Ann-Marie Vaz calls for CDF allocations to be increased to $54 million

Member of Parliament (MP) for Portland Eastern, Ann-Marie Vaz, is calling for the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to be increased significantly, as she laments that the more than $12 million she has spent on the needs education of its voters in 2021 -2022 was not enough.

Vaz made the call Tuesday during his contribution to the state of the precinct debate. She joined a growing list of MPs calling for the CDF to be increased.

In his contribution to the debate last week, St Mary Western MP Robert Montague called for the CDF to be increased to $60 million, which he said was more in line with the original policy document.

And in his debate presentation on Tuesday, Manchester North West MP Mikael Phillips also argued for a raise. He said the fund has not been increased in the 10 years since he was first elected as an MP, during which time inflation has soared.

For his part, Vaz said the CDF should be increased to at least $54 million, in line with inflation over the past 14 years.

“Based on inflation rates, for the CDF to have the same value now as it did in 2008, it would need to be increased to $54 million, according to the World Data Inflation Calculator for Jamaica” , she said.

“Furthermore, it is impossible for the CDF to be the same in all areas. Rural constituencies and urban constituencies have different needs, so the allocation cannot be the same,” Vaz said.

She also joined a growing list of rural MPs, including Montague and Phillips, who want more resources allocated to their constituencies.

The country’s 63 MPs each receive $20 million a year under the CDF, to undertake various projects and initiatives in their constituencies. The majority spends most of the money on education. Money is also spent on repairing roads, improving community centers, helping sick voters, helping with funeral expenses, minor home repairs, among others.

Vaz said the CDF is his constituency’s main source of funding.

“The CDF is used for housing, agriculture, welfare, economic empowerment, sports, crossing, drain cleaning, roads and other infrastructure, labor day projects and salary administrative assistant,” she said.

“There’s no way $20 million is enough to have a meaningful impact on any of the projects listed above,” she remarked before listing plywood, zinc and cement as the most requested items by voters in need.

Vaz said that in 2019, when she was first elected as an MP, a sheet of plywood cost $3,700; a bag of cement cost $1,000 and an eight-foot sheet of zinc $3,100.

“Prices have increased to $6,000, $1,500 and $3,300, respectively,” she told the House.

“That’s an increase of about 38.4%, and that’s just over a three-year period. Imagine the drop in value of the CDF since its creation in 2008; the CDF depreciated by 173%,” she said.

In arguing for rural MPs, Vaz argued that, “A five-division constituency and a three-division constituency cannot get the same allocation because of the difference in population and size. I ask the Minister of Finance, as a first step, to increase the CDF to the value of what it was in 2008, which is now 54 million dollars, and that a working group be set up place to review allocations every five years.

According to Vaz, his constituents deserved nothing less.

Meanwhile, she shared that despite spending $12.5 million on education during the year, it was not enough to meet the needs of her constituents.

“It hurts my head to know that I cannot respond to all requests for education aid due to insufficient funding,” she said.

“Education is the way out of poverty; therefore, I call on the government to make additional funds available through the CDF, so that no child is left behind,” she added.

A breakdown of his education projects/spending, in conjunction with his One Jamaica Foundation, shows the following:

● Paved the yard of Moore Town Elementary School;

● Assistance with repairs to the primary school in Port Antonio; and

● Participated in the completion of the computer lab at Sea Side Elementary School.

Vaz said $7.5 million of her CDF went to education and she was able to get an additional $2 million from private donors. She also used the extra $3 million for education that was given to all MPs under the social support program through the CDF, and the extra grants that were given through the PATH program. .

James V. Hayes