Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Friday, 09 February 2018 15:48

Children to get National ID card at age six

Under the National Identification System (NIDS) children will be registered at birth and given a National Identification Number (NIN) and an identification card at age six.

Chief Technical Director in the Office of the Prime Minister, Jacqueline Lynch-Stewart, noted that all children six years old and above will be required to have a national identification card. The first card will be issued free of cost to parents or guardians.

“Section 25.2 of the (National Identification and Registration) law provides for the national ID to be free of cost, so there is going to be no cost to the citizen to get the national ID. When you get your national ID, you’re going to be receiving two things. You’re getting a national identification number, which we refer to as the NIN and you get your national identification card,” Mrs. Lynch-Stewart said.

She was speaking at a NIDS town hall meeting held recently at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus.

National identification cards will also have renewal dates based on the age of the holder.

“We’re going to have to renew our cards, so between ages zero and 18, the requirement is that you renew every five years. From 18 to 60 years, the renewal period is every 10 years and for those over 60 years, it will be every 15 years. The younger you are the more often you have to renew because your facial image changes, so that’s the basis on which that decision was taken,” she explained.

Following the implementation of NIDS, Jamaican citizens and legal residents will require only one ID to access government and private-sector services. This is to ensure the safety and the security of their identities, boost efficiency and reduce costs, while improving quality of life.

The roll-out of NIDS is slated to begin with a pilot project in January 2019, focusing on civil servants. The layered roll-out and management of the NIDS will be handled by a new agency, the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA), which will replace the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) and provide more enhanced services.

Another 35,000 street lamps are to be installed this year under the Smart Light Emitting Diode (LED) Street Light Programme.

Since the roll-out of the programme in June 2017, 37,000 LED street lamps have been installed by the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) in several communities in Kingston and St. Andrew, St. James, St. Ann, Trelawny, St. Mary, Hanover, Westmoreland, and St. Catherine.

The initiative, which is being implemented by the Government in partnership with JPS, aims to reduce the country’s energy costs and increase the use of renewable energy sources.

The smart LED lighting technology allows for remote reading of the consumption of each lamp, identifying out-of-service lamps and control of the light intensity.

Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Dr. the Hon. Andrew Wheatley, said the public’s response to the programme has been very positive.

“The level of support is overwhelming. Wherever we go across the island, persons commend the Government on the smart LED lights. It is a holistic approach that we are taking as it relates to offsetting our energy bill while, at the same time, preserving our environment,” he said.

Mr. Wheatley explained that while the primary aim of the programme is to reduce the country’s energy costs, an additional benefit is the safety and security component where the smart technology provides support in crime-fighting, through the use of image sensing, including closed-circuit television (CCTV).

“Jamaica is moving forward, and we have to ensure that we have an environment that is safe and secure for our people. We are putting measures in place for the safety and security of our people,” the Energy Minister said.

The Smart LED Street Light Programme will target 110,000 street lights across Jamaica over the next three years.

The programme is part of an agreement between the Government and the power company to replace outdated infrastructure with modern, efficient street lights.

Members of the diaspora and non-Jamaicans who wish to do business in the country for six months or more, will be required to register under the new National Identification System (NIDS).

According to Chief Technical Director in the Office of the Prime Minister, Jacqueline Lynch-Stewart, this will become effective in 2019 after NIDS is fully rolled out.

Addressing a town hall meeting on the NIDS at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, recently, she advised that persons who are not citizens, “but they live here and they’ve been here for six months or more and they’re doing business, they, too, will be required to apply for a national identification number and card”.

She pointed out that like Jamaicans, a nine-digit National Identification Number (NIN) will be assigned to these persons.

“The NIN stays with you for life. Upon death, it is deactivated on the database, but it is never ever given to anybody else to use, so you have that one number that you will use for your entire life,” Mrs. Lynch-Stewart explained.

She reiterated that the system will be trustworthy and of international standards, which Jamaicans living in the diaspora and non-Jamaicans can rely on.

