It is for me a blessing to be afforded the opportunity to participate in another historic day in our Nation and this Honourable House.
For the first time a woman rises as Prime Minister of Jamaica to deliver a Budget Presentation. I cannot help reflecting on the struggle over the years of exemplary women such as Nanny, our only female National Heroine, Mary Seacole, Hyacinth Lightbourne, Iris Tulloch, May Farquharson, Amy Jacques Garvey, Amy Bailey, Lady Bustamante, Edna Manley, and the hundreds of unsung heroines.
My presence in this capacity is a tribute to all the women who have sat in the Parliament and Parish Councils over the years. It is also a tribute for those who are sitting members today and indeed a tribute to all the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, nieces and daughters in Jamaica.
Let me, therefore, ask the men in this Chamber on both sides of the House to applaud the women of Jamaica for their tremendous contribution to our nation over these many years.
Indeed Mr. Speaker, my presence is also a tribute to all the leaders of our country who have in one way or another contributed to the advancement of women in our nation.
I speak of the Rt. Excellent Norman Washington Manley, the Rt. Excellent Sir William Alexander Bustamante, the Most Honourable Sir Donald Burns Sangster, the Most Honourable Hugh Lawson Shearer, the Most Honourable Michael Norman Manley, the Most Honourable Edward Phillip George Seaga and the Most Honourable Percival Noel James Patterson.
Mr. Speaker, let me first thank the people of Jamaica both those at home and in the diaspora for their prayers, support and love. Very specially, I want to thank the children all over Jamaica, who during my campaign created a special bond with me.
I also want to thank the members of my constituency for their unconditional support since I entered representational politics in 1974. They have never let me down and I do not intend to let them down.
Let me also thank my husband, Errald, my housekeeper Marva, my family, my Party, and my many friends and well-wishers for their love and support.
To the Church, I also want to say thanks for their continued prayers which mean so much to me.
I want to say a very special thank you to my predecessor, the Most Honourable P. J. Patterson, who served with distinction for 14 consecutive years, as well as my Cabinet colleagues past and present.
I feel proud today to be succeeding him, the longest serving Prime Minister of Jamaica, and a distinguished president of the People’s National Party.
He is in the line of stalwart leaders of an organization that I presently head.
You know, Mr. Speaker, the common thread that runs through and characterizes these leaders, from Norman Manley through Michael Manley through P. J. Patterson is high- grade integrity.
I intend to be a noble trustee of this fine tradition.Finally, let me thank the hard working members of the public sector, especially those with whom I had the privilege of working in the Ministries of Labour, Social Security and Sport; Tourism and Sport, and Local Government, Community Development and Sport, the staff of the Cabinet Office, the Office of the Prime Minister as well as my security detail and support staff.
In 1962 when this nation became independent our founding fathers took some important decisions. They gave to us a National Anthem and they chose to make it a prayer.
Our prayer and supplication to God Almighty for our country and our people were captured in the words of this anthem.
“Eternal Father, bless our landGuard us with Thy mighty handKeep us free from evil powersBe our light through countless hoursTo our leaders, Great Defender, Grant true wisdom from aboveJustice, truth be ours foreverJamaica, land we love”
Teach us true respect for allStir response to duty’s callStrengthen us the weak to cherishGive us vision lest we perishKnowledge send us Heavenly FatherGrant true wisdom from aboveJustice, truth be ours for everJamaica Land we love, Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica Land we love.
Our founding fathers also gave us a National Pledge.
“Before God and all mankind, I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart
The wisdom and courage of my mind The strength and vigour of my bodyIn the service of my fellow citizens
I promise to stand up for Justice,Brotherhood and PeaceTo work diligently and creatively, To think generously and honestly So that Jamaica may under GodIncrease in beauty, fellowship and prosperityAnd play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.” This means that at the threshold of independence, our leaders pointed us to putting our faith in God and to hard work and diligence. The manner in which we have abided by their advice gives me great concern. From my point of view, I have no fear to affirm my strong belief in God.
Let me again make it quite clear that I am not perfect. I am a mere mortal like any of us in this country. Mistakes will be made, but my prayers everyday and every night are and will be for the guidance of the Almighty in this awesome job of being Prime Minister of this country.
A debate on being appointed or being called to service, is not the critical issue at this time. Everybody is entitled to his or her belief. I have faith in the Almighty.
The measure of my faith and relationship with God can only be judged by Him. It is on that basis that my faith will be judged.
Mr. Speaker, as I said before, I am conscious of the fact that this is a historic moment.
As a firm believer in the Bible, it has not escaped my attention that I am the seventh Prime Minister of Jamaica.
To those who understand the significance and symbolism of numbers in the Bible, it will be recognized that seven is the number for wholeness, completion and fullness.
It is perhaps not without significance, too, Mr. Speaker, that today marks 40 days since my swearing-in as Prime Minister. Again, another significant number in Biblical symbolism. We recall, for example, that Jesus was prepared for His ministry after his forty days of fasting.
Today I feel prepared and spiritually filled for my service on behalf of all the people, but especially the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized, who need me most.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, as you heard over and over in the refrain on Thursday, “She was there”. Yes, I was there and now I am here. But I am here to tell the Opposition Leader that he won’t have the opportunity to move from there to here!
So continue to have fun at my expense, for you will be there for a very long time!
I will be here working to uplift the lives of the poor, women, children, business people – large and small – the weak and strong in the entire nation.
Mr. Speaker,My participation in the Government for the past 17 years is undeniable. I was there. Indeed, during this time, some great things have been achieved for the people.
Those of us who participated should be proud of these achievements, despite some shortcomings. There has never been a perfect government anywhere in the world – show me one.
But you know what Mr. Speaker, through the ups and downs of these past seventeen years I never went flip flopping here, there and everywhere.
I never changed colour from one to the other and back again. And when things got tough I did not turn my back and run only to return when I could find no place of abode.
Instead Mr. Speaker, I was guided by Isaiah 40:31.
“They that wait upon the Lord Shall renew their strength They shall mount up with wings as eagles They shall run and not be weary They shall walk and not faint.” And as the song says “Teach me Lord, teach me Lord how to wait.”
Mr. Speaker, I recommend the Prophet Isaiah to my friend opposite. There seems to be general agreement that the quality of this year’s Budget Debate has been high.
But, Mr. Speaker, several of the proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition sounded very familiar.
He has clearly been listening, observing and reading. In response I say,
On Human Rights – Read my Inauguration SpeechOn Corruption – Read the Inauguration and my Campaign Launch SpeechesOn Abuse of citizens by the security forces – Read my Inauguration SpeechOn Charter of Rights – Read the Throne SpeechOn Real time court proceedings – Read the Throne SpeechOn Public Financing of Political Parties – Read the Throne SpeechOn Constitutional and Parliamentary Reform – Read the PNP Manifesto 2002.
Mr. Speaker, it is either that our views have become identical or I am receiving the best form of flattery. The talks, proposed by the Leader of the Opposition should not be difficult, therefore, because there is convergence of views.
What I am not sure of is whether his Party supports him on all the things that he has put forward, because they do not seem to support him on his “new and different” view of the separation of powers.
I say to the Opposition Leader let us sit down and in the interest of the entire Jamaica, let us and our teams discuss the constitutional and other issues involving the use of power.
I would spurn no opportunity to constructively discuss with the Opposition any set of issues which could positively impact the lives of the Jamaican people.
