We'll hold the applause, Mr Shirley

Friday, January 04, 2019

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Mr Lyttleton Shirley's announcement on Monday that the Riverton disposal site in Kingston is to become a green space for the benefit of neighbouring communities is welcome news.

However, Mr Shirley and the enterprise team he leads, which is tasked with divesting solid waste management services now operated by the Government, will pardon as we hold our applause until we actually see this green space opened, functional, and being properly maintained.

According to Mr Shirley, the development of this green space will be facilitated by the removal of the Riverton waste disposal operation on Spanish Town Road to a sanitary landfill.

Our report in Wednesday's Observer noted that when Mr Shirley addressed a news conference on Monday he wasn't any closer to determining the new waste disposal site. However, he indicated that his team anticipates completing its “market sounding” process by mid-2019, and should sign a contract by the end of the year.

“The new location will depend on the type of equipment [investors will propose]... the acreage of land that will be required, and how many plants there will be at strategic locations so that transportation could be effectively reduced... That will come out of the tender process,” Mr Shirley was reported as saying.

He also said that the Government is prepared to provide the lands for the sanitary landfill in areas that will be appropriate and strategically located for transportation access.

As with the planned green space, we will hold the authorities to the same test in relation to the development of this sanitary landfill, because getting that right is crucial to people's health and the protection of the environment.

The Government, therefore, should avoid merely choosing a site simply because of its acreage. The decision should also take into consideration the site's proximity to residential and commercial developments as the State should not risk subjecting people to repeat episodes of the smoke and air quality pollution that was unleashed from Riverton on too many occasions.

Mr Shirley has told the country that the reclamation process will take eight years from the time of the contract signing. He has also stated that the development will signal a new dawn in which “problems associated with fire... and environmental pollution that affect people... will be a thing of the past”.

We will, as we said, hold him to that, because what he has divulged thus far is merely an announcement, which, as we in Jamaica know only too well, is far from a solid accomplishment.

We again state our support for the divestment of solid waste management services because, as we have stated before, this country has seen too many instances of agencies set up with the best of intentions to offer well-needed services but have been ruined by partisan politics.

Instead of providing a benefit to the country, these agencies morph into centres of incompetence, as they are staffed mostly with party loyalists who, in the majority of cases, lack the skills to do the jobs into which they are parachuted.

The annoying reality of this folly is that these agencies eventually become heavy burdens on the budget and taxpayers are made to pay for what is really corruption.

So, this divestment, we reiterate, can't happen too soon.

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