PM’S SPEECH ON ACHIEVING OUR COLLECTIVE GOALS AMERICAS SOCIETY/COUNCIL OF THE AMERICAS LUNCHEON


SALUTATIONS:

Recognition of contribution of Ambassador Frechette who demitted office on July 3.

Welcome to Susan Segal who is now President and CEO of Council of the Americas.

INTRODUCTION

I feel honoured to be invited to address such an influential gathering once again.

I regard your invitation as reflective of your deep interest in Jamaica's development and our historical friendship.

Over the past four decades your organisations have played a leadership role in the debate on political, economic and trade issues as they relate to the private and public sectors and US investors in the Western Hemisphere.

Opportunity to share thoughts on Jamaica's perspectives on major political economic, trade and security issues affecting the world community is most welcome, especially as I am here in New York to attend this year's session of the UN General Assembly.
On the last occasion that I had the privilege to exchange thoughts with your Council and Society, we were focussing then on the future role of the UN at the dawn of the new millennium.

The devastating tragedy of 9/11 shocked the world community into the realisation of the immediate impact that political, social and economic conditions in far flung areas of the world can have on the global order.

The UN's response in galvanising the international community to take collective action against the threat of terrorism was immediate and decisive. Jamaica was then a member of the Security Council. We pledged to fight terrorism through far-reaching and effective international cooperation.

Nations rallied to the call for global action to confront and defeat terrorism in all its forms.
In keeping with our international commitments, an Anti-Terrorism Act to be taken in Jamaican Parliament shortly.

The global economy and particularly the travel industry, is still to recover from the trauma. All countries have been negatively affected, demonstrating the interconnectedness of the economic system.

This is truly a defining moment for the United Nations in order to strengthen the collective will of the international community to meet the current and emerging global challenges.

The threat of unilateralism is real for small states, including those of CARICOM. We therefore are keen to accelerate the reform process even as we are seized with the importance of other threats.

The founders of the UN were very aware of the dangers of unilateralism. They fervently believed that mankind's best hope for creating an environment that would protect against the doctrine of 'might makes right' was in multilateral cooperation. The inspired leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt played a key role in the UN's establishment. His belief in this forum as one through which the peoples of the world could work for global peace remains valid.

WTO-CANCUN

Despite decades of dialogue, advocacy, persuasion and petition, the involvement of developing countries in the management of the world economy continues to be peripheral.

While the forces of globalisation have caused increasing interdependence among countries, producers, consumers and markets, decision-making and management of key institutions in the spheres of finance and trade have not shown any perceptible shift.

If global arrangements in these fields are to provide greater opportunities for the development and human benefits of peoples, then the world agenda must be determined by both developed and developing countries.

It has in many areas reinforced previous disparities and created new ones.

As developing countries, we maintain that the Development Round of negotiations proceed on a more equitable basis:

– the world trade agenda has to be set by both the developing and developed countries and reflects the issues that are critical to each side;

– There be a level playing field for the farmers, manufacturers, and all those involved in the business sector in our countries;

– Small developing countries of CARICOM and beyond, can negotiate for special and differential treatment which takes account of the time needed to adjust our fragile economies.

While the trade negotiations will resume in Geneva at the Ambassadorial level, the next big encounter between Developed and Developing Countries will also take place also in Switzerland at the World Summit on the Information Society in early December.

For all of us in the global society, this is an area of extreme importance , for no one any longer doubts the value of accurate and timely information flows in an era where knowledge holds the key.

In a moment the ticker-tape makes or breaks vital corporate decisions: vital political decisions cannot ignore the influence of instant information.

It is a critical tool in Education and the learning process.

It profoundly affects the ethical values in a world of cultural, ethnic and religious diversity.

We in the developing world wish to serve notice, well in advance, that when we meet in Switzerland we will be insisting on real dialogue there and will not be content simply to accept the dictates of those countries who presently enjoy the most sophisticated forms of modern communication and seek to expand their outreach.

We cannot allow foreign domination to extinguish the Press within our immediate regions and domestic borders, and thereby confine our population to a single point of view. At the same time, we cannot remain passive, while our age-old values and traditions are destroyed and our indigenous forms of cultural expression suffocated.

The Caribbean, which includes Haiti is a model for unity in diversity.

We believe that this gives us a pivotal position in transforming a world threatened by intolerance, bigotry and one dimensional view of self and society.

Our creative diversity could well serve as a best practice for an increasingly globalised world which must appreciate that beyond market forces and a threatening economic determinism there exists a multi-cultural, inter-textural, multi-racial and ecumenical link.

CARIBBEAN SINGLE MARKET AND ECONOMY

The CSME and other regional arrangements represent a critical part of our strategy to meet the challenges of globalisation.

This mechanism, will provide a platform for enhanced trade and economic relations by increasing the scope of the market for exports, imports and investment.

We are well advanced in the programme for creating the legal, institutional and administrative arrangements for the Single Market.

These arrangements will provide for unrestricted movement of goods, services, capital, labour and technology in order to allow for structured integration of production in the Region.
On this basis, optimal production by economic enterprises in the Region can be realised.

The CSME will also involve the establishment of a common trade and economic policy in dealing with the rest of the world. It will entail the harmonisation of economic, fiscal and monetary policies.

– Trade freely without hindrance and achieve economies of scale.

The transition programme requires that the removal of restrictions relating to the movement of services and the Right of Establishment be completed by December 2005.

The Caribbean Court of Justice is to be established as a critical plank of the CSME.

My Government recognises that Jamaica cannot escape the global economic forces and sees the process of integration as part of our strategic response.

The Single Market will prepare us to more easily undertake the other stages of integration, including the FTAA.

JAMAICAN ECONOMIC SITUATION

We have controlled inflation, built the Net International Reserves and improved our credit rating.

The concentration is now firmly on economic growth and job creation.
For the fourth quarter of 2002 and the first half of 2003, GDP growth was above 3%. the prospects for the last quarter of 2003, are for continued expansion of the same order.

These figures reflect a tide of recovery especially after 9/11 that is underpinned by investments in the previous period and the restructuring of the financial sector. the fallout in the mid to late 1990s had been a major factor in the previous downturn in output.

Expansion in bauxite/alumina production, construction activity, increases in tourist arrivals, both stopover and cruise as well as ongoing, rapid growth in several service sectors, are pushing the economy onto a strong growth path.

Investments in modern infrastructure, including roads (Highway 2000), airports, seaports, telecommunications and water systems are underway and have boosted construction activity. These will directly drive GDP growth in the short and medium term and lay the foundation for the further expansion of production sectors.

On my last visit I had outlined the elements of this capital development programme and the millennium projects that are now being implemented. Our economic framework has allowed for private sector investment in these areas, which at unprecedented levels in Jamaica. We regard the healthy response as a sign of confidence in the policy direction and long-term viability of our country.

Tourism which has been performing well this year and is poised for a period of dynamism with commitments for construction of 3,000 hotel rooms in the next 2-3 years, by major international firms.

Cruise passenger arrivals are growing by over 20% and port facilities are slated for big expansion and modernisation that will eventually bring back Kingston as a major destination.

The recently approved Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development includes a specific set of activities –

– Montego Bay Waterfront Development

– Restoration of Seville Park and Falmouth as heritage sites

– Port Royal Development

– Signature attractions aimed at repositioning Jamaica as a premier tourist destination.

We are determined to improve the quality and diversity of our tourism product offering with an emphasis on our rich heritage, culture and world-renowned music.

The bauxite sector is undergoing expansion that will lead to double digit increase in alumina output in 2004, and future large investments are in the making.

We are actively reviewing our tax regime to ensure that it is modern and administratively efficient, and enhances our international competitiveness.
Already, reforms have been undertaken in the fiscal arrangements applicable to the bauxite industry.

We are aggressively seeking investments in our tourism, manufacturing, energy diversification and other sectors, to advance growth.

Immediately, the new Highway 2000 project will open new areas of our country for investment in a wide range of economic activities including information and communication technology (ICT), manufacturing, agro-industry, air cargo and tourism. We invite you to be partners in that process.
Development of new townships will offer access to a trained workforce, consumers and business opportunities with modern transport infrastructure and state-of-the-art telecommunication links.

At the same time, we are continuing the consolidation of the macro-economy.
In particular, we must adjust the fiscal deficit to return to a balanced position by 2005/2006.

The reduction of the debt to GDP ratio is also an absolute necessity. Though difficult, we have set in motion a medium-term programme that will bring about the required adjustment.

It calls for tight management of public expenditure, rationalisation of the public sector to achieve greater efficiency and cut costs. Faster GDP growth will also help to move us towards the targets for the fiscal accounts and the debt ratio.

Jamaica has had an unblemished record of meeting its debt obligations in full and on time.
My Administration will maintain this record.

Foreign investors are able to enjoy free access to our economy and our foreign exchange system has been transformed so as to allow for free movement of capital. The strong NIR position puts us in a situation to have an open foreign exchange market which clears every day.