In fact Mr. Speaker the Opposition leader spoke of the Corruption Prevention Commission and called for changes in its operations.
Even before he spoke, the Government had proposed to make changes and today I am pleased to announce that Cabinet before the end of this month will consider making The Corruption Prevention Commission a creature of Parliament just as the Integrity Commission and the Ombudsman.
This should be so Mr. Speaker, because the Corruption Commission oversees all the ministries and agencies including the Ministry of Justice to which it now reports.
In agreeing to these discussions, Mr. Speaker, recall the Throne Speech which clearly stated this country was not only about the Government and the Opposition. There are thousands of persons who are neither PNP nor JLP.
This country belongs to them too and our policy to empower communities is one of the strategies to bring them into the discussions and determination of Government policies.
All these persons must also be involved in the preparation of Development Plans and projects and be engaged in their efficient and effective implementation.
That is why concepts such as 60/40 are outdated and can no longer work – 60 for the Government and 40 for the Opposition can no longer work.
It is within this context that I am prepared to establish mechanisms where both the Government, the Opposition, and most importantly the wider society can engage in the search for real and workable solutions on behalf of the people of Jamaica.
As Marcus Mosiah Garvey said “Before you have a Government you must have the people. Without the people there can be no Government. The Government must be, therefore, an expression of the will of the people.”
This new approach to governance – empowering all Jamaicans, not just the Government and the Opposition but all the people is what I am about. That is my pledge to the people and that is what I will deliver.
THE CHALLENGES BEFORE US
Mr. Speaker, I now turn to the vision for my Administration as well as the journey we must take to get there.
You are well aware of my life long advocacy for policies to improve the lives and conditions of the poor, the marginalized and the disempowered in our society.
My position is not merely political, but it is also deeply philosophical.
The well-being of any society depends on the well-being of all its people. The measure of a good society, therefore, is how it treats the poor, the aged, those with disabilities and our women and children.
Far too many of our people are engaged in a continuous struggle for mere survival and are relentlessly occupied in that human task of finding food and water at least once per day.
Their lives are further complicated by the negative impact of violence, corruption, natural disasters and other unplanned events. Their lives are a tough and unforgiving struggle, dedicated only to ‘right now’, and decorated by two conflicting human emotions – despair and hope.
These citizens feel they have no place or voice and consequently become detached from society. It is this detachment that forges the links between poverty and social unrest, resentment, political upheavals, even crime.
We must remind ourselves therefore that people are the ultimate end, and not means to the political or personal ambitions of others.
We must remind ourselves that the worth of a person is not based on their economic, social or political status, but on their God-given possession of free will, ability to reason and, importantly, on the moral values they possess.
We must never allow anyone to be encumbered by the geography of birth, social or economic status.
I have a clear vision of Jamaica becoming a country that will reach a stage where we have universal literacy and an education and training system that produces a first class human being capable of competing within any sector of the world economy.
A Jamaica where our people will all have access, across the board, to first class health care, and to safe and reliable transport.
A society of literate and healthy people that can move from place to place with ease is my vision for Jamaica.
In short, a Jamaica, which fully allows release of the potential of a powerful people.
I have a vision of Jamaica where our people have overcome the artificial and debilitating divisions, which have been erected to suit partisan and sectarian interests, not the interests of the people. It is time for us to break down those walls.
My vision is about the community participation, where we create the space – the environment – where people see their involvement in national life as their right.
My vision is about empowerment; where citizens take responsibility for the management of their economic, health, educational, cultural and recreational needs supported and facilitated by the government.
My vision is about economic development that makes for the creation and retention of wealth to benefit all our citizens and reduce and eliminate poverty.
My vision, therefore, highlights the value and worth of all our people and I will place them at the centre of the development and prosperity of our nation.
Mr. Speaker, we must acknowledge that how we manage presently leaves far too many of our people out of the process.
People are disconnected, and they feel alienated.
Central to my vision, is placing education as the corner stone on which everything else will revolve in providing a better quality of life.
Mr. Speaker to achieve these goals we must engage all the people so that they make their contribution. Together we can succeed.
Mr. Speaker, Before turning to this development path that we will travel together, I must pause here to say that I know that the expectations of people are very high.
While I will be doing my best to achieve as much as possible, I am sure that the majority of Jamaicans will understand that all cannot be done overnight.
We will have to agree through a process of consultation on when and how to tackle our problems one by one, step-by-step.
My firm commitment to the Jamaican people is that I will do my part and expect that you will do yours.
THE DEVELOPMENT PATH
Mr. Speaker, I now turn to the development path of our country.
The Opposition alluded to some confusion about the economic direction of my government.
Let me be absolutely clear. As my Minister of Finance & Planning has indicated in his presentation, my government is committed to a sound macroeconomic policy that:
prudently manages the fiscal accounts;controls inflation;reduces the debt ratios;lowers domestic interest rates combined with improved access to credit by those seeking to invest in our development programme; andachieves stability in a liberalized foreign exchange system.
My administration intends to strengthen this macroeconomic policy with a comprehensive upgrade of the development programme by rooting it in community empowerment.
This means that the communities throughout Jamaica will play an important role in defining what is to be done and in ensuring successful implementation of the development programme.
In this regard, I draw your attention to the World Bank’s position on this matter, [and here I quote]:
“A fundamental prerequisite of successful participatory programmes at the community level is the reversal of control and accountability from central authorities to the community level.” [End quote]
Mr. Speaker, I have full faith in the people of Jamaica. I believe with a strong community empowerment programme we will unleash the energies and creative potential of our people to be catalyst of growth.
So instead of a growth and development policy that is “managed directly at the very highest levels of government by a CEO Prime Minister and a CFO Finance Minister,” as the Opposition Spokeman on Finance advocates, I intend to lead a policy process that features close collaboration with people in their communities.
I will be the people’s facilitator. I will assist communities to help themselves.
Yes Mr. Speaker. “There is a real difference between the Opposition and the Government on the question of how Jamaica’s economy should be managed.”
My Government will listen to the voice of the people and facilitate their plans and programmes to help themselves.
There is no doubt Mr. Speaker that a most impressive package of investments is presently underway in the country and strengthening the capacity of communities will only make this package more impressive.
I start with the critical investment in transforming our educational system to raise educational standards for all, create a world class education and training system that produces a first class human being capable of competing in any sector of the global economy.
The mention of Education reminds me that tomorrow is Teachers’ Day and I want to thank the Teachers of Jamaica for their vital role in our Education System.
Let us treat them well tomorrow, but remember that we should do so all the time.
Those who continue to abuse and attack them, I call on you to desist and to recognize their importance to our children and our Nation.
Mr. Speaker,I intend to accelerate the process of Educational Transformation and the country can expect major progress in several aspects of the programme.
When the Minister of Education and Youth makes her presentation, she will highlight details of the Transformation Programme.
Mr. Speaker, Early Childhood Education is my focus during this financial year. The government is providing the largest ever allocation to Early Childhood Education, over one point seven billion dollars, an increase of fourteen per cent.
Mr. Speaker, this increase is larger than any of the other levels of the education system and is in keeping with my commitment.
The Early Childhood Commission is now functioning with the mandate of overseeing early childhood development and the Early Childhood Act and its Regulations, which have now been passed.
We are focusing on quality and the review of the Standards Document is complete so that the system of national registration can begin shortly.
The pilot registration identified the areas most in need of attention at early childhood institutions, which are qualified staff, play and learning material, record keeping and the physical structures.