“The law also provides for us to use international best practices for security and privacy issues. The law restricts what can be disclosed to people about you and me. Section 43 of the law provides that the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) shall not disclose identity information stored in the database about any individual, except where the information is disclosed pursuant to the request of the individual. What does that mean? Each of us can give permission for the information to be disclosed,” Mrs. Lynch-Stewart said.

Following the implementation of NIDS, Jamaican citizens and legal residents will require only one ID to guarantee freedom of access to government and private-sector services. This is to ensure the safety and security of their identities while improving their quality of life through boosting efficiency and reducing costs.

The roll-out of NIDS is slated to begin with a pilot project in January 2019 focusing on civil servants. The layered roll-out and management of the NIDS will be handled by the NIRA, which will replace the Registrar General’s Department (RGD).

The National Water Commission (NWC) is encouraging Jamaicans living in deep rural communities to explore using tanks and catchment facilities to store potable water for domestic use.

“It is not economically viable for the NWC to provide an efficient service and to generate a surplus that could be adequately reinvested if we take on some of these remote [and hard-to-reach] communities… it’s just not possible,” President of the NWC, Mark Barnett, said.

Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on January 11, the President pointed out that the provision of potable water has become a costly undertaking and in some areas it is extremely expensive to provide the infrastructure to pipe water to some homes.

“In most of these communities, the population is not concentrated, they are sparsely dispersed across a large area and when you put in that level of investment (in terms of infrastructure), it is going to cost a lot, which you are not likely to recoup. We are into centralised systems,” he added.

He explained that putting in the infrastructure in some areas has become so expensive that it would be unwise to proceed without some form of direct subsidy from the Government to offset the cost.

Mr. Barnett noted that there are a number of those communities and it would be more suitable to have other systems to provide potable water.

“Those days when people used to invest in rainwater harvesting, we need to revisit that. It’s a significant area that must be part of any solution in solving and providing access to potable water. We have to now look again at community catchment systems,” he suggested.

“Tanks that were community catchments, those need to be revitalised, reactivated and utilised as part of the modality of providing water,” he added.

Mr. Barnett said that where Municipal Corporations operate these facilities, including major stand-alone wells and water acquirers that are used to provide piped water to small communities, the NWC will assist by providing experts to guide their efficient operations.

Monday, 27 November 2017 17:00

New traffic ticket amnesty starts today

A new 45-day amnesty for persons with outstanding traffic tickets gets underway on Monday (Nov. 27).

Motorists with tickets issued from September 1, 2010 to October 31, 2017 can pay them without repercussion up to January 13, 2018.

On Friday (November 24), the Senate approved the Road Traffic (Temporary Ticket Amnesty Number 2) Act 2017, which facilitates the new period of amnesty. The Bill was passed in the Lower House on November 14.

State Minister for National Security, Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., who piloted the Bill in the Senate, explained that following the previous three-month amnesty, which ended on October 31, motorists had appealed for additional time to fulfil their obligations.

As with previous amnesties, Senator Charles Jr. said the objectives are to enhance revenue administration and collection; allow persons to clear their driving record; improve the efficiency of the courts; and reduce the number of traffic cases before the courts.

“The Bill will facilitate the suspension of the relevant section of the Road Traffic Act to enable motorists holding unpaid traffic tickets that have become a matter before the courts to pay them at the offices of Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ),” he said.

It will also allow for the suspension of the relevant sections of the Judicature Parish Courts Act and the Justice of the Peace Jurisdiction Act, thereby preventing the issuance of warrants by a parish court judge or a Justice of the Peace for the arrest of traffic ticket holders. In addition, motorists holding unpaid traffic tickets will be offered an amnesty in relation to penalty points being recorded against their driver’s licence.

The State Minister noted that during the amnesty, motorists will not be denied the option of contesting their tickets in court, however, they will be required to abide by the decision of the court and cannot thereafter utilize the amnesty offer.

