KINGSTON, Jamaica: Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr. Wykeham McNeill, has announced the suspension of the $80 million drain cleaning and sidewalk rehabilitation program in Ocho Rios, St. Ann, which was announced last August.
The minister’s announcement came after concerns were raised about the project by tourism partners during the latest in a series of stakeholder’s meetings organized by the ministry, which was held in Ocho Rios, St. Ann this past week. The project was implemented following a tour of sections of Ocho Rios last August by then tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, and was aimed at cleaning several drains and canals across the resort town as well as repairing a number of sidewalks in order to enhance the aesthetics of the area.
However, during the recent meeting with Dr. McNeill, tourism interests vented concern about how the money for the program was allocated and the manner in which some of the funds have been spent. It was highlighted that stakeholders were never consulted on how the project would be executed and how the money would be used. The request was also made for the use of the funds to be suspended until the Resort Board in the area is re-established and a stakeholder’s meeting is held. This follows McNeill’s recent announcement that Resort Boards would be restructured and reintroduced to ensure improved and more participatory governance of the tourism sector overall.
“Having heard the concerns raised about the program, I am suspending all projects that are now ongoing under this initiative,” McNeill said. “I have instructed all the officials involved to put it on hold immediately and we will share all the information regarding expenditure under the project to date with the stakeholders so they can have a clearer idea of what the plan was.”
McNeill said that “this situation further underscores the need for us to move as quickly as possible to reinstate the Resort Boards across the island. The first move of the Board in this area will be to develop a more comprehensive plan to enhance Ocho Rios and its environs. We will then determine how much funding can be made available immediately, identify our priorities and work according to the recommendations.
“So spending under the project has been halted with immediate effect and we will move quickly to plot the way forward.”