This year the Government will begin a major programme to upgrade basic school buildings.
Some 97 basic schools will be repaired and upgraded at a cost of J$1.2 billion; 57 will be done under the Lift Up Jamaica Programme and 30 by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).
Over 11,500 persons will be employed on these construction projects.
The Commission has also completed it review of parenting programmes in order to inform the development of a new parenting policy.
The Commission last month signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NCTVET for the implementation of new early childhood curricula for Early Childhood Development Programmes Levels I and II and development of a Level III programme.
Shortwood Teachers’ College will continue to be the flagship institution of training for early childhood teachers.
And we will keep our commitment that every school will have at least one trained teacher. A special component of the Early Childhood Programme is the Nutrition Project which is currently being piloted in basic schools in the parish of St. Mary. The pilot, which is being implemented at a cost of $30 million, is to determine the feasibility of the National Nutrition Programme for Early Childhood Institutions.
During the pilot we are developing menus and nutrition plans as well as training cooks.
Data collection is now taking place and this will be completed by the end of the school year to facilitate an evaluation of the pilot by the end of summer.
The Programme, which is to be rolled out in September in all basic schools, will ensure that each child in school has a nutritious meal provided in safe and healthy surroundings with the support of the community.
Mr. Speaker, Each young person is an asset to Jamaica. Each has a god-given talent or talents. The responsibility of the state is to provide the environment and support for each young person to discover his or her unique gift and develop this to its full potential.
Youth development must be focused on positive issues surrounding the appropriate transition strategies from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood. It must NOT see young people as problems and therefore be mired in finding strategies to “fix” the youth.
For this year, we are expanding the National Youth Service from 3,000 to 5,000 participants.
A provision of $500 Million has been allocated, which represents an increase of 400%.
The 5,000 youths will be trained and employed for a period of 6 months.
National Housing Trust
The National Housing Trust (NHT) continues to execute its mandate in providing housing solutions to its contributors, including the vulnerable in our society.
In recognition of the NHT’s focus on its customers, at the recently held Public Sector Customer Service Awards Ceremony, the Trust was awarded the number one position for excellent customer service.
May I commend the Board, management and staff of the Trust for their sterling contribution. This is a good example of what we can achieve when we Jamaicans put our minds to doing well.
Consistent with this mandate, the NHT will be providing One Thousand two hundred and five (1205) housing solutions in schemes across six parishes, namely Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Catherine, Trelawny, St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland.
This is not merely about giving people a chance, it is about balancing people’s lives. Housing Projects for the Tourism Belt
Our tourism workers must be properly housed in communities that are convenient to their place of employment.
This year some 12 new projects consisting of one thousand eight hundred and seventy-two (1872) new units are to be constructed in the parishes of Westmoreland and Hanover.
In addition, some one thousand two hundred and five (1,205) housing solutions will be delivered in the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Catherine, Trelawny, St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland.
Mr. Speaker, I am determined that more of our people at the bottom of the economic ladder, who are contributors to the Trust, should be able to qualify to own a home.
Some of these persons cannot now afford to purchase a house, even at the current minimum interest rate of two (2) percent.
I am deeply concerned about the thousands of contributors to the NHT, who, because of their earnings cannot qualify for a housing benefit.
They deserve not just a mere chance but balance in their lives.
In this regard, the NHT has been requested to allocate half a billion dollars annually to bring them into a special pool of beneficiaries.
When they qualify and have realized their dream of satisfactory shelter for themselves and their families, the NHT will determine the criteria for repayment based on what they can afford to pay in a sustained manner.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, the NHT will be allocating a grant of $150 million to provide shelter solutions for the indigent, poor senior citizens, and the disadvantaged, who are now living in squalor and abject poverty.
These persons will have the benefit of shelter fit for human habitation for the rest of their lives.Mr. Speaker, these are bold initiatives to broaden the pool of beneficiaries to ensure that we also provide and account for those who contribute, are in need of shelter, but cannot meet the criteria.
It is also geared to meet the needs of special groups, such as the indigent.
We are balancing the lives of the people.
Sugar Workers Housing Programme
This year, under the Sugar Housing programme, sugar workers will benefit from an additional eight hundred and sixty two (862) service lots, located at Worthy Park in St. Catherine, Stokes Hall in St. Thomas, Long Pond and Hamden in Trelawny.
Mr. Speaker, this is part of a programme involving an additional subsidy of up to two and a half billion dollars (J$2.5b) to assist with the building of housing solutions.
This not only impacts the lives of the sugar workers.
It improves the quality of life of the rural communities which is an integral part of our rural development.
Mr. Speaker, we continue to balance the lives of people in the rural communities. My crusade is to improve the quality of lives for sugar workers.
It is as if I am hearing the applause of Alexander Bustamante, Hugh Shearer and Michael Manley from National Heroes Park. I am sure they are not supporting any bangarang.
The Urban Renewal Housing Programme targeting housing solutions designed for inner-city communities, has been on-going and we expect to hand over an additional three projects.
Mr. Speaker, by mid-July, four hundred and eighty-four (484) two and three bedroom units located in Trench Town, 88 to 100 Spanish Town Road and Monaltrie off Half Way Tree Road.
In addition to these, a total of 628 units are under construction at 231 Spanish Town Road, South West St. Andrew and Denham Town in West Kingston.
These units are scheduled for completion by January 2007.
In total, Mr. Speaker, the Housing Trust during this year, will be providing over seven thousand nine hundred (7900) new benefits, at a value of over J$13.2 billion.
In this way, Mr. Speaker, we are not only giving people a chance, but we are balancing the lives of our people.
You know Mr. Speaker, Michael Norman Manley in whose honour the National Housing Trust’s building has been named, has not only turned in his grave, but is indeed applauding us for continuing his mission of housing for the working people of Jamaica and in particular, the poor.
We are changing what Bob Marley described as ‘cold ground was my bed last night and rock stone was my pillow, too.’
Mr. Speaker, during the 1980s when the Leader of the Opposition was the Minister of Construction, with responsibility for housing, little or nothing was done. Instead, the funds were used to balance the budget to pass the IMF tests.
We are balance lives as we balance the books.
Mr. Speaker, as part of our efforts to balance the lives of our people, while ensuring rural and urban development, the UDC is expected to play a significant role in providing more jobs for the people.
Lift-up Jamaica, Phase 2
Through the Lift-up Jamaica, Phase 2 programme, which already employs over seven thousand persons, this year, another eleven thousand five hundred persons will be employed.
These individuals will also be trained and certified giving them a skill for life. These are jobs that are not traditionally done by women.
Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, I have always insisted that women are capable of doing any job and forty percent of these jobs are reserved for women. I am serving warning from now, that I expect that in the near future, that there will be a fifty/fifty allocation.
Here again, Mr. Speaker, we are balancing the gender and lives of our people.
In addition to the eleven thousand jobs created through the activities of the UDC, many more jobs will be created through the construction of housing developments at Hellshire Park and Johnson Hill in St. Catherine, Mount Edgecombe in Westmoreland, Success in Montego Bay, and the Caymanas Development. We are not taking a chance with people’s lives, where they may win or lose. By creating jobs, we are seeking to balance the lives of the people.
Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, one of my accomplishments as the Minister of Tourism was the development of the Tourism Master Plan. Consistent with the Plan, I am happy to announce that a sum of One Hundred and Thirty Two million dollars (J$132m) will be spent to undertake upgrading and improvement works at the following locations:
Dunn’s River Falls and ParkOcho Rios Bay Beach,Reach Falls and Winnifred Beach in Portland will be upgraded during the year; andGreen Grotto Caves and Attractions in St Ann, Two Sisters Cave, a tourist attraction, in Hellshire, St Catherine which is scheduled to be opened by August of this year.
Urban Renewal Programmes
Mr. Speaker, I am insisting that the people at the grassroots level, be consulted in the development of projects at the community level.
They must have a say on the issues that affect their daily lives.
As part of the Rural Township Re-development Programme, this approach was adopted by the UDC for the people of the town of Port Maria.
As a result, twenty three million dollars will be provided by the UDC for specific projects chosen by the people.
This is how we intend to empower the people of our communities both in the urban and rural areas of Jamaica.
Their involvement, I am sure, will make them become owners and protectors of the assets of their communities. Together we can make it; together we will succeed.
PROJECTS WITH EMPLOYMENT POTENTIAL Mr. Speaker, as employment is one of our priorities there are a number of projects to be implemented for the fiscal year 2006-2007 with job creation potential.
Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ) will focus on business sectors with proven growth potential, and during this period space at Montego Bay Free Zone will be refurbished and a new building is slated to be constructed in the corporate area to accommodate the demand for Information Communication Technology (ICT) space.
Micro Investment Development Agency (MIDA)
For the financial year 2006/2007, the Micro Investment Development Agency (MIDA) will continue to play a vital role in the micro enterprise sector.
This financial year 2006/2007 the agency will disburse through its network of Community Development Funds, $115.0 million.
It is projected that this level of credit will finance approximately 1,020 micro enterprises and will generate and sustain over 1,000 jobs.
Approximately $20.0 million of the credit provided will fund small farms engaged in small livestock rearing, tubers and cash crops cultivation while some $8.0 million will provide funding for micro manufacturing enterprises engaged in woodwork/craft, juice, garment, among other things.
The service sector will access approximately $87.0 million to finance businesses engaged in: computer services, day care centres, barbering, tailoring, beauty supplies and saloons, plumbing, motor vehicle repairs, cook-shops, groceries and general vending, stationery supplies, gardening and landscaping.
This is not merely giving a chance, it is giving people a chance to balance their lives.
Jamaica Business Development Centre (JBDC)
The JBDC will be very active in providing technical support to businesses.
(a) Business Opportunities for World Cup Cricket (WCC) 2007
This programme by JBDC will focus on the development and implementation of business opportunities within the Micro and the Small and Medium Enterprise sectors for World Cup Cricket 2007.
Emphasis will be given to Craft, Food and Fashion, as well as opportunities in the hospitality, entertainment and other service industries.
Through this programme, individuals and communities in areas where WCC activities are scheduled to be held will receive special attention in the development of business ideas, product development, and sensitisation to regulations of the WCC, intellectual property protection, and good business practices.
The primary project beneficiaries are to be individual entrepreneurs and community groups, especially those residing in parishes where WCC events will be staged.
Mr. Speaker, it is important to note the wider developmental potential that sports can play in the achievement of the national growth and development goals.
The WCC is an example of what potential exists for sports tourism and indeed a strong industrial link between sports, education and all other entertainment and hospitality services.
Our schools have long led the way on this front.
Jamaica has to seize every opportunity available to it, to diversify and develop its economy while developing communities.
There is no better example of how to do this than through the development of the sport industry.
There is no better example of an industry that can unite, empower and transform the economic fortunes of every single community in Jamaica.
We already know of the recreational and health benefits of sports.
We also know that sports is one of the fastest growing industrial activity in the world today. For example, sports tourism is the fastest growth segment of the worldwide US$4.5 trillion global travel and tourism business. We know that in foreign countries where the industry is growing rapidly, Jamaican performers are in high demand.
This applies to cricket, soccer, track and field and netball.
How many people know, for example, that Jamaicans dominate the rapidly growing market for domino players?
And how many people know that Jamaica outranks every other country in the world in track & field in terms of World and Olympic medals earned on a per capita basis.
Today we have the technical expertise to train world-class athletes.
Many have received scholarships to attend Universities in the United States.
Many are attending our own Universities right here in Jamaica while pursuing their athletic careers.
In order to maintain and improve high levels of proficiency, we must continue to establish Academies, High Performance Centres and additional sports facilities.
Over the next year, my government through the Sport Development Foundation will undertake a detailed study of the contribution of sports to the GDP of Jamaica.
More importantly, Mr. Speaker, my Office will assess how much development potential lies unused in our communities and how to put it to the best use. Then, we will assemble a complete plan to determine how we can become an even bigger player in this growing sector, so that we can use sports to boost every other linked industry, such as tourism and entertainment.
My Office will be playing an active role in ensuring that communities get a share of this pie. Some will get cricket; some football, some netball; some tennis; some boxing; some golf; some swimming and of course track & field athletics.but all will get into the act.
We will be reporting to the nation regularly as progress is made.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot overlook the outstanding performances of our sports men and women recently.
Here I speak of the Commonwealth Games and the CARIFTA Games, where our performances have ignited and renewed our sense of pride in being Jamaican.
We must ensure that there continues to be a high level of interaction and coordination between our various government agencies – Sport Development Foundation, The Institute of Sports, the Social Development Commission, the G.C. Foster College, the National Council on Sports, Independence Park Ltd,
and the National Sporting Associations, so that we will continue to see Jamaica as a major player in sports regionally and internationally.
We must also continue to forge links in sports through bilateral agreements as well as to seize every opportunity to promote sports tourism.
In promoting sports tourism, the Sports Museum which will be located at the National Stadium where our rich history of sporting accomplishments can be displayed as an attraction to visitors and Jamaicans alike.
As we look ahead Mr. Speaker, we can be confident that sports will continue to hold its rightful place as a beacon of success in our nation’s rich cultural heritage.
TOUCHING THE PEOPLE’S MONEY
Mr Speaker, I now come to a fundamental area of disagreement which I have with the Opposition Leader. I urge him not to continue his threat of confrontation and bangarang. That is not the kind of example the people of Jamaica are expecting from us as leaders of this nation.
Let us not give the wrong signals to a country too tribalised and divided and desperately in need of peace. God knows we have had enough bangarang in this country! The country does not want anymore bangarang.
To the Opposition leader I say, “woman no wan’ no bangarang!”
The integrity of the NIF must be protected and that the interests of contributors cannot be jeopardized. Mr. Speaker, this Prime Minister, who as Minister of Labour and Social security was instrumental in moving the NIF from $1.5 billion in 1989 to the present $45 billion would not be reckless enough to endanger the interests of poor people.
The $1 billion from the National Insurance Fund to be used for small business to help poor people will not be at the expense of the integrity of the NIF or to the detriment of the contributors. I make that solemn commitment to the Jamaican Parliament and the Jamaican people.
But there is a fundamental issue at stake. How can the Opposition be complaining about the inadequate number of jobs and at the same time oppose job creation programmes.
Now you can’t eat your cake and have it. If we must maintain prudent fiscal policies, reduce our borrowings while at the same time expand employment, what is wrong with creatively looking to see where we can find the funds to do so without affecting the budget?
If you are really serious about giving the people a chance, then why is the Opposition ranting and raving when there is an effort to do something concrete about giving the people a chance by using their money to help them and their children?
