- When 43-year-old Andrew Michael Holness was sworn in as Prime Minister of Jamaica on Thursday (March 3), it was the second occasion that the proud son of Spanish Town, St. Catherine, was taking the helm of Government.
- The new Prime Minister, who took the Oath of Office and the Oath of Allegiance during his inauguration at King’s House, created history in 2011 when, at age 39, he became Jamaica’s ninth and youngest Prime Minister.
- He was appointed after the Hon. Bruce Golding resigned as Prime Minister, and served from October 2011 to January 2012.
When 43-year-old Andrew Michael Holness was sworn in as Prime Minister of Jamaica on Thursday (March 3), it was the second occasion that the proud son of Spanish Town, St. Catherine, was taking the helm of Government.
The new Prime Minister, who took the Oath of Office and the Oath of Allegiance during his inauguration at King’s House, created history in 2011 when, at age 39, he became Jamaica’s ninth and youngest Prime Minister.
He was appointed after the Hon. Bruce Golding resigned as Prime Minister, and served from October 2011 to January 2012.
With the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) victory in the February 25 polls, he received his first electoral mandate from the Jamaican people, and with it, the distinction of being the youngest person to be twice sworn in to the most powerful executive position in Jamaica’s political directorate.
Mr. Holness is also the first person born in Jamaica’s post-Independence era to serve as Prime Minister. He was born 10 years after the country gained Independence in 1962.
Also notable is the fact that Mr. Holness is the first Prime Minister whose spouse will also serve as a Member of Parliament in the House of Representatives during the same parliamentary term.
The Most Hon. Juliet Holness, in her first General Election outing, successfully contested the East Rural St. Andrew constituency during the 2016 parliamentary polls, while Mr. Holness retained the West Central St. Andrew seat.
Mr. Holness’ elevation to Prime Minister and the leadership of the governing JLP could arguably be described as destiny fulfilled.
A five-term Member of Parliament, Mr. Holness is regarded as a protégé of former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Edward Seaga, who is credited for introducing him to politics.
He was endorsed as the JLP’s candidate to contest the West Central St. Andrew constituency in the 1997 General Election, which he won to become the area’s Member of Parliament (MP).
In so doing, Mr. Holness became the youngest MP that year, at age 25. He was just one year older than Mr. Golding when he contested and won the former West St. Catherine constituency in the 1972 polls.
Between 1999 and 2007, Mr. Holness served as Opposition Spokesperson on Land and Development; Housing; and Education. Interspersed with these duties was his successful defence of the West Central St. Andrew seat during the 2002 national elections.
Consequent on the JLP’s victory in the 2007 elections, and Mr. Holness’ retention of the constituency, he was appointed Education Minister in the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s Administration, which spanned the period between 2007 and 2011. He also had the distinction of being the youngest person appointed by Mr. Golding.
As Minister, Mr. Holness’ term in office was marked by notable achievements, among them the establishment of the Competence-based Transition Policy. Under this policy, the Government targeted the achievement of 100 per cent literacy among students at the primary level by 2015, with a strategy designed to improve the level of performance nationally, by at least seven per cent, annually.
He also introduced the Alternative Secondary Transitional Education Programme (ASTEP), which provided intensive support and intervention for students not mastering the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), so that they could successfully transition to the secondary level.
Minister Holness’ tenure was also marked by the establishment of Centres of Excellence for schools, a model for private/public sector partnership, in contributing to the education transformation process. The project was guided by a 16-point strategic plan spanning diagnostic testing, technology-supported lesson delivery, highly trained specialist teachers, and creating safe learning environments for students.
The National Education Trust (NET) was another of the programmes implemented, through which funds were raised to develop the island’s education infrastructure, and do away with the shift system in secondary schools.
Mr. Holness also moved to have the State-owned Nutrition Products Limited (NPL), which produces snacks for schoolchildren, divested. This, in a bid to make the entity more efficient in meeting the nutritional needs of students.
At Mr. Holness’ inauguration in 2011, Mr. Seaga welcomed and endorsed him as an ideal candidate for the top position. He pointed out that Mr. Holness “has the right make-up (and) the right characteristics” for the job.
The former Prime Minister recalled meeting Mr. Holness while the latter served as Executive Director of the Voluntary Organisation for the Upliftment of Children (VOUCH), between 1994 and 1996.
“I noted that the person who was running it (VOUCH) was a young man and we got to talking and after sufficient time had passed, I asked if he would like to join me in what I was doing, and he agreed. It’s unusual to find young men in those kinds of situations, because it’s an area in which you are trained to give, and to give support and to give assistance, and men are not that caring. If it was a woman in the position, I could have understood it more. So, to me, it was a unique situation,” he said.
Noting that Mr. Holness displays a “firm disposition,” Mr. Seaga said he is capable of making the correct decisions “with due consideration.”
“Those are the tools you need to handle problems, and with those tools, I expect him to be able to cope. (He) can’t solve all problems at one time. (He should) pick the ones that are most important and the ones that can most readily be solved, so as to make some headway,” Mr. Seaga advised.
In delivering his inaugural speech on March 3, Prime Minister Holness, who was also conferred with the Order of the Nation (ON), indicated that he intends to lead a Government of partnership, pointing out that the “solutions to our problems do not rest with the Government alone.”
“To achieve the vision of shared prosperity through inclusive growth and meaningful job creation, now more than ever, Government must lead, activate, empower and build real partnerships,” he emphasised.
“The sum of our potential exceeds our problems; our collective capabilities are greater than our challenges. But it is only through partnership that these capabilities and this potential can be seized, harnessed and realised for the good of Jamaica,” he added.
In this regard, Mr. Holness extended an invitation to former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, who will now serve as Leader of the Opposition to work with him.
“We may not have been on the same side of the road; (but) as much as possible, we should hold hands in cooperation to overcome obstacles for the good of the country. I still believe it is a useful symbol of national unity for the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to appear together in zones of political exclusions,” he stated, adding that “we intend to continue our…collaborations…in…areas of cooperation between Government and Opposition members.”
Mr. Holness who also pledged to serve the people of Jamaica “faithfully, with all of my energies, all of my heart, mind and soul,” said it was with a “deep sense of gratitude, honour and humility” that he took the Oath of Office, “fully conscious of the magnitude of expectations and responsibility I have assumed.”
In paying tribute to Mrs. Simpson Miller’s stewardship as Prime Minister,
Mr. Holness hailed her “long and dedicated service to Jamaica, adding that he was “equally energised and optimistic about a prosperous future for Jamaica.”