JIS News

Tomorrow, our nation begins a new chapter in governance when my political colleague of over thirty years, the Honourable Portia Simpson Miller, takes the reins of office as the seventh Prime Minister of Jamaica.
She does so on a tremendous wave of popular support within Jamaica and beyond. As I have done on several public occasions within the last four weeks, I extend to her my sincere good wishes and personally pledge my ongoing support for her and her entire Administration. I do so, first, as a committed Jamaican citizen, but also as a loyal member of the political movement to which we both proudly belong.
Tonight I speak to you with gratitude for the many prayers and expressions of encouragement which have been extended to me and in recognition of the supreme privilege which I have enjoyed in serving you as Prime Minister of our country for the past fourteen years.
These indeed have been testing and challenging years. They have also been years when as a nation we have demonstrated our capacity to achieve. There have been times when we have shown the world that small size and a history of underdevelopment are not insurmountable barriers to progress and success as judged by international benchmarks.
It has been my privilege and honour to lead a team of dedicated men and women who have brought wisdom, commitment, experience and sensitivity to their work as members of the Cabinet and our Council of Ministers.
I wish also to commend all the public service groups, our teachers and security forces who have worked with diligence and devotion in building our nation.
It has been for me a rewarding experience to preside over the forging of stronger partnerships between the government, our employers, the unions, investors and the non-government and community based organisations as we worked together to pursue our common national vision.
Whatever else we may have done as a government, it cannot be denied that we have created unprecedented opportunities for dialogue, for broad consultation, and for joint participation in many areas of social and economic endeavour. I have sought to operate in a spirit of inclusiveness and to broaden the base of partnership in governance at all levels. I want to thank everyone who has responded and who has contributed to making the system work.
I also want to thank once again and very specially the public sector workers of our country. I thank them not only for their contribution to the fiscal and social programmes of the government, through the Memorandum of Understanding which expires this week, but also for their consistent efforts to provide an ever improving quality of service to the public. At the policy level, they have been instrumental in the development of new policies, while the Citizen’s Charters have guided them to more efficient and courteous service to their clients.
Much has changed in the past fourteen years and I am supremely confident that the progress will continue.
1. We took a bold step in 1994 when Jamaica ended a borrowing relationship with the International Monetary Fund. Many thought we were unwise to take that course. We did it, and in taking that path, we allowed ourselves more control over the use of our own resources. We were able to devote a higher level of budgetary support to areas like education, health and the social services than would previously have been possible under the old IMF borrowing relationship. Of course, we have continued to exercise proper management of our fiscal programme, but we have done it on our terms.
2. My administration has been credited with substantial investment in infrastructure improvement. Of course, that is very gratifying. However, it must equally be appreciated that the approach was a strategic one. No country can attract meaningful investment unless there is some assurance that people and goods are able to move safely and efficiently. I recognise that much work still remains to be done on our interior, community and farm roads, (especially those ravaged by a series of natural disasters), but we have settled the plans for that to happen within as short a period as the resources will allow.
3. In the meantime, the expansion of our airports and our seaports and the unprecedented level of investment in the tourism sector have already made a major contribution to growth in our economy and more employment for our people. Again, our strategic interventions have been designed to ensure that the tourism sector through its linkages with farmers, entertainers, large and small business people, manufacturers, artists and craftsmen and so many others of our life, will make a difference to more Jamaicans than ever before.
4. Equally, the expansion of telecommunication services and the widespread application of information technology has been a deliberate strategy to increase the opportunity for new kinds of business and employment, to improve efficiency and productivity at the workplace and to give the student, the citizen, the elderly, and the challenged more opportunities for the better management of their personal affairs. All of this speaks to a better and higher quality of life for all our people.
Fellow Jamaicans:
We have provided more land and water all over the island and have surpassed the achievements of all previous Governments in providing housing solutions for our people.
During my tenure, the National Housing Trust, now marking its 30th anniversary, has fulfilled that bold initiative of Michael Manley.
It can be fairly said that under my watch, the Trust has vastly expanded its reach and its services. Lower income earners, inner-city dwellers, first time purchasers as well as long term contributors have all benefited from the new policies and programmes of the Housing Trust.
Other institutions such as the National Housing Development Corporation, including Operation PRIDE, have also played a major role in the nation’s housing drive.
We record our progress in housing, conscious that the future holds out even greater promise for even more improvements in this area. We continue to benefit from past experience as we design our housing settlements to provide more wholesome environments for social interaction. A house indeed is not a home unless it is an oasis of peace, of caring, of nurturing and the exercise of personal responsibility. A community is not a community in the true sense if it is dominated by criminal elements.
The government has developed social programmes which support and encourage good family practices, and there have been some successful targeted social interventions in particular communities.
It is clear, however, that much of what has been accomplished and what we must achieve depends on the work of individuals and groups from the religious institutions, the NGO and voluntary sectors, the service clubs and community based organisations. I express my thanks to them and my confidence that they will continue to help sustain the kinds of homes and communities in which our children, our elderly and the vulnerable will be able to thrive and make their full contribution.
One of the developments in our country which has given me the greatest personal satisfaction is the bi-partisan parliamentary resolution on Education which has resulted in the Education Transformation programme now underway. During my tenure we have increased access to educational opportunities at every level – from Basic School to Tertiary Institutions. The Education Transformation Agenda, which I launched last year, envisages the most fundamental and radical reform of all and I certainly urge all Jamaicans, all stakeholders, all Parliamentarians, Government and Opposition alike to give it their fullest support to ensure its success.
We need to combine patience with a demand for accountability. We need to recognise limitations but not to be bound by them. We must make the targets a real priority, not just in our talk but in our action, through our budget allocations and in the efficiency of our implementation. Given our proud history as a people whose excellence is demonstrated in so many ways, let educational opportunity and excellence in academic, skill and personal achievement become, as it were, our gold standard for the future.
Our leadership into that future is now passing to a new leader with her own team. The Jamaican people are clearly in support of her and anxious to be part of a forward movement.
I am very sure that the change can provide a fresh impetus and create new dynamics in that forward movement.
I am equally confident that this little rock, called Jamaica, will continue to be a place of pride for the overwhelming majority of the five million here and abroad who regard Jamaica as their home.
Jamaica means something special to people all over the world. We are a unique brand. And for the majority of those who truly know, we are a positive and exciting brand.
But we are more than just a name which is recognized and associated with music, or sports, or coffee or racial tolerance.
We are indeed a people and a place abundantly blessed by God and nature.
We experience major challenges arising from geographical location, international trading arrangements and historical antecedents. But we are above all strong, creative, ambitious, bold and resilient.
We are respected and admired by individuals and nations better resourced, more economically advanced, more equipped with greater military might and with more geo-political influence than we will ever acquire.
But we are Jamaica. We must continue to draw strength from the extraordinary achievements of our past and be inspired by the bright hopes for our future.
Let us strive to realise our vision to create within the next decade, a nation which is prosperous, democratic and one where each citizen living in peace and harmony, is afforded the opportunity to develop his or her full potential.
Tonight, I say with all sincerity, it has been my great privilege to serve this country as your Prime Minister. I continue to pray God’s blessings on us all as those blessings have sustained me through your prayers over these past fourteen years.
My heart, like yours, salutes Jamaica. And may the Almighty help us to build and preserve this blessed land as together we keep our nation “triumphant, proud and free”.