The Opposition Leader’s position is similar to a father whose children are starving while he waits for his money on certificate of deposit to mature in another year, rather than using the money now to save their lives. There is no point is merely hoarding money while it could be productively employed.
Remember Mr. Speaker this money is not for consumption. It is for production and will be repaid. It is to ensure a better future for poor people. It is to help teach them to fish not merely to give them fish.
The NIS contributor who at 30 is unemployed with his children to feed and who has no hope of getting his benefits until 35 years down to road is given a better chance of surviving to take his full benefits when he is able to start his own business to help himself and his family now not later. This is balancing people’s lives. In 1989 when I was appointed Minister of Labour, the National Insurance Scheme had a paltry total of $1.5 billion lying dormant in an account at the Bank of Jamaica. The extent of the investments held by the NIS then covered shares in the Cement Company and a loan to the Factories Corporation of Jamaica which did not bring any meaningful returns to benefit pensioners.
Pensioners could not even receive meaningful increases in benefits. I decided to change that this situation.
I realised that in order to ensure that the scheme remained viable and could respond adequately to the growing number of pensioners it was necessary for changes to be made to both its structure and management. These changes have made the scheme stronger and better.
One such innovation initiated by me was the creation in 1990 of the National Insurance Investment Board with the requisite expertise and skills. The Board was charged with the responsibility of developing and implementing a rigorous and aggressive investment programme to guarantee the long term sustainability of the National Insurance Fund so that meaningful benefits could be paid to our pensioners.
The Board has broad based representation from critical groups such as employers, workers organizations and other professionals. It has guided the growth of the Fund and created a diversified and dynamic portfolio covering almost every sector of the economy.
The NI Fund is a driving force in the development of tourism in this country through its investments in hotels, including Braco Hotel which is 100% owned by the National Insurance Fund and El Greco Resort in Montego Bay which is 100% owned by the Fund. The Fund has significant holdings in Breezes Montego Bay and in Point Village in Negril.
We have invested in the development of Highway 2000 and in real estate. Some of the real estate holdings owned by the NIS Fund include the buildings housing:
The Passport Office at Constant Spring RoadThe Electoral Office of Jamaica on Duke StreetAir Jamaica in downtown Kingston as well as in New KingstonMinistry of Labour offices in all parishes
The Fund also owns large parcels of real estate for development in Montego Bay and St. Ann.
The NIF is contributing to national development through significant investments in shares and equity in some of the most successful companies in Jamaica.
These include:Grace KennedyNational Commercial BankBNS Jamaica LtdLascelles de MercadoCapital and Credit Financial Group in which the Fund has a 27% stake.
When money from the fund was being used to support big business and invest in large properties there was no cry from the Opposition but when it is to be used for poor to give them a chance we are hearing about bangarang. Who is really defending the interests of the poor?
The existence of the Investment Board has also resulted in an accountable and transparent system for the management of NIS funds. As a result of prudent management the Fund has enjoyed consistent growth averaging 18.5% annually over the period 1990-2006. The net assets of the fund now stand at $42.6 billion.
Our approach has been to ensure that pensioners benefit from the increased income which accrues to the Fund from its investment activities. Based on the fund’s performance periodic and worthwhile increases in benefits have been granted over the past 16 years to enable contributors to improve their standard of living. The most recent was the 66 2/3% increase to NIS beneficiaries which became effective on April 3, 2006.
This increased payout to pensioners is projected to cost an additional $10 billion over the next four years.
Our commitment to enhancing benefits to NIS contributors was also demonstrated with the introduction of the Pensioners Health Plan (NI/Gold) in December 2003 and the $375 million which was provided to pensioners for Hurricane relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
This administration has a track record of providing significant increases in pension benefits to NIS contributors.
In 1990 the maximum pension payable was $80 per week. Today the maximum pension payable is $2,700 per week, representing an increase of more than three thousand per cent.
Even when inflation is taken into account, this represents a major and worthwhile improvement in the real value of benefits to pensioners.
In 1990 the funeral grant payable to contributors was $1,500. Today the amount is $40,000 – a more than 2,500 per cent increase.
The percentage increase in NIS payments in the 16 years between 1990 and 2006 is more than two times the percentage increase over the first 21 years of NIS payments between 1969-1990. This has been made possible by the phenomenal growth in the NIS Fund as a result of deliberate and prudent investments and financial management.
And Mr. Speaker, who really cares about the poor?
While these significant increases in payout have been made, the contribution rate has been increased on only three occasions over the past 16 years – in 1990, 1996 and 2003.
I want to assure the entire country that the people’s NIS collections are in good hands. During the 11 years I was in charge of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security I led its growth and development and I have charged my new Minister of Labour and Social Security, the Hon. Derrick Kellier to protect and grow the people’s money at all times.
I now turn to the fund’s participation in the small business sector. I have said before that the government I lead is not only concerned with balancing the books and creating a healthy national economic picture on paper. In addition to prudent fiscal and macroeconomic management, we have an obligation and are committed to creating real wealth and prosperity for all our people.
Furthermore, we gave a commitment to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of the Jamaican people by pursuing a major coordinated thrust for micro and small business development.
The investment of $1 Billion from the NIF for micro and small business credit is part of the strategic thinking of the NIF Board to participate in projects that have a significant developmental impact, specifically geared at economic growth and employment creation.
Moreover, it demonstrates my Government’s belief in the honest, hardworking people of Jamaica. It is an investment, Mr. Speaker, in our people for which we do not apologise. It does not constitute a hand-out, but rather a prudent financial decision.
This investment at a concessionary rate of interest, 8%, has been made possible because of the Fund’s robust performance. It has the potential to stimulate growth in the small business sector and generate increased employment opportunities in rural and urban communities.
Studies have shown that one of the major obstacles to the realization of the full potential of the small business sector has been the lack of affordable financing. Significant economic and social development benefits are therefore expected from this venture. Because, Mr. Speaker, I believe that young people with good business ideas should be able to use their ideas as collateral to access financing for their innovative business enterprises. This will not only create ideas for themselves but also for others.
The areas targeted for funding are:
Agriculture (crops, livestock and fisheries)Agro-ProcessingManufacturing ( Furniture, Shoes & Apparel and Small craft)Services (Community and Personal Services)Other small business activities with productive potential.
Approximately 5,000 small and medium size entrepreneurs are expected to benefit from this investment.
This is a very sound and carefully thought out initiative that will contribute significantly to a sector that has enormous potential for national development while at the same time contributing to the continued growth and viability of the National Insurance Fund.
While they on that side are talking the talk about giving poor people a chance, we on this side are walking the walk and are in fact giving poor people a chance, assisting the poor to balance their lives.
Nobody is talking about using money from the NHT or NIS in such a way as to jeopardize those schemes that would be irresponsible, reckless and crazy and I would never be party to that. But I remind the Leader of the Opposition of is own words in his more sober moments of his presentation last Thursday.
He made the point that “this debate cannot be just about the macro economy, primary surpluses and international credit ratings. It must be essentially about people, the quality of their lives their hopes for a better life and the chances of fulfillment of those hopes. That is why Governments are elected”.
That is why a responsible and caring Government has to act, not just talk about giving people a chance to legitimately ‘step up in a life!’ The $1 billion through the NIF will be disbursed through responsible organisations experienced in working with the small and medium-sized enterprises. These organizations, Mr. Speaker, possess a sound track record of efficient management and accountability.
