Member of Parliament (MP) for Portland Eastern, Ann-Marie Vaz, is calling for the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to be increased significantly, as she laments that the more than $12 million she spent on the educational needs of her constituents in 2021-2022 was not enough.
Vaz made the call on Tuesday during her contribution to the State of the Constituency Debate. She joined a growing list of MPs calling for the CDF to be increased.
In his contribution to the debate last week, MP for St Mary Western, Robert Montague, called for the CDF to be increased to $60 million, which he argued was more in line with the original policy document.
And in his debate presentation on Tuesday, MP for Manchester North West, Mikael Phillips, also made the case for an increase. He saidn the fund has not been increased in the 10 years since he was first elected as MP, during which time inflation has skyrocketed.
For her part, Vaz said the CDF should be increased to at least $54 million, in line with inflation over the last 14 years.
“Based on inflation rates, in order for the CDF to have the same value now as (in) 2008, it would have to be increased to $54 million, according to the world data inflation calculator for Jamaica,” she stated.
“Additionally, it cannot be that the CDF is the same across the board. Rural constituencies and urban constituencies have different needs, therefore the allocation cannot be the same,” said Vaz.
She also joined a growing list of rural MPs, including Montague and Phillips, who want more resources to be allocated to their constituencies.
The country’s 63 Members of Parliament each get $20 million annually as part of the CDF, to undertake various projects and initiatives in their constituencies. The majority spend most of the money on education. Money is also expended on road repairs, the upgrading of community centres, to assist sick constituents, help with funeral expenses, minor house repairs, among other things.
Vaz said the CDF is the main source of funding for her constituency.
“The CDF is used for housing, agriculture, welfare, economic enablement, sports, bushing, drain cleaning, roads and other infrastructure, Labour Day projects and salary for the administrative assistant,” she said.
“There is no way that $20 million is adequate to make a meaningful impact on any of the above-listed projects,” she remarked before listing ply board, zinc and cement as the items most requested by needy constituents.
Vaz said in 2019 when she was first elected as MP, a sheet of ply board was $3700; a bag of cement was $1,000, and a sheet of eight-foot zinc was $3,100.
“The prices have increased to $6,000, $1,500 and $3,300, respectively,” she told the House”.
“This is a roughly 38.4 per cent increase, and this is only over a three-year period. Imagine the decrease in value of the CDF since its inception in 2008; the CDF has depreciated by a whopping 173 per cent,” she said.
In making the case for rural MPs, Vaz argued that: “A constituency with five divisions and a constituency with three divisions cannot get the same allocation because of the difference in population and size. I am calling on the minister of finance to, in the first instance, increase the CDF to the value of what it was in 2008, which today is $54 million, and for a task force be set up to review the allocations every five years”.
According to Vaz, her constituents deserved nothing less.
Meanwhile, she shared that despite spending $12.5 million on education during the year, it was not enough to satisfy the needs of her constituents.
“It hurts my head to know I can’t fulfil all the requests for educational assistance due to insufficient funding,” she said.
“Education is the vehicle out of poverty; therefore, I am appealing to the Government to make additional funds available through the CDF, so that no child is left behind,” she added.
A breakdown of her projects/expenditure on education, in collaboration with her One Jamaica Foundation, shows the following:
? Paved the Moore Town Primary school yard;
? Assisted with repairs at Port Antonio Primary school; and
? Assisted with completion of the computer lab at Sea Side Primary school.
Vaz said $7.5 million of her CDF went towards education, and she was able to secure an additional $2 million from private donors. She also utilised the additional $3 million towards education that was given to all MPs under the Social Support Programme through the CDF, and the additional grants that were given through the PATH Programme.