Minister within the Ministry of Communities, Valerie Sharpe-Patterson, today visited the South Sophia district to address a number of issues affecting residents in an effort to develop this area.
Residents came out on the roadways throughout the community for an opportunity to meet with the minister and to express their concerns.
Minister Sharpe-Patterson visited the area mainly to address the issue of squatting, while revealing projects that will come on stream shortly to reduce or even eliminate squatting in the area.
The minister stated, “My main purpose of coming here is to look at your drainage, the biggest issue is the squatting that is taking place in this area. Now you would know that when His Excellency, David Granger became president of this country, he spoke to the nation saying, do not squat anymore. We know that in times past, what happened that resulted in people squatting; now he is asking that you stop squatting.”
The minister pointed to the importance of persons not squatting on the government’s reserves, stating that such an act will hinder government’s programme for development.
“We want to regularise Sophia, we want to bring some sort of decency to this area. The entire government reserve is taken up by squatters. If that is so, how can we bring services? How can we bring industries? How can we bring commerce? Where would we put them?” the Minister asked.
The minister announced that part of the resolution would be for the Ministry of Communities to build condominiums, apartments and single houses in the Cummings Lodge area to accommodate these squatters, mainly low income earners and state employees.
“What we are doing, we are looking at developing low cost houses in Cummings Lodge and offer it to the people in Sophia, in this block as first preference. We are looking at what we call ‘rent to own’ so you rent the apartment until you own it,” Minister told residents.
Chairman of the Community Development Council (CDC) for South Liliendaal, Clayton Hinds identified a number of areas in the community which have been neglected by the previous administration. He noted that this has stifled development, making Sophia a ‘depressed community’.
Hinds took the minister to the Practical Instruction Centre which has been set up to provide basic agricultural training for the youths in that area. However, since its establishment in the early 1990s, the building has only been used to facilitate cosmetic training programmes.
Hinds explained that, “since then, no real attention or seriousness has been placed here, including the outfit. There is a large block of land, this whole area has been allocated for agricultural purposes for students who attend this place, but you can notice here are big trees and bush.”
They also visited a market tarmac in the South Sophia area, constructed by the previous administration, but had never been utilised for market purposes. Hinds suggested that the tarmac be expanded and that stalls be constructed which would be occupied by vendors who currently have businesses on the Sophia main access road and other areas. The tarmac will be recognised as the central point of business, and will be the local neighbourhood market in Sophia.
Other issues raised about community development include drainage, business development, agricultural potential and infrastructure. These will be brought to the attention of the relevant subject ministers by Minister Sharpe-Patterson.