$10b to be divided equally among 63 MPs under SPARK programme Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Some $10 billion is to be divided equally among the country’s 63 Members of Parliament (MPs) under the Government’s ground-breaking $40 billion Shared Prosperity through Accelerated Improvement to our Road Network (SPARK) programme.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the announcement on Tuesday in the House of Representatives as he gave an update on the programme he first announced in his contribution to the Budget Debate in March 2023. At that time he said some 2,000 roads would be fixed over three years under the programme.

On Tuesday he told the House that another $10 billion would be allocated to constituencies overall, depending on the volume of the road network to be repaired, to ensure fairness.

The Government is also to reserve an amount to address roads that may not have been considered during consultations that are to be led by the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

The prime minister said $20 billion, or half of the SPARK budget, will be set aside to address main roads that will require more than just resurfacing. The scope of those works, he said, could see the upgrading or replacement of water and sewage infrastructure.

Holness told his fellow lawmakers that the remaining $20 billion will be used to rehabilitate parochial and community roads. Of the amount, $10 billion is to be divided equally among the 63 constituencies.

“The remaining $10 billion will be allocated to constituencies based on the mileage of roads in each constituency, relative to the total mileage of roads to be repaired,” the prime minister stated.

He said SPARK is designed to address secondary, parochial and community roads across the island.

“The primary goal of this programme is to address the persistent deterioration of the country’s road network, enhance mobility, safety and accessibility, while promoting economic development and improving the overall wellbeing and road experience for local communities and businesses,” Holness said.

File photo of road improvement work in progress.

He noted that the programme encompasses various improvements, including targeted enhancement to road surfaces and intersections, installation of localised drainage and culverts, bolstering road safety through retaining walls and guardrails, and implementing pedestrian facilities at selected locations.

“A crucial element of the SPARK programme involves a fair, transparent and accountable process for identifying and selecting the road projects to be implemented.

“The success of the programme hinges on collaborative efforts and active engagement at both the governmental and community levels. It is imperative that the people, represented by their elected officials, play a significant role in the identification and selection of projects,” the prime minister emphasised.

He said the CDF will play a lead role in the programme, given its mandate to foster community empowerment and promote socio-economic progress.

“It is deemed an ideal vehicle for conducting the consultative process through which suitable projects for the SPARK programme will be identified,” he remarked.

MPs, through the CDF, will be asked to organise community consultations by parish council division with the active involvement of the relevant Government agencies. These include the Social Development Commission (SDC), municipal corporations, the National Works Agency (NWA), the National Water Commission (NWC), the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), as well as churches, schools and business.

The prime minister said the consultations are aimed at collecting recommendations on the roads to be repaired and their priority order.

In this regard, MPs have been given until the end of March to have the consultations completed and priority road projects submitted.

“This is to facilitate the streamlining of the project implementation process from project conception to execution,” said Holness.