The 2009/2010 session of Parliament commenced at Gordon House on April 7, with much pomp and ceremony, highlighted by the delivery of the Throne Speech by Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Dr. Patrick Allen.
From as early as 10:00 a.m., a large crowd of well-wishers lined Duke Street to view the proceedings, and offered sporadic cheers at the arrival of the Guard of Honour, led by the Jamaica Military Band in full regalia.
Commissioner of Police, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, came soon after, followed by Jamaica Defence Force Chief of Staff, Major General Stewart Saunders.
The buzz of activity intensified as special guests, including members of the business community, Permanent Secretaries from the various Ministries and the Diplomatic Corps continued to stream through the doors of Gordon House.
Leader of the Opposition, Portia Simpson Miller (third left), leads members of the Opposition to Parliament for the State Opening of Parliament, on April 7.
Excited cheers and singing also rang out at the arrival of Prime Minister, Bruce Golding and Leader of the Opposition Portia Simpson Miller, who went into the crowd to greet their supporters.
At 10:49 a.m., the Governor-General arrived and was met by Major General Saunders after which he inspected the Guard of Honour. Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Representatives then entered the chambers and took their seat.
The Governor-General was escorted into the House by Major General Saunders where he read the Throne Speech, which outlined the priority programmes and policies to be pursued by the Government during the new fiscal year.
In his first Throne Speech, Dr. Allen said that Government would be concentrating its efforts this year on steering the country through the current crisis and building a solid foundation for recovery and growth. He said that focus would be placed on initiatives such as tax reform, to ensure sustained revenue flow and a simple, equitable and investment-friendly tax system.
Governor-General, His Excellency the Most. Hon. Dr. Patrick Allen delivering the Throne Speech at the State Opening of Parliament for the 2009/2010 session of Parliament, on April 7.
New debt-management strategies would also be employed to ease the debt service burden and create fiscal space for growth-generating initiatives.
In addition, gains to reduce poverty will be continued with the strengthening of the no-tuition policy at the secondary school level and initiatives under the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH). Resources will be identified to provide additional drugs under the abolition of user fees policy, while the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), which has significantly impacted the quality of life of citizens, especially in rural areas, will continue.
Efforts to reduce crime and corruption in the police force and in the wider society will also be addressed, while an energy strategy, to improve the country’s productivity and competitiveness and reduce the price of oil, will come on stream this year.
Later this afternoon, the House will have first official sitting for the new fiscal year. This will be marked by the tabling of the 2009/10 Estimates of Expenditure by the Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw.