NEW Member of Parliament for West Rural St Andrew Paul Buchanan is asserting that the revival of the local coffee industry would breathe new life into several of the farming communities in the sprawling constituency.
His pronouncement came just before Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke told representatives of the country's coffee farmers that the Government would be moving to identify funds to re-energise the ailing industry.
However, the new Member of Parliament, who broke the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP's) hold on the seat, wants the Government to go even further.
In this regard, Buchanan said that he has held discussions with the minister of agricutlure regarding the exploration of additional markets in China for Jamaican coffee.
And he believes that the best person to lead those negotiations on Jamaica's behalf is former Prime Minister PJ Patterson.
"Throughout the campaign, I had proposed that former Prime Minister Patterson be asked to lead a trade delegation to China to, in the main, put coffee at the forefront so that we could get a long term deal at a proper price," Buchanan said.
"Once coffee is resuscitated in terms of the proper price and in a real sense, a captive market, a serious chunk of the unemployment problem in the constituency would be addressed. As coffee grows, so does West Rural St Andrew. A lot of the towns, the hinterlands from Mount James, Mount Friendship right up to Brandon Hill and areas of Lawrence Tavern, we are talking coffee," said Buchanan as he spoke with the Sunday Observer last week.
"A PNP administration would be able to get a better deal from China than Dr (Chris) Tufton (former minister of agriculture) had gotten because we have legitimacy with the Chinese Government. When friends were few, this was the vision and the principle of Michael Manley, that we stood with China when the rest of the world saw them as Communists and would not deal with them. That was the case with Cuba and Venezuela and in a real way these three countries are providing support without which we would have serious economic and social problems. Without the help provided to the health sector by the Cubans and the oil subsidy provided by Venezuela, a lot of businesses in Jamaica would simply crumble, and when you add the China link to that you see the power of that vision," he said.
Buchanan said that while a revival of the coffee industry would bring relief to many of his constituents, there were other serious challenges in the economically diverse constituency which also includes areas such as Stony Hill, Golden Spring, Temple Hall, Cavalier, Above Rocks and Smokey Vale.
According to the member of Parliament, poor road conditions, unemployment and a chronic shortage of water are other serious challenges.
He said that discussions have been held with the National Works Agency (NWA) regarding plans for the many deplorable roads.
"I have met already with the NWA and we have toured all the major roads and the affected ones. The area is unique in terms of road problems, as it perhaps has the most precipices and breakaways in Jamaica. We will be moving where funds allow to deal with that issue," he said as he indicated that the road repair programme which was initiated by the previous administration might be affected by the poor management of funds under the Jamaica Infrastructure Development Programme (JDIP).
His concern was triggered by claims from the finance minister, Dr Peter Phillips, that the Holness administration went over budget in the disbursement of JDIP funds, particularly in the lead-up to the recent general election.
According to him, many of the roads that were slated to be repaired only have metal signs indicating an intention to effect repairs.
Despite this, Buchanan is expressing hope that discussions now talking place between the Simpson Miller administration and the Chinese authorities will result in Jamaica being able to increase the US$400 million that was loaned to Jamaica to finance the islandwide road rehabilitation programme.
The member of Parliament said that he is also preparing for talks with the National Water Commission (NWC) on that company's plans to improve the supply of piped water to the communities in the constituency.
"We are going to have some meetings with the NWC to look at what plans there are and to see what we can do in terms of fast tracking the plans for the constituency.
We have set up a constituency management committee and we have assigned people to work with NWC. We have some areas that have been without water for a generation. It is unacceptable that a constituency in the shadows of the hermitage dam, and in which there are so many rivers and springs does not have a reliable water supply," he emphasised as he highlighted the role which will be played by his constituency committee.
"What I have done is establish a skills bank comprising professionals of various types in the constituency. Gone are the days when a MP stands alone and believes that he could be a jack of all trades in a big constituency such as West Rural."
Meanwhile, Buchanan said that he will lobbying for Parliament to enact legislation which will result in financial institutions contributing a percentage of their profits towards inner city and rural development.
"For the long term, I am going to take legislation to Parliament that will look at how we can close the fiscal gap. I am looking at the precedence in the United States where under the Community Reinvestment Act of America, certain conditions are imposed on the financial sector.
"I am going to look at anywhere between two and four per cent of net profits of the financial institutions to be ploughed back into these areas. The banks are making super profits in a sea of poverty. There is no use you talk about growth in the economy and there is no equity. One set of people making all the profits and the rest making all the sacrifices," said the land development economist who has managed several government initiatives including Operation Pride and the Mico Investments Development Agency.
Buchanan acknowledges that although he has just taken over as the Member of Parliament, the demands from constituents are numerous. However, he said that he will not allow himself to fall into the trap that has caught some elected representatives.
"Part of the culture has been that we make promises without even having discussions with the minister of finance, or the subject minister on what is possible. I am having my consultations now. I will go back to my people and tell them what is possible and what is not. My modus will involve scheduling, I will say what is possible this year and next year and perhaps the year after. I will run on a three-year cycle, I am not going to tell you that we going to do every thing, but I will tell you what is possible and when," said Buchanan who was a member of Jamaica's national cricket team in 1967.