Among the organizations are:
The National Development Foundation of Jamaica(NDFJ) will receive $100 millionthe Micro Investment Development Agency(MIDA) which will receive $100 millionthe Peoples Cooperative banks which will receive $250 millionCredit unions which will receive $250 millionThe Jamaica Business Development Centre which will receive $50 millionAnd community-based organizations such as the churches with outreach development programmes which will receive $100 millionAnd $100 million which is to be disbursed to other institutions
Mr. Speaker please note that recently some $450 million of NIF funds were allocated to the NDFJ and the City of Kingston Credit Union. This is in addition to the $1 billion being provided during this fiscal year.
It is clear then that we are dong something about giving the people a chance and about transferring the resources of the poor to the poor.
Mr. Speaker I am very pleased to announce today that the Bank of Nova Scotia in support of our heightened thrust toward job and wealth creation will be offering a special loan program for some J$600 million which will be disbursed through the Development Bank of Jamaica.
$250 will be provided to the agricultural sector for seven years at a rate of 7.625% per annum for on lending through the peoples Cooperative bank to assist our small farmers.
In addition, $350 million will be provided to the tourism sector for 7 years at an interest rate of 8% per annum for on lending to small hotels Both facilities be guaranteed by the Government of Jamaica. This Mr. Speaker is a major initiative by BNS and will go a far way to boosting our smaller entrepreneurs. We are not just talking about giving the people a chance and about building wealth.
In addition the Government itself will pump some $250 million in agriculture. Another $145 million will be spent on irrigation, expansion of green house construction and hydrophonics.
In the rural diversification programme we are spending $90 million and in special projects in agriculture including tree crops goat rearing apiculture, bee-keeping and ornamental fish we are spending an additional $150 million. We are going to be spending $160 million to expand production of thyme, pepper, vegetables and other crops of interest to small farmers.
Through our investments in agriculture we are projecting the creation of 2,500 jobs. We are not just talking about giving people a chance we are doing something practical about it.
There is no doubt Mr. Speaker that the most impressive package of investments is presently underway in the country.
These investments are related to strategic industry clusters, identified in the National Industrial Policy. They include: Tourism, Mining, Shipping and Berthing, Information and Communications Technology and Agro-processing.
Many of these investments are now being implemented: they are real and not a wish list. We need to organise ourselves in a way that will maximise, nationally, at the enterprise level, at the community level and for individuals the impact of these investments.
They will help to bring about a better quality of life for all, eradicating poverty and creating wealth, because that requires investment and increased production.
These are vital components of economic growth. We are passionate about achieving growth that has associated with it the widest possible range of employment opportunities. As part of the growth agenda I am insistent that we facilitate, encourage and assist the Jamaican people who have the entrepreneurial spirit to grasp income-generation opportunities.
In the Jamaican context, I can think of no other area that offers more readily available prospects for jobs or other income-generating activities, than tourism. This partly explains why tourism was selected as a lead economic sector.
I was there and led the completion of the Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development. This is the road map which is now guiding the expansion of the industry.
As I will spell out later Mr. Speaker, there are more than 12,000 new hotel rooms being built, or are to begin construction shortly. This is on top of the 2,000 put into operation since we started implementing the Tourism Master Plan.
This expansion represents more than a 50% increase in the country’s room stock, and will generate conservatively 25,000 new permanent direct jobs. In the construction phase, of course, Mr. Speaker, at least half as many jobs should be generated according to the implementation schedules of the developers. Communities in the areas where these projects are being implemented are already feeling the impact.
Persons involved in the tourism industry know the multiplier effect of activity in the industry, and that for each direct job, there are probably two or three spin-offs. These are in the areas of:
Agricultural products and processed foodsManufactured products, including chemicals, furniture, beverages, etc.Ground transportation and toursLandscaping servicesArt and craftEntertainmentPersonal servicesFinancial servicesHousing and real estateCultural heritage products
In the Mining sector the first phase of the Jamalco expansion is underway. In investment dollars, this will be the single biggest project in our country’s history. At the peak of implementation, it will employ nearly 3,000 construction workers.
Recently, on my first Official Visit since taking office, I held discussions with the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, regarding the supply of natural gas for the Jamalco plant, as well as for electricity generation. We are working with Alcoa, whose chairman visited with me last week, to finalise all the arrangements for the next, and larger, phase of the project. The project will generate demand for:
AccommodationEntertainment servicesTransportationFood servicesMetal fabricationCommunication and financial servicesSecurity servicesMobile and construction equipment
The capacity of the Port of Kingston has been expanding on a number of occasions to accommodate the business flowing into Kingston. The Government has now embarked on yet another phase of expansion which will more than double the present capacity.
It will be among the worlds largest ports, and with new contracts with the major shipping lines, the development programme will have to be accelerated to handle the volume of the cargo.
The Port Authority of Jamaica will be establishing a logistic centre which is a new distribution Free Zone, at a location near to the transhipment port. It will handle goods at various stages of the manufacturing process originating in Asia and bound for markets in North, Central and South Americas. The target is to have 100 companies registered and operating in the centre in the first phase of its development. This will lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs.
Already, four companies have begun operations.
In the area of ICT that holds so much potential, 200,000 ft. of office space, especially in Kingston and Montego Bay, is now required to meet immediate demand. This estimate is based on requirements of firms that are already operating in Jamaica. These investments will involve 3,000 new jobs.
In terms of the road infrastructure which has implications for both employment creation and physical improvements, this year the Government will be spending over $3 billion on road works. This includes
$400 million for disaster mitigation$600 million on retaining walls,$1.6 billion on road rehabilitation, and$400 million on the airport road.Over $532 million will be spent on flood control including work on the Sandy Gully Bridge. $34 million will be spent on bridge repairs. $200 million has been allocated for roads under Local Government.
Mr. Speaker, we will be doing something about the appearance of our tourism towns. The Government is spending $100 million on the beautification of resort areas and entrances to the big cities as part of our general tourism expansion programme. Jamaica’s Beauty – Our Duty.
Through the Ministry with responsibility for Water, we are spending $100 million to improve water supply systems throughout the country.
Foreign and Trade Policies
Isn’t it amazing that the Leader of the Opposition spoke for nearly three long hours in this Debate but said not a single word about our external relationships. I know that we live in a globalised world. I know that everything Jamaica does affect other countries and everything they do affect our country.
Trade policies affect every single community whether it is Lionel Town with sugar, Golden Grove with banana, citrus farmers in St. Catherine, the coffee farmers in the hills of St. Andrew, St. Thomas and Portland.
Workers in factories are affected by decisions made abroad. Our Diaspora and their contributions through remittances, investments and knowledge are affected by decisions on immigration are also affected.
We cannot have a budget debate and not speak to these things. Is it that they do not want this country to know that they are out of sync with global realities?
My administration will follow on the practice of my predecessor, and indeed previous Prime Ministers, in the use of the foreign and trade policy tools as an important part of the development process as we strive to meet the Millennium Development Goals as determined by Jamaica and the other members of the international community in this interdependent world.
There are some things which, Mr. Speaker, we by determined policies must do for ourselves while working with our development partners in the international community to assist us in achieving the broad visions and objectives we set for ourselves. In this regard, my administration will pay especial attention to the completion of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), which was inaugurated in January 2006 by six of the fifteen countries of the CARICOM Region, including Jamaica.
