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Government of Jamaica


Socioeconomic initiatives needed for community transformation

Government agencies use economic and psychosocial initiatives for sustained transformation of violence plagued communities

KINGSTON, Jamaica, December 18, 2023

The 2023 PIOJ Community Renewal Programme Best Practice Symposium brought together development professionals and other stakeholders focused on delivering the sustained transformation of 100 targeted communities that are violence-plagued. The focus underscored a holistic approach to stop violence, under the theme: Transforming communities through economic and psychosocial best practices. The event was held on November 8 in Kingston.

PIOJ Deputy Director General Ms Barbara Scott and other government officials led discussions on the importance of evidence-based practices in tackling local challenges. Minister of Education Fayval Williams used examples from her constituency that demonstrated how an educated citizenry allowed communities to achieve their stated goals, and Chief Technical Director of the Ministry of National Security, Mr Delroy Simpson, highlighted the partnership with the Ministry of Education to protect youth.
Minister Williams complimented JSIF on its work, with the ZOSO (Zones of Special Operation), that has delivered results and also demonstrated good financial management of community activities. She went on to urge greater acceptance of formal education.
“If you ask me what makes the greatest difference between communities, it is education. There is no doubt about it because it opens doors for opportunities for all persons. Across the length and breadth of Jamaica we have access to 1 010 schools and we double that by looking at the early childhood sector. We have to let Jamaicans understand how very important education is, to raise the level, on par with countries that we admire.” Minister Williams also said that government aims to increase the number of tertiary educated persons in the society from 20 per cent to 80 per cent and higher.

Speaking for the Ministry of National Security, Mr Simpson said that through the Citizen Security Plan (CSP), an inter-ministerial school support strategy has adopted risk-based approaches and a case management methodology.
“In this approach, criminogenic risk factors, which include psychosocial issues, are identified through a collaborative effort. Working with psychologists and other professionals, the necessary interventions are provided. In order to transform our communities, data and evidence-based approaches must form the core of policy determinations.”

Acting Chief Technical Director of the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Mr Karl Hyatt, pointed to the crucial role of Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in national development, with 422 000 active MSMEs contributing significantly to the GDP. These MSMEs, he said, employ between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of the national labour force, which translates to about 42 per cent of GDP. He further noted that the operations of MSMEs are located within communities, many of those are targeted by the ministry’s Citizen Security Programme and the PIOJ Community Renewal Programme and also the Industry and Commerce ministry road shows with the IDB.

Mr Omar Sweeney, Managing Director of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), emphasized the importance of economic and psychosocial health to combat crime and sustain development. He said that fostering a local economy where money is earned and also spent in the community helps its transformation. He said, “We have spent a lot of our time focusing on economic development, looking at the local economy and how it is that money can be earned and kept within the community…. In terms of the psychosocial, we understand that until you address a person’s immediate need you can’t talk to them about anything else, you have to address what affects ‘me’ first. Until you do those things, you really can’t count a community as transformed.”

Speaking of the desire for self-reliance that is being expressed within communities, he said, “Communities started to speak to us more about the things that were keeping them poor. ‘Yes Mr Sweeney, you gave us a school, but we would have like to have been able to do it ourselves. What can we do about the things that are keeping us where we are?’” He cited the actions that can be achieved by informed communities, naming Bucknor in Clarendon, where residents refurbished their community centre.

The Social Development Commission (SDC), represented by Deputy Executive Director Mr Omar Frith, provided encouraging data points. He said, “We firmly believe that growth and well-being of our communities depend on holistic growth that considers a myriad of factors, including social and economic considerations. Our strategic direction mandates us to advance the economic development of communities through an integrated community development strategy.”

He reported that in the last financial year, the SDC undertook an audit that resulted in 175 agencies receiving verification of readiness for partnership. Since October 2023, SDC has given support to 416 local economic initiatives, which had an impact of creating 1 300 jobs within communities. A special entrepreneurial grant has allowed 616 small enterprises to receive funding of $30 million.

The SDC has updated 712 community profiles, representing 92 per cent coverage of communities islandwide, there are 772 asset maps, representing 99 per cent of communities and 589 community priority plans. These databases are available for potential investors and other stakeholders.

The symposium was followed on November 10 by a Local Economic Initiative Fair for more than 90 MSMEs. It was supported by digital wallet Lynx.