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By Garfield Myers—-
 Richard Parchment–

PARCHMENT… I think the time has come for this country to give our Diaspora affairs a full ministry

Member of Parliament for South East St Elizabeth Richard Parchment is urging the establishment of a government ministry dedicated to overseas Jamaicans because of what he says is the value of that community to the economy.

“The most money Jamaica earns is remittances from abroad,” Parchment told constituents during a recent high school entrance awards ceremony funded by the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) at the St Mark’s Anglican Church in Southfield.

“So, if remittances bring more money than we earn in bauxite, tourism, don’t you think that we need a full ministry to deal with our Diaspora?” said Parchment, who represents the ruling People’s National Party (PNP).

“I think the time has come for this country to give our Diaspora affairs a full ministry and a full minister. The greatest asset to Jamaica right now, a nuh China, a nuh Goat island, a nuh logistics hub, it is the people that we have living in the Diaspora, I am calling on my government… we need a full ministry now…,” he said.

The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), through its Economic and Social Survey 2013, says total remittance inflows for last year valued US$2.065 billion.

Economic experts say precise earnings from the tourist industry are difficult to pin down and that such earnings are counterbalanced by significant costs. However, the Economic and Social Survey estimated tourists spent US$2.077 billion in Jamaica in 2013. The value of Jamaica’s bauxite and alumina exports totalled US$644.6 million, according to the PIOJ publication.

In a wide ranging address, Parchment also highlighted what he said were glaring inequalities in the treatment of the rural areas relative to Kingston and St Andrew. He identified the structuring of the CDF, which disburses $15 million for use in each constituency annually, as well as school-based transportation to illustrate his point.

He appealed for the CDF to be restructured in line with the needs of each constituency, arguing that some were in greater need than others for direct funding from Government. The recent drought, he said, had dramatised the situation with some rural MPs having to rely heavily on their limited CDF allocations while others had no such need.

“I have a constituency with 30,000 people and if there is a constituency with 18,000 people they still get the same amount of money,” said Parchment in reference to the CDF.

Ronnie Thwaites

Ronnie Thwaites

“I have a constituency that starts at Duff House (on the south Manchester border) and ends at Leeds (20 miles away) and you have a constituency where you can walk from end to end in 10 minutes and they still get the same amount of money. I have a constituency where I have to spend nearly $2 million per year out of CDF funding just to truck water, you have constituencies where there is no need to truck water. …There are constituencies in upper St Andrew where people never go to an MP’s office …while sometimes I ‘fraid to go to mine because of the crowd and we still get the same amount of money,” Parchment said to applause and laughter.

He urged Moveta Munro, chairperson of the CDF, “to say to the Government ‘there must be some objective assessment’ because some constituencies are more in need than others,” he said.

Reiterating the call for a rural school bus system, Parchment scoffed at recent controversy over bus fare increases in Kingston.

Many students in his constituency were struggling to pay up to $600 daily to attend school travelling long distances across the parish and even as far as Mandeville in Manchester, Parchment said.

“My student has to be paying 10 times as much (as a student in Kingston) and this is not fair,” said Parchment. “All of us have to contribute to the taxes …and we (rural Jamaica) are subsiding Kingston …while many of my parents cannot send their children to school because (they cannot afford it),” he said.

He conceded that the Government was in a financial bind and had to be prudent to meet the strict guidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

However, he noted, “if the fiscal space (money) can be found for the children in the metropolis then the fiscal space has to be found for the children in the country.”

Parchment, who was speaking before the arrival of guest speaker, Education Minister Ronnie Thwaites, said available statistics showed there had been dramatic improvement in education in SE St Elizabeth in recent years.

Also, he said, significant infrastructural expansion was taking place or had occurred over the last year, at schools such as Hampton Girls, Munro College and BB Coke High School.

He said that after years of stagnation, BB Coke now had new leadership and was showing progress. A contract was ready for new classrooms which will enable the transformation of BB Coke to a single shift institution, which he recalled was a plank of his election campaign in 2011.

“I want to ensure that under my watch BB Coke becomes a centre for excellence,” Parchment said.

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