SOCIAL SITUATION

We continue to wage a vigorous battle against poverty by undertaking an ambitious social investment programme that covers social welfare, health and education. This is essential to the social stability necessary for economic development. A comprehensive reform of the social welfare system is well underway, which covers educational grants, health care and income support.

The National Health Fund was recently established, providing coverage for specific illnesses.
These interventions serve to improve the living conditions of the poor and further raise the standard of health care that is presently among the higher levels for developing countries.

Crime still remains a problem in our society, especially in inner city communities that have been infiltrated by drug and gun traffickers.
The trade has spawned some violent gangs.
The massive scale of deportations from the USA, Canada and UK has amplified this problem.

Major anti-crime initiative has brought some respite, but the murder rate is much too high. Greater efforts are being pursued through:

– strengthening of the police force by extensive recruitment, and training of new officers and re-equipping of the force;

– formation of National Intelligence Bureau;

– Introduction of new technologies;

– overhauling of existing legislation relating to fingerprint, and introduction of laws governing port security and proceeds of crime;

– Anti-terrorism Act to be introduced shortly.

– Greater community involvement is necessary to successfully confront major crimes, and a citizens group is now actively engaging inner city communities in dispute resolution.

A bold new move is about to be implemented by the Administration to address urban decay by the provision of 3 000 new housing units to replace the worst slums in certain inner city communities.

A major Development of the Kingston Business District will soon commence.

EDUCATION remains the top priority in terms of budgetary resources, as we regard it as the main instrument for social and economic empowerment.

It is the most devastating weapon in the fight against poverty. It is only through a solid education system that the needs of our job market can be met for us and for the USA where you have critical shortages and seek to attract teachers and nurses.

We have attained universal access at the primary level, and access to early childhood education presently stands at 94%. Enrolment at the secondary level has been raised to (70%). Tertiary enrolment already stands at over 14%.

Living standards have improved significantly in the past decade as reflected in access to potable water and electricity.
Dramatic expansion has taken place in access to housing.

The number of dwellings constructed in the 1991-2001 period exceeded the combined figures for the 1970s and 1980s.

THE SOCIAL CONTRACT:

At the national level we have sought to encourage our private sector to become more efficient in order to be able to compete in an increasingly open trading system, in which traditional barriers are being progressively removed. Here I should must observe that the proponents of free trade have not always abided by the principles they have preached.

In the effort to become more competitive, the private sector is being driven to keep abreast of the latest techniques of production which are designed to enable enterprises to operate more economically based on just-in-time techniques of production.

We recognise the need to change some elements of the structure of our economy through a process of diversification, based on the identification of new areas in which we may be able to produce, on a competitive basis, goods and services which the global market demands.

This does not imply a complete abandonment of industries that have served us well in the past.
Some lines of production might have to be discontinued or modified.

The challenge in most cases will be to introduce improvements in the productivity of these enterprises with a view to making them competitive.

We recognise that the path of sustained development on which these measures are premised, will require an effective partnership between Government, organised labour and the private sector.

We as the Government have sought to provide the necessary support at the policy level in the form of investments in infrastructure and through considerable improvements in health and education – all of which are essential if we are to provide a supporting structure to sustain the pattern of development, which we have outlined.

These developments require the establishment of an effective partnership between Government, Trade Unions, the Private Sector and the rest of Civil Society. But we will also need to mobilise a wider social partnership to include all the various elements of civil society working in harmony to achieve agreed national development objectives.

CONCLUSION

My Administration is continuing its mission of raising living standards by creating the platform for a dynamic and market-driven economy which can generate long-term growth and employment opportunities.

We recognise that our mission can only be accomplished by a national effort that unleashes the entrepreneurial spirit of our people.

Important to this is the creation of a facilitatory environment and the encouragement of foreign investment.

We are reforming the public bureaucracy and our legislative and regulatory processes.
Our incentive regime is also undergoing reform to simplify its administration and ensure that it is internationally competitive.

We seek your participation as we strive to accelerate investment and growth that will create more opportunities for quality jobs and ensure prosperity for all our people.

We are building partnerships among the various social forces at home and internationally through the CSME and other regional groupings.

The participation of international business firms by way of investment capital, technology and marketing is contributing to our development process.

I invite you to heighten your interest; to increase your involvement for we who belong to this Hemisphere of the Americas; share a common interest in the well-being of our people and promoting peace, harmony and prosperity for this and succeeding generations because we live in a world that should be strong united and indivisible.

JIS Social