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Your Excellencies the Most Hon Professor Kenneth Hall, the Most Hon. Mrs. Hall, Members of the Cabinet, Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Members of the Privy Council, ladies and gentlemen. I wanted to first of all express my thanks to the Governor General for allowing me to disturb him yet once again, and to assure him that I shall disturb him no more. But to thank him for having opened the door of his residence, to enable us to witness the swearing-in of Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries, Those are requirements of the constitution. What is not a requirement but something that he has given so effusively is the graciousness with which he has conducted all of these ceremonies.
The swearing-in today of the Ministers of State and the Parliamentary Secretaries, concludes the installation of the new government. The transition is now completed. We still have the composition of parliament to complete, and of the 13 senators that I am provided in the constitution to nominate, seven have so far been nominated. They occupied positions either in cabinet, as Ministers of State or Parliamentary Secretaries. I will be advising His Excellency of my nomination of the remaining six positions in the Senate before the end of this week. I hope that as soon as all of the legal requirements are fulfilled, that the Governor-General will be in a position to issue a proclamation summoning the new Parliament because we have much work to do. And I am anxious that we get on with the work of the people.
The Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries, who have been appointed today, have been appointed to assist the respective Ministers in the carrying out of their functions, in the discharge of their duties in the various ministries. Some of them have already been advised of the clearly defined assignments that they are being given. Certainly within the Office of the Prime Minister, there will be three Ministers of State. Mr. Robert Montague, who has tremendous experience in Local Government and is in fact the Chairman of the Commonwealth Local Government body, will be given specific responsibility to expedite, to fast track, to bring to conclusion this on-ending process of local government reform.
When we spend such a long time, 30 years reforming something, we may find ourselves in the invidious position where we will then need to reform the reforms that we have reformed. And I want this process to be brought to fruition for us to deliver on our commitment to establish an autonomous local government system that is accountable, that is efficient and that is committed to delivering service to people at the local level where that service is so critical to their daily lives.
We had given a commitment, it was part of the platform on which we campaigned, that we were determined to improve the effectiveness of political representation.Better rights to Members of Parliament and especially.greater authority to the Opposition in Parliament. This is on the Parliamentary side.
But we are equally committed to strengthening the effectiveness of representation in the constituencies themselves. I have always shared the frustration of Members of Parliament on both sides of the aisle, that they spend so much time campaigning, seeking to win the confidence of the people and in the process of that, being informed by the people as to what their needs were, what their priorities are, then having been elected find themselves impotent, sterile, incapable of responding to the needs that the people have so passionately brought to their attention.
I have always had a difficulty with a system where Ministers were not necessarily elected by the people in a particular constituency. But Ministers are the ones who have the power to decide which road is to be repaired, which water supply system is to be improved, which projects are to be undertaken in the constituency. The difficulty with that is that that Minister is not accountable to those people, those people hold accountable the Member of Parliament that they elected. But the Member of Parliament throws up his hands in the air and said I can’t do anything. I have appealed to the Minister and I have got no response. I am determined, that we have to change that, because that is the only way we are going to be able to redeem the faith and confidence of the people in the power of their vote, in knowing that when you vote you are voting for something, and when that something is not delivered there is somebody that you can effectively hold accountable.
And therefore we gave a commitment that we are going to set aside two and half per cent of the budget to be allocated equally among all 60 constituencies.
There is going to be no differentiation between those constituencies represented by the JLP or those represented by the PNP. And those funds are to be used to finance projects in the various constituencies in which the Member of Parliament, whom the people elected, will have some say and some influence in determining.
But I want to make it clear, this is not a slush fund, this is not going to be a pork barrel. It is going to be subjected to the most stringent scrutiny and auditing requirements. The government’s transactions are audited on a random basis, where the Auditor General will identify a particular department that he will decide to audit in a particular year.
There is no year in which the Auditor General is ever able to audit as much as ten per cent of government transactions. So what the Auditor General does and report to Parliament on is a sample audit.
In the case of this two and a half per cent, which is going to finance the constituency development fund, we are going to require that it be audited 100 per cent. Every penny of that fund must be accounted for.
It is not going to be there for MPs to do as they like. We are not going to allow MPs to travel around with a pencil behind their ears, penciling out this money as they go along. We are going to require each MP to prepare and submit to Parliament by the end of this fiscal year, 31st March, a proposed constituency development plan for their constituency for the next five years. We are going to make available to them all of the technical resources of government, whether it involves engineering, whether it involves social work practitioners, whatever are the areas they established as priorities, we will make available the resources to help them to develop that plan and to deliver it before the 31st of March.
Once that plan is approved, then that is the plan to which these funds will each year be committed. It will not be entirely new funds. Some of the funds will represent funds that Ministers now have the discretion or have up to now had the discretion to spend as they please. We are going to re-allocate those funds to the constituency development fund so that the people’s representatives, the MPs not the Minister, can have some say in the selection of priorities in their constituencies.
