JIS News

Every year I have the difficult task of deciding which of the many vibrant Jamaican communities in the Diaspora I should visit to join in the celebrations at this special time on our national calendar.
The historic ties between New York and Jamaica are strong and unbreakable. This city has long been the adopted home of many generations of Jamaicans. The most illustrious was, of course, our National Hero, Rt. Excellent Marcus Garvey. It was also from here in New York that some of our leading intellectuals devoted their creativity and energy to our struggle for self-government and Independence.
You, the current residents of New York and the tri-state area – as well as the large number of you who have travelled from well outside the area to be here with us – continue that wonderful tradition of support and commitment to Jamaica. I know that however far and for however many years you may roam; our beautiful island will always be the home of your hearts.
In that spirit of loyalty to our country, you have come out in your numbers this evening to commemorate two significant milestones in our history as a people. It has always been my firm, personal belief that we must do honour to those of our forefathers who struggled to free themselves from the inhuman condition of slavery. That is why, during my first years in office, I re-instituted Emancipation Day as a national holiday. Emancipation Day – 167th anniversary – Independence Day – 43rd anniversary of Independence, as you know.
I am pleased to be in New York for these celebrations and, as is customary, I am receiving the warm reception and very kind words to which I have become accustomed. I thank you sincerely.
Each year, proceeds from this event go to very deserving causes in Jamaica. You provide resources for a range of institutions and charities which continue to work in concert with our government, the private sector and civil society in helping to sustain and to give hope to some of those who most need assistance of this kind.
We are very grateful for your many years of enthusiastic support and your altruism whether on an individual level, or as a member of one, or in some cases more than one, of the many supportive Jamaican organizations. On behalf of the beneficiaries of your generosity, I say a heartfelt “thank you”.
Let me also extend my thanks and congratulations to those of you in this community who have thrown their energy and support behind the Jamaica Diaspora Foundation.
The Foundation is the institutional framework we are designing to facilitate formal and structured participation in our nation’s development by our Jamaican compatriots. The aim is to deepen and strengthen linkages between those Jamaicans living abroad with those of us at home.
We have prepared legislation for the establishment of the Foundation in order to guarantee it the permanence it deserves. We are also establishing the Jamaica Diaspora Institute accountable to a Board of the Foundation.
There was a time not so long ago when visits by officials from Jamaica, and very definitely by Prime Ministers, was the occasion for long and detailed accounts of events at home. Today, in this age of technology and information this is no longer necessary.
I am quite sure that all of you here have access to the World Wide Web and Cable television, and that you are able on a daily, indeed on an hourly basis, to keep up with developments in Jamaica by other means as well. Along with formal communication media there is also the good, old bush telegraph. With the number of cell phones in our island, I know you are kept up-to-the minute on every single event as it happens! The combination of communication technology and our propensity to enjoy a good little labrish gives new meaning to your ability to get your news “live and direct”!
Right now in Jamaica there is a new political dynamic at work. Not too long ago, the Opposition elected a new Leader of their Party who is naturally eager to make his mark.
My own impending retirement and the democratic election in the People’s National Party to select a new President and, in accordance with our Constitution, a new Prime Minister, has clearly lent an air of excited anticipation in political circles, in large sections of the general public, and of course, in our media.
All of this is taking place in an environment of a free and open democracy envisioned by our nation’s founders and which I have made a personal mission to advance.
Our democracy is underpinned by an electoral system of unquestioned integrity which is now being used as a model for other countries
The public sector understands and operates in a manner that leaves no doubt that we are the servants of the people. We have established systems in order to restore integrity and probity to public life. In this regard I have implemented 14 initiatives to improve governance and accountability in the public sector; Freedom of speech and of the press is encouraged and facilitated. Witness the opening up of the media to private ownership; witness the large number (I think there were about 17 national radio stations – at last count) and a number of community radio stations; three national TV stations and a large number of cable TV franchise operators at the community level.
Putting a seal on my efforts to secure open government is the coming into force of the Access to Information Act.
The Act exists “to reinforce and give further effect to certain fundamental principles underlying the system of constitutional democracy, namely -Governmental accountability;transparency; and public participation in national decision-making.
When you factor all this into the interesting political times we are now in, you can expect a lot of excitement- Jamaica -style!
In this environment, your challenge is not finding information but rather learning how to sift through what comes to you. You need to be concerned with the quality and the source of the information you receive as well as the motive of the presenter. At this time, as responsible, thinking Jamaicans, it is very important that you exercise critical judgment of all you see and hear.
I know that, despite my wish to revert to being the party animal I once was, before the burden of office tempered that particular aspect of my nature, there are just a few things I feel obliged to share with you before we get down to the real business of the evening. “droppin’ foot” or “boogeyin’ on down”.. or however you phrase it these days! You know what I mean!
As our economy continues on a solid growth path, you will no doubt be aware of the rising level of confidence of both consumers and businesses.
We are now enjoying the highest levels of business confidence since measurement of these indicators started three years ago.
Correspondingly, the investment climate is regarded by important international agencies such as the IMF and rating agencies as being the best in several decades.
This is reflected in record levels of foreign direct investment, which puts Jamaica among the best performers in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Investment by local entrepreneurs is also rising significantly.

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