Regarding the matter of the St James Parish Council contributing to the staging of Montego Bay Night Out, the Honorable Noel Arscott, Minister of Local Government and Community Development is in full support of Councils taking necessary steps to facilitate local economic development in their parishes. This is an integral part of the Local Government Reform process.
The Montego Bay Night Out is a joint venture between the St. James Parish Council and the business community and is aimed at resuscitating businesses in the Gloucester Avenue area popularly referred to as the “Hip Strip”. The event involves the participation of over thirty (30) vendors including craft vendors, five to ten thousand (5,000 – 10,000) patrons including tourists who leave their hotels and spend with the locals and sponsorship from two of Jamaica’s major beverage companies. It is projected to break even. However, the additional benefits derived from the economic activities for the small business operators and the cultural benefit from the exposure of the tourists represent a good example of the Government working together with the business community to enhance local economic development.
As it relates to the accusations levied against the Montego Bay Mayor that he handed out $20,000 to each councilor for the purchasing of bun and cheese during the Easter holiday season, Mayor Harris has assured Minister Arscott that there is no truth to these accusations. He explained that each Councilor was given an allotment to conduct work in their divisions. When the work is done the superintendent of works would do the verification and make the necessary recommendation for payment after which the necessary cheques are drawn to suppliers. Mayor Harris has also affirmed that there is no basis to the claims as the activities and payment procedures are in keeping with established practice and procedure .