He urged motorists to use the period to become compliant, warning that those who do not avail themselves of the amnesty “will be vigorously pursued by the strong arm of the law after the amnesty period is concluded.”

The State Minister informed that the monies collected will be used to purchase vehicles, equipment and technology for the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF); strengthen the cyber security network; upgrade the ticket management system used by the TAJ and the JCF; modernize the methods used by the Ministry of Transport and Mining to enforce the new Traffic Act; and modernise the court system and hire more judges.

In the meantime, Mr. Charles Jr. informed that security will be beefed up at the collectorates and additional cashiers put in place to deal with the large influx of motorists anticipated.

The previous amnesty period, which ran from August 2 to October 31, resulted in payments of over $590 million from the processing of more than 260,000 tickets. In addition, 45,000 calls were made to the Traffic Amnesty Call Centre.

Up to December 31, 2016, outstanding traffic tickets totaled in excess of $2.84 billion

Debate on legislation aimed at strengthening the regime governing the functions of Justices of the Peace (JPs) began in the House of Representatives on November 21.

The Justice of the Peace Bill and the Renaming of the Courts of Petty Sessions (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill were piloted by Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck.

The Bills provide for codifying the selection, appointment, discipline, regulation and code of conduct of JPs; increasing the monetary jurisdiction of JPs; and renaming the Petty Sessions Courts to Lay Magistrates’ Courts.

In his address, Mr. Chuck said despite the importance of the functions of JPs in the country, there is no legislation governing how they operate.

He pointed out that in or around 2006, a Committee comprising the Chief Justice, the Custodes, the Legal Reform Department and personnel from the Ministry of Justice crafted a Code of Conduct and incorporated the existing rules.

The Minister said that this Code of Conduct was gazetted and has been the closest matter to legislation governing the functions of JPs in Jamaica.

“Let me hasten to highlight the fact that the Justice of the Peace (Jurisdiction) Act only governs the judicial functions of Justices of the Peace and does not address the issues covered under the Bill before this Honourable House,” Mr. Chuck said.

“With that said, I will seize this opportunity to inform that in a short while from now, a comprehensive review of the Justice of the Peace (Jurisdiction) Act will be undertaken with a view to modernisation. This piece of legislation was enacted in 1850,” he added.

The Minister said the Bills now before the Lower House will go a far way in impressing upon the minds of not only the JPs but all Jamaicans the seriousness of the Office of Justice of the Peace.

In addition, Mr. Chuck said the rules are silent on what should happen to a JP who has been criminally charged or convicted. “This deficit in the law must be arrested immediately,” Mr. Chuck emphasised.

“Another issue is the perennial problem of JPs losing their seals through negligence, and the Government must fork out 50 per cent of the replacement cost of the seal, and the JP only being required to pay 50 per cent. Statistics have shown that the majority of seals reported as stolen were stolen after being left in parked motor vehicles. The Government cannot continue to fund negligence,” he said.

Mr. Chuck said there is also the issue of whether it is proper for a JP to charge a fee for his services in that office, adding that the traditional functions of JPs have changed over time, and so, the law must be developed in recognition of this.

“As it relates to the name of the Petty Sessions Court, from as far back as 2007, a Task Force mandated to review and make recommendations for the improvement of our justice system recommended that the name of the Petty Sessions Court be changed to the Lay Magistrates’ Court,” he noted.

According to the Task Force, this will change the public’s perception of this Court, as, often times, Lay Magistrates are not afforded the respect of other judicial officers, despite the serious nature of their role.

“So, it is for all the above reasons, and more, that the law must be refined and clarified to reflect the increasing significance of the Office of the Justice of the Peace to our society,” Mr. Chuck said.

For the Justice of the Peace Bill, Clause 5 provides guidance on the appointment of Justices. Clause 7 imposes a duty on the JPs to observe the Code of Conduct or face being penalised for misconduct, while Clause 8 removes the restrictions to serve only in the JP’s parish of residence.

