Letter of the Day | St Mary thirsts for an ounce of development
THE EDITOR, Sir:
There can be no doubt that Jamaica is poised to become the economic Mecca of the English-speaking Caribbean once again.
Statistics revealed recently indicate that the net international reserve is it at high levels; tax revenues are at a high; the Jamaican dollar continues to revalue against the United States dollar; steady investments continue to be made in the island from other countries; tourism is on a high; and most importantly - especially for the youth, a category in which I belong - unemployment is trending downwards.
Infrastructural developments, including the roadworks now under way in sections of the Corporate Area, and the building of posh hotels in the western section of the island, are added ingredients to the emergence of a new Jamaica.
Despite these glowing prospects for the island, my mind nudged me to ask, what about my rural parish of St Mary and other rural parishes.
ST MARY'S TOWNS
I can write at length about my parish, St Mary, especially towns such as Highgate, Annotto Bay, Gayle, and its parish capital, Port Maria, which are thirsty for development that will bring a renewal of hope and opportunities to residents.
What is a fact about all these major towns is that the lack of employment options for many has become a staple feature.
Residents, mainly young persons, who can afford to, are migrating from the parish to seek their own 'piece of the pie'.
With Jamaica's business process outsourcing (BPO) industry taking off in Kingston, Montego Bay, Mandeville and Portmore, many from the parish are rushing to capture these employment opportunities.
But what about St Mary? I am sure a call centre facility would serve well even in the parish's capital, which could provide a tangible employment option for some residents of the parish.
Then, what about rural and community tourism for the parish? The promotion of rural communities, which have spectacular stories and wonderful photographic scenery, such as Three Hills, which overlook the breathtaking Caribbean Sea, and Camberwell, a photographer's dream community hidden in the mountains of southeast St Mary. These are just two examples.
From this venture, employment options could arise to place a minor dent in the migration of the youth from the parish.
Tourism thrives in Oracabessa, through Golden Eye in Oracabessa and Beaches Ocho Rios in Boscobel, and in other small pockets throughout the parish, but not as widespread as in the neighbouring 'Garden Parish' of St Ann.
A rural area task force, aimed at reenergising the economic, infrastructural and employment outlook for these northeastern parishes, must be established with the goal of transforming these areas into a place where residents can live, grow and raise their families sufficiently.
It cannot be that the only time these parishes hear talk of opportunities for its citizens, is when a general election is near and each precious vote is needed.
Sugar Ray Thomas