Jamaica has received US$2.4 billion in funding support from Venezuela under the PetroCaribe agreement, since the facility’s establishment in 2005.
Chief Executive Officer of the PetroCaribe Development Fund (PDF), which administers the facility in Jamaica, Dr. Wesley Hughes, says the funds, allocated between July 2005 and January 2013, have financed projects, spearheaded at the community and national levels.
Speaking at the Jamaica Social Investment Fund’s (JSIF) Sanitation in Schools project ceremony at the Milk River Primary School, Clarendon, recently, Dr. Hughes said chief among these are two major sanitation projects for which over $200 million was allocated. Both undertakings were facilitated under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed in 2011, between the PDF and JSIF.
One of the developments was phase one of JSIF’s Sanitation in Schools Project, which entailed upgrading of facilities at 26 all age and primary schools in 11 parishes at a cost of $177.6 million.
Some 3,287 students are currently benefitting from the improved facilities, which include : new sanitation blocks equipped with septic tanks; toilets; urinals; and ramps to facilitate access by physically challenged persons. These facilities replaced pit latrines which previously existed at the schools.
The other development is construction of 100 communal sanitary conveniences and showers in several inner city communities in Kingston and St. Andrew, at a cost of $100 million. These include : Denham Town, Tivoli Gardens, Hannah Town, Jones Town, Rose Town, and several communities in Central Kingston.
Dr. Hughes explained that the partnership between the PDF and JSIF aims to foster employment creation; facilitate opportunities for training and educational development; promote rural development and entrepreneurship; build capacity for micro and small enterprises, as well as institutions catering to communities deemed marginalised.
“It’s a very wide-ranging memorandum, and we intend to maintain our relationship (with JSIF) as long as we have funding to be spent at the community level. Providing significant social and physical infrastructure, stimulating growth and supporting the development of human capital is the heart and soul of our collaboration with JSIF and other institutions, in building capacity in the country, utilising the resources of the PetroCaribe Fund,” he stated.
He added that “in partnership, we have been able to combine our resources to better achieve development goals for the country.”
Dr. Hughes told JIS News that the PDF’s management is currently reviewing the organisation’s budget for the 2013/14 fiscal year, to determine the projects which can be facilitated during the period.
He pointed out that the US$2.4 billion is a loan allocation spanning 25 years at one per cent per annum, with a two-year grace period. He described it as a “significant amount of assistance” to Jamaica by the Venezuelan Government, and late President, Hugo Chavez, in particular, to whom he said Jamaica owes a debt of gratitude.
“The late President was a visionary behind the regional agreement, which has benefitted many Caribbean countries…in the wake of the very hard and difficult times we are passing through,” Dr. Hughes said.
By Douglas McIntosh