This programme is going to require a lot of work because it’s brand new. I am going to be meeting this week with the relevant government agencies that are going to be involved in the planning and the vetting and the guidance that this plan will require. But it is going to require somebody at the political directorate level, to drive it, to make sure that those that are at the constituency level who are involved in preparing the submission, understand what is required, to ensure that we lay out the proper guidelines as to the kinds of projects, that can be financed under this plan and for that reason I will be assigning specific responsibility for the constituency development programme to be financed from this fund to Mrs. Shahine Robinson, the Member of Parliament for North East St. Ann.
I have assigned Mr. Daryl Vaz to the Office of the Prime Minister for a very specific reason. One of the great areas of failing in government and governance is the failure to efficiently implement projects, the failure to complete projects on-time, the enormous overruns that we encounter sometimes with these projects. Another major area has to do with the quality of service that government delivers to the people. There are some areas that have shown improvement, but there are still some areas where the quality of service is shoddy and the people are being short changed. Daryl Vaz will have specific responsibility to monitor and report to me on project implementation, and on service delivery throughout the entire government system.
As regards the other Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries, their specific assignments will be subject to discussion with their respective Ministers and ultimately to be approved by me. And I will allow then have sufficient time for those consultations before those specific assignments are established.
But to indicate the Ministries in which they will be working, Senator Arthur Williams will be assigned as Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security; Mr. J.C Huthchinson, MP, will be assigned to the Ministry of Agriculture; Mr. Laurie Broderick, will be assigned to the Ministry of Mining, Energy and Telecommunications; Mr. Michael Stern, to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Investments; Mr. Everald Warmington, will be assigned to the Ministry of Water and Housing; Mr. Joseph Hibbert, will be assigned to the Ministry of Transport and Works. A Ministry in which he once held the position of Chief Technical Director, he goes back there now in a different capacity.
Dr. Ronald Robinson will be assigned Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. And regarding the Parliamentary Secretaries, Mr. Aundre Franklyn will be assigned to the Ministry of Health and Mr. Warren Newby will be assigned to the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports.
Again, in the selection of what are generally referred to as Junior Ministers, I have sought to ensure a blend of the wisdom that comes from experience and the energy and creativity that come from young minds.
I want to stress, that what is required of us is team effort. We went into the election united. We were a team. We sought the people’s trust and confidence as a team and we were given a mandate as a team. We must ensure that in the work that we do as members of the political executive, that we approach that work as a team. A house that is divided against itself cannot stand. And I expect each of you to enable me to give the country at all times the assurance that this house will never be divided.
I told the Cabinet Ministers at their own swearing-in that there will be no honeymoon, and hope you understand that there will be no honeymoon for you either. You have been warned of sleepless nights. We expect to have sleepless nights, because I expect that you are going to be working night and day to deal with the problems that confront this country and therefore it is going to rob you of some of the sleep that you normally get at night.
We have been told that we are going to be visited by a nightmare; we already are wrestling with that nightmare. We come to government, inheriting a debt of almost a trillion dollars. That is an enormous nightmare. When we left office in 1989, that debt was $38 billion. Today it is almost a thousand billion dollars. We have a nightmare.
We have a crime rate in which the murder total this year, if it continues on the same trajectory is likely to be in excess of 1300. When we left office the murder toll at that time which was to our mind a crisis was 413, we have a nightmare in crime. And therefore, be prepared for the sleepless nights, because these are not problems that are of such a nature that they are going to be able to be solved working normal sedate 8-hour shifts. You are going to have to work through the nights and you are going to lose some sleep. But be not afraid of any other sleepless night or any other nightmare, those we have the capacity to respond to and to deal with.
I am advised that I had omitted to indicate the specific ministerial assignment of Mr. Andrew Gallimore. Just to advise that he will be working with Minister Pearnel Charles as Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
The country expects of us hard work. This country has grown very critical of politicians and of the practice of politics. The have grown very cynical, they demand a great deal, they expect very little and they are harsh in their criticisms and condemnations when in the very little that they expect fails to be delivered. We need to understand that part of our challenge is to redeem the practice of politics, to let the people of Jamaica understand that politicians can mean what they say. That politicians can be true to the commitments that they made, and that politicians can dedicate themselves to fulfilling the mandate that they have been given.
I ask all of you, all of you, at all times, to be truthful to the people of Jamaica. If unpleasant news is what represents the truth, be truthful to the people of Jamaica. It is the first building block of the trust that we must engender. I ask you to, at all times, to remember, as I said at my own swearing-in we are public servants, that is our first calling to serve the people of Jamaica.
There is going to be no place in the utterances that we make, in the conduct that we demonstrate, in the decisions that we take, there is going to be no place for arrogance, no place for pomposity. I ask you to remember that the power that we will exercise does no belong to us, it belongs to the people and it can never be transferred from the people; the people have placed it in our hands, simply for us to exercise that power on their behalf, in their interests and in their name. But at all times remember it is not our power, it is the power that belongs to the people and it is to the people and for the people’s benefit and welfare that that power must be dedicated.
Thank you very much.