It should be noted, Mr. Speaker, that our capacity as a Region to complete the important negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) now taking place between CARICOM /CARIFORUM and the European Union depends critically on our completion of the CSME arrangements.
The Leader of the Opposition and his Party in their opposition to the CSME need to now recognize that in a world of large economic blocs or groupings, neither Jamaica nor any single country can go it alone. The European Union, Mr. Speaker, will not negotiate with Jamaica alone, but only with an integrated CARICOM Region together with the Dominican Republic.
Similarly, should there be any negotiations with the United States on an alternative to the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), in light of the failure to conclude a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the US is making it clear that negotiation must be with CARICOM and not Jamaica or any individual Member States of CARICOM.
Mr. Speaker, time has long past and the Opposition must come out of its anti-regional stance to recognize that the world has moved on since the Referendum on West Indies Federation of 1960, and so must we!
Mr. Speaker, we continue to receive significant advantages from bilateral relations with the many countries globally. Many of those countries are represented with resident missions here in Jamaica, and we thank them for their significant contribution. We must add to this the key international organizations in which we have membership.
We will continue to strengthen our bilateral relations with the countries of the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa, and continue our leadership role in the various multilateral organizations to which we are active members as we work together for world peace and international development for all our peoples.
A key initiative of our foreign policy is to work with our bilateral partners to assist us with providing foreign language training to our early childhood population in our urban and rural communities. Children learn quickest at an early age. Without working knowledge of a foreign language we will not be able to take our rightful place in this globalised world.
I wish to commend those schools that are already introducing children to foreign languages, however, I am determined that the same opportunity should be given to all children. To this end, we will be giving consideration to commencing a pilot programme to introduce foreign languages in early childhood education.
Mr. Speaker, foreign languages are critical to Jamaica’s smooth integration into today’s global society and economy.
Mr. Speaker I am committed to finding new and creative ways to work towards a more secure and prosperous society for women, men and children. To this end, I will be emphasizing strategies that lead to the achievement of gender justice, equality, development and peace. The challenges of our time are more than the economic ones. There are still some serious social issues that are defined by rural and urban poverty, the feminisation and threat to sustainable development of the HIV aids pandemic, cross border and internal human trafficking which expose young girls to dehumanizing sexual experiences, the rise in gender-based violence and the abuse of children, the educational underachievement of the poor in general and poor boys in particular and the need to empower women and girls to take their rightful place in the Jamaican society. Mr. Speaker, these are some of the indications of the lack of gender equality and justice for all. My emphasis on community empowerment and partnership with all stakeholders will result in the strengthening of the governmental and non- governmental sectors in the delivery of gender-sensitive programs and policies.
The empowerment of women, traditionally the culture-bearers and carers in the nurturing of the next generation is critical. For on this rests the expected desired outcomes of the sort of social transformation which will socialize the youth around the values of tolerance one to another, mutual respect in relating to both elders and peer groups, collaborative and cooperative endeavours starting with family and extending to village, yard, community, parish and nation.
Gender equity challenges Government and the entire society to facilitate an equitable percentage of women to offer themselves as candidates in Local Government and Parliamentary Elections, bearing in mind that some countries are now making specific reservations for women. As Prime Minister, I have assumed responsibility for a number of areas including the Bureau of Women’s Affairs and Women’s Centre Foundation. I intend to give focus and serious consideration to the level of human and financial resources that can promote positive gender relations at all levels of the society. Mr. Speaker, I will use my vision of change to enter into a process of consultation with our established international and national partners to plan a more proactive and sustainable approach to the achievement of gender justice and equality in the Jamaican society
Mr. Speaker, on the issue of Constitutional Reform, let me point out that it is this side which has always been urging that side. There are three main elements that have been on the agenda since the establishment in 1992 of the Constitutional Reform Commission headed by the late Mr. Justice James Kerr. These elements are:
First, the establishment of Jamaica as a republic within the Commonwealth. Second, the substitution of a regional court as our final court of appeal in place of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which will sit in Jamaica to hear appeals from the Jamaican Court of Appeal. Third, the recasting of our Charter of Rights in our constitution so as to bring its provisions more in line with international developments in respect of human rights and enable us to respond effectively in this critical area of national life.
For my part, there is now no major obstacle standing in the way of the agreement necessary to change the constitution to a republican form of Parliamentary government. The President, who would be selected in such a way as to make the office a symbol of national unity, would have the responsibility of making certain sensitive appointments which should not appear to be in any way partisan.
Concerning the substitution of the Caribbean Court of Justice for the Privy Council, we recall that such an idea was first introduced to Jamaica some thirty-six years ago by the then Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Hugh Lawson Shearer. A number of hurdles have been placed in the way over these many years.
Discussions between the Attorney General and the Parliamentary opposition members who speak on legal affairs in this House and the Senate have now arrived at a point where a formula acceptable to both sides could be reached.
With respect to the third element of constitutional reform, the revised Charter of Rights has been the subject of the most careful and pains- taking discussions over several years. The Report of a Select Committee of Parliament is expected to be presented to the House and the Senate before the Independence celebrations this year.
THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
This government fully recognizes and accepts that an efficient justice system is an essential ingredient in the achievement and maintenance of an acceptable level of public order and in elevating the national quality of life. In my address when I was sworn in as Prime Minister at King’s House, some five weeks ago, I signalled at the earliest stage that:
“the first pledge to the Jamaican people is to advance human rights and individual liberty. . While the State has a responsibility to protect the society as a whole, it must never, in the execution of that responsibility, sacrifice individual liberty. We cannot build the harmony and peace that the society so desperately needs unless all Jamaicans know that they will be treated with dignity and respect.”
We are fully committed to the promotion of the two major elements of this endeavour, namely: the modernization of our judicial system, with particular emphasis on increasing the human and technical resources and the physical infrastructure involved, and completing the process of constitutional reform. We acknowledge that achieving these objectives depends on the extent to which we can summon the political will and dedicate the appropriate financial resources.
These in turn will require a high level of cooperation on the part of the government, the parliamentary opposition, the legal profession and other non-governmental bodies that are involved in the protection and promotion of human rights and social justice. I totally accept that the government has the obligation to take the lead in inviting and encouraging such cooperation and it is my sincere pledge to provide both leadership and personal example in this regard.
As we look back over the years, however, there is no denying the fact that successive administrations had given a low priority to the financing needs of our whole system of justice.
One significant item tells the story. Over the past twenty-two years a grand total of four hundred and fifty-five million dollars ($455m) has been the accumulated budgeted allocation for Capital Expenditure in this sector.
For this financial year, the Capital Budget of four hundred and thirty-six million dollars ($436m) for the Ministry of Justice, approved in the Estimates of Expenditure, is the most generous since we attained our Independence in 1962. In this year alone, therefore, the Capital Budget is almost the same as what had been approved for the past twenty-two years combined.
Improving the administration of justice is an important plank in addressing the scourge of crime and violence in our society today because among other things, we know that the murder rate is associated with revenge killings. As a nation we are deeply concerned about the issue of crime and violence and we must summon every reserve of determination to eradicate this scourge from our midst. Our success in this area will demand national unity, bi-partisan cooperation and community involvement.
Today I will not be addressing the issue of national security strategy in detail. In the Government we have done several studies and reports on the issue. Last weekend, I received another one called the McMillian task force which was commissioned by the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that it deserves careful review.
Mr. Speaker, I intend, sometime in the near future to make a focused presentation on National Security.
