(Jamaica Observer) Government will be allocating at least J$143 million in this year’s national Budget to roll out a major programme to clean up several communities across the island, which will include the eradication of rats that have been plaguing a number of areas in recent weeks.
The initiative comes weeks after the parish disaster and public health committee of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation disclosed that about 50 communities in the Corporate Area were heavily rat infested.
The cost for the year-long programme will increase once the costing has been finalised for the rat-baiting segment, which Minister with Responsibility for Information Senator Sandrea Falconer said will be a very expensive process.
Falconer, who chairs the inter-ministerial committee tasked with the Clean Up Jamaica Programme, said help would be sought from the private sector to offset the cost of the rat baits, which cost about J$9,000 per case.
“What the committee has been trying to do is to source the bait, and we are working with the private sector to see if we can get a special price on the baits that we will use… because it is very very expensive,” Falconer told journalists at yesterday’s weekly Jamaica House Press Briefing in Kingston.
One thing was made clear, however, was that the administration was not prepared to have a budget for the continuous cleaning of communities and vowed to hold citizens responsible for the maintenance of their surroundings. “We can’t afford this kind of budget in a consistent way to clean up the country, and so once we do this we must have enforcement and ensure that communities and towns are kept clean and that we as a Government also ensure the people keep their communities clean,” Falconer told journalists.
She said Jamaicans must practise proper garbage disposal so as to prevent solid waste becoming food for rodents. “We have to now in Jamaica have personal responsibility and pride,” she added.
At the same time, the minister admitted that Government has been a big culprit as the pile-up of old equipment, furniture and other supplies at ministries, agencies and departments has been providing a shelter for rodents and vectors. As such, she said, the Ministry of Finance, which has oversight for the Board of Survey — the body responsible for approving the disposal of such items — has been asked to review the process in a bid to shorten the wait time.
“It is something we have recognised since we have come on board; we have two many things which are stored and we are trying to speed up the process (of disposing of them),” Falconer said.
Pressed as to what has caused the delay in dumping this garbage which is facilitating these rodents, Falconer said “it is just a situation of slow government where we take too long sometimes to get things done”. Efforts, she said, were being made to speed up the process to ensure that these items are disposed of as soon as possible.
There will also be a public education component of the Clean Up Programme which will include an intensive media campaign and which will account for $43.7 million of the total budget.
“We will have to do a public education programme which will also help householders who might be assisting and may want to do baiting on their own, so that they know what safety precautions to take,” Falconer said.
Three groups, Senator Falconer said, have been formed to deal with the initiative. The communication group will have responsibility for developing a revised draft of the public education programme, while the technical group will develop a technical information package to guide the development of material and messages for the public education and rodent control programmes, and implementation group will identify the locations and recommend priority areas.