The Most Honorable Andrew Holness, ON, MP
Official Commissioning Ceremony
Rosewell Water Supply Project
August 11, 2017
Thank you very much.
We’ve been long in ceremony and so I am certain you will agree with me that it is satisfactory to say distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
The parish of Clarendon as it is now geographically defined since July of this year would be one hundred and fifty years old. Clarendon is the merger of three former parishes, the original Clarendon, the parish of Vere and the parish of St. Dorothy.
Rosewell was the capital of St. Dorothy and so when the parish boundaries were redefined it no longer was a parish capital but I start there as a kind of marking point of the history of this town; that this town has been around for some time and you’ve not had regular, reliable, portable water. You’ve had water supply for some time with some kind of engineering solutions. When I visited in 2015, I was very surprised to see two huge tanks but they were not in use and when I enquired of them, I was told that they were leaking. They were constructed a long time ago and there were engineering issues with them.
I fell in love with this community because the people here were so welcoming that the fact that you did not have water, did not have good roads, don’t mean that you could not be people of great pride, dignity and hospitality.
I noticed that there was great interest in the school, that the community protected and preserved the school and that the Member of Parliament himself took a great interest in the school.
The other thing that drew me to the community is that I’ve never heard of any issues here to do with crime and violence as is the case with other communities in the parish so this is a community that by all account is considered to be a rural community and by some account would be considered to be a poor community but this is also a peaceful, industrious, dignified community.
Your mayor has informed that they have now completed the study of all the communities in Clarendon that are in need of regular, reliable water supply. The only problem is the money to do it and he was suggesting it to me because he’s saying I’m the one who can determine where the limited money that we have is spent. That is part of the job of the people who you elect to govern the resources that they make allocative decisions and they make them based on not just political favoritism or gut feeling. They make the decisions to allocate the limited resources on empirical evidence and I will ensure that whatever budget there is for rural water and for the NWC that we spend it in a strategic way.
We acknowledge that water, access to potable water, safe drinking water, water that is close to where you live that that is a right for every single Jamaican. I want you the citizens to understand and appreciate that the government of Jamaica sees water as a human right; that we will seek to develop all efficient methods of delivering water to you. There are some areas in Jamaica where it would not be an efficient method to run a pipeline. It’s just not feasible and sometimes it’s an engineering impossibility. For those areas we may have to explore other more efficient means of delivering water, catchment- rain water harvesting and sometimes we frown on these things as if to say these are not modern ways but I’ve visited many countries all over the world and when I do I always tend to look at their water provision infrastructure and yes many of them have very advanced piping systems but some countries have very well developed harvesting system. There are countries in the world where there is no piped water. You get your water from what you collect off your roof and you store it in tanks and you pump it to where you need it.
Right here in Jamaica the chairman of the NWC is pointing out that that has been the practice in St. Elizabeth and part of Manchester so the government is looking at mainstreaming and putting in place the legislation to support rainwater harvesting as an efficient means of providing water in fulfillment of the acknowledgement that water is a human right for every citizen.
The NWC this year will undertake significant capital works in providing potable water and the chairman did not tell you how much but I’m certain at another point in time he will say how much we are spending on the infrastructure work for the provision of potable water right across Jamaica.
What I want to point out today is that the NWC has been operating with a significant loss on its operations each year. The NWC loses significant volumes of water to illegal abstraction. That’s a very fancy way or euphemism for people who steal water from the NWC, but the NWC has also been losing water because of the age of its infrastructure and failure of some of its systems. By some accounts the water loss is approximately 50% of its revenue or more. I hear some people saying sixty but I can’t believe it is up to seventy because if it is up to seventy there’s no way… Sixty is the average so let me rephrase. As someone who is trained in economics I don’t know any company that could survive losing 50% of its revenue. We recognize that water is life; water is there for human right but it doesn’t give you the right to steal it.
I’ve visited many countries. I’ve visited Israel that has a major water problem but they have managed to secure water for their citizens. Water is not just a human right there; water is what you would call a strategic asset for them because they don’t have many natural supplies of water.
I visited Singapore, an island the size of St. James. Five million people live on the island and they of course have universal provision of water; everyone there has water but they don’t have one river. What they have would be the equivalent of a stream but yet they have managed to provide water.
The point I want to make to the citizens of Jamaica is that Jamaica land of wood and water has enough water for everybody. At the current rate some estimates are that the water that exists, if nothing else happens we could have water supply for twenty/ thirty years, but just having the rain fall and water in the river and water in the aquifer and that’s technically free water, doesn’t mean that it is potable water or water that you can access for irrigation. So yes the rain fall and that’s free, the river is running and that’s free but there is another step. The government has to produce water that you can use and the production of that water comes at a cost so we’re not creating water. The same water that is here that we are drinking today is the same water that the dinosaurs drank one million or so years ago. There’s no new water really but for us to convert the water to make it accessible to you for example:
In Jamaica most of water is on the north coast and we have to therefore put in pipes to bring the water to the population centers. That is a cost. Now that cost is significant so you have to pay something for it and we’re not saying that you’re going to pay always what is considered the market rate for the water. Every single Jamaican should develop the culture to say that though the water is God given, to bring the water to your house has a cost and therefore you consider it a right, you can’t be denied and the government must provide it. But in the same way you must also consider it that it is important enough for you that in the ranking of your expenditure you also place a value and make it a priority to pay something for your water.
As I stand here in an exemplary community of law abiding, peaceful people who are supportive of their state I make the appeal, if you are irregular with your water- I hate to use the term stealing water or illegally abstracting water – I make an appeal to you that you should start the process of regularizing your water supply and I make a deal with you. When you start paying your water then we will be in a better position. The Mayor said to me “we know where the water is, but for us to make the investment to put in the pumps, put in the pipes, put in the treatment, we have to have revenues coming in.”
If we’re losing 50% of the revenue or 60% of the revenue then that means that we are 50% less capable of providing the water to the other communities that are equally in need of it. I can only make the appeal that you pay something for your water to increase the revenue so that we can get it to make the investments so that more deserving communities like Rosewell can get their water.
Ladies and gentlemen I want to close on this point. Jamaica is a gifted, blessed country. Where we are today is nowhere near where we should have been or where we can be. As your Prime Minister I want to help you to achieve your full potential. Other countries have transitioned to first world within a generation meaning that people are alive in those countries today who existed under the times when those countries were considered to be third world. That means that a significant portion of the population didn’t have water, proper roads, proper hospitals, high unemployment, suffered from high crime but they made the transition and do you know how they made the transition? It started with a cultural revolution. It started with a change in how the people thought of themselves. It started with a change in what parents told their children. It started with a change in their outlook on life; that there is no reward without work, there is no success without sacrifice and that nothing is free, somebody has to pay for it.
And so prosperity starts with a change in mentality, a change in culture and I want to make a deal with you. Let us start to change the culture; the mentality. You work on that and I will start to change how the government responds, how the government executes its responsibility. When the government is doing its responsibility and the people are doing their responsibility and we are meeting each other’s expectation that is when you start to see the growth and prosperity. Pay your water bill and we’ll put in more water supply.
God bless you.