In terms of the Courts of Petty Sessions (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, Clause 2 provides for the renaming of the Courts of Petty Sessions to the Lay Magistrates’ Courts.

The Government of Jamaica has signed a US$15-million loan agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the implementation of the Energy Management and Efficiency Programme (EMEP).

Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, explained that the sum is the second portion of a joint loan of US$30 million for the roll-out of the EMEP.

He noted that the Government signed an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the first US$15 million on November 10.

He informed that the European Union (EU) is providing US$10 million in grant funding towards the programme, which will be executed over eight years.

“The aim is to bolster the Government’s efforts in the areas of energy efficiency and conservation through the design and implementation of measures targeting key Government facilities, as well as fuel conservation in road transportation to reduce the demand for fuel imports,” Minister Shaw said.

He was speaking at the signing ceremony held on Thursday (November 23) at the Ministry’s National Heroes Circle offices in Kingston.

Senior Vice President, JICA, Shigeru Maeda, in his remarks, said he is pleased with the partnership.

“I am very happy to sign the loan agreement… . I believe that this is a good project for energy conservation, which is important for Jamaica. This programme is in accordance with Vision 2030, which is the national development plan of Jamaica and contributes to achieve the outcome in energy security and efficiency. We expect a great synergy effect with this programme,” Mr. Maeda said.

EMEP, which is being executed by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) consists of three components.

Component one involves retrofitting the Health, Education and Public Agency (HEPA) government facilities. Energy efficiency and conservation measures will be undertaken in 73 HEPAs, including comprehensive retrofitting and installing light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

Under component two, an Urban Traffic Management System (UTMS) will be implemented in Kingston. This involves installation of a central control platform for traffic monitoring, closed-circuit television cameras, and the training of National Works Agency (NWA) staff.

Component three will focus on providing the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology (MSET) with additional expertise.

Training will be undertaken to support the implementation of an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) to guide the development of a modern energy sector in Jamaica; technical experts will be contracted in energy efficiency and demand side management; and technical studies undertaken to support the IRP.

Saturday, 25 November 2017 15:16

Gov’t providing grants for health research

The Ministry of Health will be providing three research grants of up to $1.5 million each for tertiary students pursuing studies in specific areas.

The grants are available to postgraduate students of the Northern Caribbean University; University of Technology; and the University of the West Indies, Mona, who propose to undertake studies related to the top-10 health priority areas of the Government.

Applications for the one-year award will close on January 19 next year, and a decision made by February 15.

Portfolio Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, officially launched the grant awards programme during the 8th staging of the annual National Health Research Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston on Thursday (November 23).

He said the objective is to promote credible research that supports the Government’s health agenda.

“We want to encourage research to guide policy, with an aim to promoting national development… . We consider this our contribution to the cause of research in healthcare, and we hope that we get as many applicants as possible and work that will add to the work that we have to do,” he said.

He noted that health research has high value for society, as it can provide, among other things, important information about disease trends and risk factors, outcomes of treatment or public health interventions, patterns of care, and the use and cost of healthcare.

The grant awards programme is being spearheaded by the Essential National Health Research Committee (ENHRC), which serves as the governing body for the coordination of research for health in Jamaica.

Chairman of the ENHRC, Professor Rainford Wilks, said increased research can lead to improvements in the overall health of Jamaicans, thereby helping the country to achieve a healthy and stable population.

“The provision of these grants is a key step in encouraging research in the priority areas and stimulating all aspects of ENHR,” he said.

He said the top-10 priority areas are universal access to health and universal health coverage; cancers, including cervical, breast, colon, prostate and their general outcomes and epidemiology; successful interventions for the treatment of cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension; factors affecting and the impact of violence and injuries (including intentional and unintentional injuries); and neglected tropical diseases and emerging and re-emerging diseases such as Zika, chikungunya and Ebola;.

