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Gov’t to pump $10m into Musgrave Market clean-up

Published:Saturday | June 3, 2023 | 12:52 AMAinsworth Morris/Staff Reporter
Desmond McKenzie, minister of local government and community development and deputy chairman, National Disaster Risk Management Council (NDRMC), speaks at a council meeting at the S Hotel in New Kingston on Thursday. At right is prime minister Andrew Holne
Desmond McKenzie, minister of local government and community development and deputy chairman, National Disaster Risk Management Council (NDRMC), speaks at a council meeting at the S Hotel in New Kingston on Thursday. At right is prime minister Andrew Holness, chairman, NDRMC.

The Government of Jamaica will release $10 million from the Equalization Fund to the Portland Municipal Corporation to commence a clean-up at the Musgrave Market in Portland, which was ravaged by fire on Sunday.

This announcement was made by Desmond McKenzie, minister of local government and rural development, during the National Disaster Risk Management council meeting at S Hotel in Kingston on Thursday.

The Equalization Fund was created in 1997 and is financed by a 10 per cent of the money collected island wide from property taxes.

The funds will also help with providing a temporary market facility for butchers in the parish, once the Public Health Department has signed off on the area.

The massive fire at the Musgrave Market left a significant portion of the facility destroyed, with approximately 170 vendors affected.

That same market was renovated three years ago at the cost of $15 million.

The fire also did damage to privately owned businesses in proximity to the market.

McKenzie said investigations are on in earnest and the market was fully insured. Regarding the report from the Jamaica Fire Brigade, which could determine the origin of the fire, he said, “I am not going to give details of that report yet until it is fully finalised.

“The government is cognisant of the challenges facing vending across the country. This morning I got a call from the commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade to advise me that fire was set to the Linstead Market and this was done deliberately,” he said.

He said there were 17 fires in the last year, half in markets islandwide, and over $100 million was spent on restoration of the facilities.

“I want to use this forum to say to the country that our markets are one of the greatest contributors to the economy of Jamaica. There are some 35 markets across the country. Many of these markets were built more than 100 years ago,” he stated.

“Our markets have been the source of substance to many Jamaicans, taking them through university. Many leaders in this country, their parents, mother, 90 per cent of those who sell in the markets are females and when we deliberately set fire to our public institutions, then it is cause for concern,” McKenzie noted.

He said the members of parliament for West and East Portland, respectively, Daryl and Ann-Marie Vaz, have been working hard to assist vendors affected.

“They are in Portland giving an assurance of a collective response to the plight of the vendors in Musgrave Market,” he said.

At the start of the week Ann-Marie pledged her salary, which was recently increased by over $13 million per annum under the Government’s compensation review, to assist vendors affected.

The couple is also working with a private-sector company to create much more space and allow vending to be done in an orderly fashion in the market.

McKenzie also addressed another fire, which took place hours before his presentation at the Linstead Market in St Catherine.

“The issue in Linstead, I hope the police will do the necessary investigations, but the government will not bow to any pressure from any source at all who want to use any means at their disposal in order to eat a food,” McKenzie said.

“When you burn a market you burn the livelihood of hundreds of Jamaicans and we are not going to allow anyone, anyone (to do so)! I urge those who continue to be indisciplined, who have no vested interest in the future of this country, to desist,” he said.

ainsworth.morris@gleanerjm.com