The 63 Members of Parliament (MPs) are to split just over $1 billion between them under the annual Flood Mitigation Programme in their various constituencies ahead of the Christmas holidays.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the announcement on Tuesday during a ministerial statement in the House of Representatives.
Previously referred to as the Christmas work programme, Holness has in recent years re-casted the programme to form part of the cyclical projects that are undertaken to mitigate the effects of severe weather events, such as flooding throughout the year.
Each constituency is to be allocated $16 million, which is $1 million more than last year’s figure.
A breakdown of how the money should be spent shows the lion’s share of $7 million going towards the patching of roads.
The prime minister told MPs that there can be no reallocation from this amount. Instead, up to $5 million can be reallocated to road patching from elsewhere in the programme for a total spend of $12 million on this area of activity.
Holness said $4 million has been allocated for de-bushing, with MPs having a free hand to reallocate the entire amount elsewhere. But no more than $4 million can be spent on de-busing activities.
In responding to concerns by MPs that the amount to be allocated is not enough, Holness said “A hard limit was placed on bushing activities because it does come with risk and exposure. It is a controlled mechanism why it is done that way.
“Frankly, we would not allow a situation where Members of Parliament could have $12 million in bushing. That would be exposing us to all kinds of issues. So we limit the bushing and make it such that the focus is on works that can be visibly seen and impactful,” he added.
Earlier, the prime minister said bushing activities were hard to control, with many persons wanting to be paid without doing the actual work. He said de-bushing activities must stand up to the scrutiny of oversight agencies.
Meanwhile, $2 million has been allocated to drain cleaning. Of this amount, $1 million can be reallocated elsewhere.
Some $3 million has been set aside for garbage collection, waste removal and limited beautification, with no reallocation from this amount allowed.
“We have taken a deliberate position to focus on the cleaning up of our country during the Christmas period of mitigation,” said Honess. He said the funds will remain available for use until January 31 and, if not exhausted by that date, the amounts will be reclaimed by the National Works Agency (NWA).
The prime minister noted that extreme weather events, in particular flooding, have become perennial problems which wreak havoc on the road network and supporting infrastructure, such as retaining walls, bridges and drainage systems.
He said repeated flooding events have been costly both in terms of lives and livelihoods, and the frequency of the events are now occurring every two years, where before they were taking place roughly every four years.
He highlighted that the parish of St James which suffered severe flood damage on November 8, experienced its 30-year average for rainfall in just 10 hours.