association and both entities have jointly developed a guidance document to provide advice to cabin crew and airport workers, based on country queries.

The virus has been confirmed in 33 countries outside of China where it originated.

Over the past 24 hours, four new countries Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, and Afghanistan have reported cases of COVID-19. So far there have been 34 deaths outside of China.

The United States and Canada are the only two countries in the Americas which have reported confirmed cases 53 and 10, respectively.

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One wheel wheelie…

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One wheel wheelie…

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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Devontae Melephant (left) and Andrew Thomas are having fun as they wheelie on the road outside Homestead Primary School in Spanish Town last Thursday. (Photo: Jason Tulloch)


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Affordable housing to take centre stage at MoBay expo

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Affordable housing to take centre stage at MoBay expo

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — When the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry opens its 2020 expo on March 6, one of the areas of focus will be the need for more affordable housing in western Jamaica.

The discussions, to be spearheaded by Angella Whitter, chamber director and chairperson for ‘Invest MoBay’ and the affordable housing section of the expo, will also bring to light Montego Bay’s ever-growing population, the risks posed by the continued embracing of informal settlements, and the need to find or build affordable houses for low-income workers.

“One of the basic needs of every human being is to have a place to rest their head at nights. Every parent’s role is to ensure that they provide a good base to raise their family,” Whitter, who is also a landowner, developer and business owner, noted.

“That said, Montego Bay has not been able to develop in a structured manner because most communities have not satisfactorily prepared themselves for the need to find adequate homes for the ever-growing population,” she continued.

Whitter, in noting that the tourism capital “has grown leaps and bounds in every sector imaginable”, added that the net result has alarmingly brought on an increase in informal settlements “all over the place”.

She said even developments that were built within a structured framework have now been partially and inadvertently forced into informal settlements.

“What readily comes to mind are developments such as Bogue Village, Rose Vale, Ryne Park, Granville, Irwin Meadows, West Village,” Whitter added.

“These developments were planned and executed. However, if you drive through any one of these developments today, it looks chaotic. The roadway and other infrastructure are inadequate to deal with the [amount] of traffic that goes [in] and out of the communities. This is a challenge. This has caused a significant issue with productive time because persons are held up in traffic to and fro, in order to go about their daily business,” she said.

Whitter, in the meantime, added that another issue has to do with creating environments and developments for what she called the purpose of fostering sound family values.

She said developers, while oftentimes well-intentioned, should rethink the practice of doing developments and making the “lion’s share of those developments” one-bedroom offerings, adding that it sends the wrong message.

“We cannot develop family structures in one-bedroom units. We must look at building two-bedrooms at a bare minimum and provide the grant structures to make them affordable to those needing places to live,” Whitter noted.

She said that the booming hotel sector, which is a driving force behind both the rental and homeownership markets, only reinforces the need for more affordable housing.

“The increase in hotel rooms and jobs in the global services sector has also created a high demand for housing for employees and families,” Whitter added.

For her part, president of the chamber, Janet Silvera, in describing the points raised by Whitter as “very important and thought-provoking”, said the issues surrounding affordable housing will make for a very exciting discussion at the expo.

MoBay Expo 2020 will be held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James March 6-8. The Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ), project owners for the 754 affordable housing units for tourism workers in Rhyne Park in the parish, for which ground was broken last August, National Housing Trust (NHT), as well as Victoria Mutual, are major sponsors of the event.

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PM says Gov’t won’t stoop to criminals’ level

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PM says Gov’t won’t stoop to criminals’ level

BY HORACE HINES
Staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Prime Minister Andrew Holness has pointed out that in the fight against crime, Government has always been mindful of individuals’ human rights and will never stoop to giving criminals a taste of their own medicine.

“We have to let the criminals know that we will never descend to their level of savagery and incivility,” Prime Minister Holness said. “We are doing what is necessary and we cannot always give in to the very strong impetus to just lash out at crime, because sometimes we feel that we should be harsh and we should take drastic measures.

“The challenge with that, of course, is that we end up violating our own constitution,” he said.

In fact, the prime minister argued that for the past four years, Jamaica has not been accused of any human rights violations.

“There is no international human rights agency that can point a finger at Jamaica’s human rights record over the last two, three, four years. People don’t see that as an achievement, but it is in terms of building the brand of what is Jamaica because… when you do that brand search and brand understanding, you see violence as part of that brand. And so what we don’t want is [for] the State to be contributing to violence in Brand Jamaica,” Holness insisted.

He moved to dispel the notion that the murder rate, which has been escalating for more than four decades, can be suddenly overturned.

“There is a sense in the country that, overnight, that you take up a switch [and] we will be able to reverse all those 40 years of [the] non-stop geometric increase in the murder rate in the country. We are coming from 400 murders over a year, on average, in the 80s, to where we are, and that is not going to change overnight!” said Holness, who was speaking at the official opening of the Jamaica Labour Party’s St James West Central constituency office last Saturday.

“It takes [a] year or more to procure new police cars. It takes a year to train a new kind of squad to deal with issues in this area. You will see the quick reaction force (Elite Quick Response Unit) and that they are now mobile on bikes. It took a little time to train them and get them functional, to put in place SOEs (states of emergency), to have them functioning in the right way; to go through the parliamentary process, it has taken us two years. And you know, I am not going to talk up the results because it seems to me that whenever we do that there appears to be a determination by the criminals to make it otherwise, so leave it as it is.

“And over time we will reduce violence, bring back Jamaica as the peaceful, ‘no problem’ nation that it was,” Holness said.

Last year the police in St James launched a new unit called the Elite Quick Response Unit in an effort to further capitalise on the gains being made under the current state of public emergency in the parish.

The prime minister was speaking at the formal opening of the Jamaica Labour Party’s St James West Central constituency office Saturday night, in the constituency represented by Member of Parliament Marlene Malahoo Forte.

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