Also being given priority is research into the financial sustainability for health; estimates of disease burden; the cost of disease burden; diabetes mellitus, including its effect on pregnancy; and the social determinants of infant, child and adolescent health (including mortality).

Grant awardees are encouraged to present their findings at the annual National Health Research Conference. They will also be expected to develop findings into full manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals, and may be asked to participate in other health fora.

National Security Minister, Hon. Robert Montague, says the Ministry plans to erect a special monument to honour the memory of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) members who die in the line of duty.

Speaking at the Ministry’s inaugural awards ceremony for members of the JCF at Hope Gardens in St. Andrew on Thursday, November 23, Mr. Montague said funds have been identified within the Ministry for the undertaking, and that he has received two designs for consideration.

The Minister has also invited JCF members to either submit designs for consideration or suggest ways in which those received can be utilised to configure the monument.

Mr. Montague also advised that the Ministry has placed an order for a hearse “befitting of the fallen men and women of the JCF, to take you on the last mile of your journey”.

Some 900 JCF members have died in the line of duty since the JCF’s establishment in 1867.

Meanwhile, Mr. Montague praised the police for working relentlessly and tirelessly in their efforts to curb crime and violence, thereby safeguarding the nation.

He noted that while police officers work long and hard, often beyond the call of duty, many times they are not thanked for their dedicated service.

Police Commissioner, George Quallo, also lauded the members, noting that their consistent display of integrity, professionalism, passion for policing and deep-seated commitment to being agents of positive change across Jamaica “has set you apart”.

“You have given (and continue to give) yeoman service to our nation. Each day, you show up for work, leaving your families, to serve persons (some of whom) you have never met. Through your efforts, you have helped to build Jamaica,” Mr. Quallo said.

The awards ceremony, which is the brainchild of Mr. Montague, coincided with the JCF’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

More than 70 awards, citations and certificates were presented to members from the various Divisions, in recognition of sterling service in their respective areas.

One minute’s silence was also observed in memory of the officers who died in the line of duty.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has given high marks for Jamaica’s performance under the Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with the Fund, saying “commitment to the economic reform programme remains strong”, with “economic indicators at historical highs, supported by a favourable macroeconomic environment”.

In its recently released 70-page review of Jamaica’s economic performance, the IMF notes that “unemployment is falling, new jobs are being created, and there is robust activity in construction and hotels and restaurants. Inflation and the current account are low, helped by relatively stable oil prices and the Government’s policy efforts”.

The Fund says “the historically low yields” in the recent global bonds reopening reflect “Jamaica’s hard-won credibility”.

“After more than four years of difficult economic reforms, Jamaica’s programme implementation remains exemplary,” the Washington-based multilateral notes.

Giving the second review under Jamaica’s SBA, the Fund says that strong domestic ownership of the reform agenda across two different governments and the broader society has helped to entrench macroeconomic stability and fiscal discipline.

The IMF hails the “landmark public pension reform bill” passed recently. It says that while there are programme risks, commitment by the Government to the reform programme “remains strong”.

Among the risks identified by the IMF is the challenge of public-sector reform and ongoing public-sector wage negotiations. The Fund says there is need to free up resources through redesigning public-sector wage scales to retain skilled employees and to appropriately reward performance.

“This would pave the way for rebalancing public spending from wages to growth-enhancing outlays on health (where Jamaica’s expenditures are relatively low), education (where an overly large share of expenditures is on wages), security and capital spending,” the Fund says.

The Fund also mentions weather-related shocks as potential risks to the programme, highlighting growing concern about the issue of climate change.

The international lending agency praises the Government for the fact that “inflation and the current account deficit remain subdued”. It also commends the Government for its divestment programme, observing that “the authorities are accelerating their efforts to divest underutilised public assets and using proceeds towards public debt reduction”.

The Fund cites the Government’s “sustained commitment (to macroeconomic stability and fiscal discipline)” and the ongoing programme monitoring by civil society that has paved the way for the reforms to be “domestically owned, designed and executed”.

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