Mr. Speaker, I have announced some concrete things here today. I have spoken of a number of practical initiatives which will positively impact people’s lives in terms of job creation, small business expansion, making credit more accessible to small entrepreneurs, uplifting the lives of our farmers, boosting training. I have spoken of the big projects in tourism, infrastructure and the service sector.
I have come with a programme to balance people’s lives while we balance the books
I have supplied more than enough lively copy for the news writers and headline writers. The commentators have enough concrete proposals to discuss. But for me, Mr. Speaker, that is not the crux of the matter. That does not go to the heart of the issue.
At the centre of all the projects, the initiatives, and the plans is the development of people. I believe in a people-centered development.
People are not just the means of development They are the object and the focus of development.
Development is not essentially about ports, highways, factory buildings, fancy hotels, impressive telecommunications facilities, rates of industrialization or Gross domestic product. It is about the development of people, the improvement in the quality of life, the spiritual upliftment of people.
What is my vision for Jamaica? To those who say get on with the work and forget about vision and about the preaching, I say get on with what work and to what end?
If we don’t have a vision as to where we want to go, any road will take us there. The point is not just to be busy doing things. It is about being busy doing the right things. And it is only your vision, your philosophy which determines where you go.
My vision for Jamaica is not fuzzy. It is very clear. I have a vision of a Jamaica where we are at peace with one another. A Jamaica where we cherish our diversity and differences, not see them as a reason to fuss and fight. A Jamaica where conflict resolution skills are natural; where we have honed to a fine art, dialogue and reason rather than disrespect and violence.
For make no mistake about it, ladies and gentlemen, no matter how many task forces we set up and how brilliant are their recommendations, if the Jamaican people do not practice a culture of love, respect, honour and good neigbourliness, we will never tame the beast of violent crime.
I have a vision of Jamaica where people see themselves first and foremost as Jamaicans, not members of this or that class or ethic group, this or that gender, this or that religion or this or that party. Just Jamaicans.
If we begin to see ourselves as One Jamaica, striving after a common set of goals then there won’t be any challenge or any force too great for us to overcome. These are not just fine words, Mr. Speaker.
History has demonstrated over and over again that when a people have confidence in themselves and a unity of purpose, extraordinary things can be achieved.
Jamaica desperately needs a common focus a common vision, a common set of goals, which pull us together rather than apart. Our bond of unity must be unbreakable. Our bonds of unity must be so strong that nothing can sever it.
I have a vision of Jamaica in which there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens. A Jamaica in which each child has an equal opportunity to the finest education and where educational opportunities are not determined by class and money. My vision is of an educational system which delivers first-class education throughout the system, not one with pockets of excellence and areas of deficiency. If education is the vehicle to transport the poor out of their poverty then that education has to be high-quality.
I have a vision of a Jamaica in which communities are engaged, energized and eager to participate in molding their own future. Only when communities are involved, invigorated and inclusive can we drive out the criminals and the extortionists who are draining the lifeblood of this nation. When people have mechanisms to impact decisions affecting their lives, our democratic structures will be strengthened and we will be emboldened against all those anti-social forces, which would hold us back.
I see a Jamaica where our senior citizens are respected, admired and adored for their wisdom, service and good example. Not a Jamaica where the old feel neglected and unwanted; not a Jamaica where they feel vulnerable and afraid but one in which the young come to them for support and freely offer them their love, kindness and warmth.
My life’s work has been to build a certain kind of Jamaica. My mission has been to uplift the lot of the poor and marginalized, the voiceless, the defenseless. I hurt for that single mother, rising before the sun in he morning to send off her children to school; scraping what she can find to provide lunch for the day and nourishing the hope amidst her pain, that one day they will make a life for themselves.
I feel pain for the thousands of domestic helpers, with their own children to care for, trying to eke out a living on the minimum wage while worrying about what w will happen to her young teenaged daughter living in that inner-city where criminals can just send for her to satisfy their perverse and criminal desire.
I think of that mother who recently looked at her eight-year-old daughter with tears welling up in her eyes and saying that her biggest concern was not even the hunger that she feels regularly but the fear – the awful dread – that very soon she will have to find somewhere to go before the criminal who runs the area finds her.
I hurt for the father, wanting to be responsible, wanting to help his children but who can’t find a job, despite his best efforts. I feel his pain. I share his anger and frustration at hearing the criticisms about his inability to support his family.
We in these hallowed chambers must keep in the forefront of our minds that it is not about us. It is not about Brother B or Sister P. It is about the people of Jamaica, it is about the poor who are desperately hoping that what we do here and in Government will have a meaningful impact on them.
The youth are depending on us first to show the kind of civility and courtesy, which they themselves can emulate. We have to be careful how we speak to one another in this House for we have to set an example to our youth who represent our future.
We have an obligation to our youth to build a society in which the young people of this country can feel they secure. They have to feel that they have a future in Jamaica. They have to feel that this is the place in which they can achieve and live their dreams.
We have an obligation moreso to our children. One of the most painful experiences I have had over the last year have been those tragic experiences involving our children. The atrocities committed against our children bring me deep pain, Mr. Speaker. When we shed the innocent blood of our children, do we realize that we are heaping judgment on ourselves?
Every child in Jamaica must feel loved and has the right to protection. I want to see a Jamaica in which our children are safe, healthy, educated and loved.
I want to see a Jamaica in which we can boast not only of the number of women who have top corporate positions, or of the number of female achievers there are in Jamaica. I want us to boast not only of the number of women moving up in leadership positions in the civic organizations, and the established churches.
I would like to see all our women empowered to fulfill their God-given potential. I want to see our women get the respect they deserve as human beings and not just seen as objects of men’s gratification or used in men’s power games. My role as Prime Minister is not to exalt myself but to help to lift up all the women of Jamaica.
My rise to this office says to every woman, every man, in this country irrespective of class or position in life that you too can achieve whatever you dream; you do not have to recognize any limits to your achievement. You can be all that you want to be, unemcumbered by your gender or your geography.
As Prime Minister, I hope to inspire men and women across Jamaica, uptown, downtown and out of town to believe in themselves and see themselves as equal to every other human being.
We have all the ingredients of success. We just have to know how to put them together to create the right exotic blend. We have the richest cultural heritage in this hemisphere. Which other country of our size has produced a music which has received the world-renown and the hype internationally as our reggae music? Which other country of our size has produced a Bob Marley, Burning Spear and Jimmy Cliff or a Shaggy?
Indeed how many countries in the world-even those with populations in the hundreds of millions-have produced an artiste whose name is recognized in the farthest reaches of the world?
Which country of our size has ever had the level of success which we had in the field of sport particularly athletics. Let me ask again: How many countries large or small have had our record of dazzling achievement in sports? Jamaica out-ranks every other country on a per capita basis in terms of Olympic medals. We have produced world-class fashion models and our fashion has heavily influenced American pop culture.
In dance, drama, sculpture and painting our work has been world-class. I believe with every fibre of my being that we are a great people. But all of us must believe this also.
All of us must believe that together we can succeed.
Buju Banton reminded us some years ago that “its not an easy road’ But the journey can be lighter if we walk together in peace love and harmony. The journey will be lighter with God as our guide and our constant Light. The journey will be lighter when we pull out all the stops in the way as trod this road to Zion. Together we can succeed.
It is for me a blessing to be afforded the opportunity to participate in another historic day in our Nation and this Honourable House.