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In this presentation Mr. Speaker, I propose to speak on the theme: “Repositioning the Ministry for Human Resource Development”. In doing so, I intend to examine a number of pertinent issues.
These include productivity and its impact on national development as well as certain factors that are essential for the development of our human resources.
I also propose to examine Labour Management Relations and to look at some concerns and discuss some solutions that will enable labour and capital to work harmoniously together.
Finally, I propose to look at the measures being pursued by this Government to improve the situation of vulnerable groups especially those below the established poverty line.
Mr. Speaker the Ministry of Labour and Social Security has often been criticized for its reactive approach. It is a widely held view that the Ministry, over the years, has been preoccupied with Industrial Relations matters, settling strikes and providing ameliorative services to assist the vulnerable.
Whilst these continue to be important functions, they cannot be the mandate of a Ministry of Labour and Social Security in the 21st century, given the dynamic and challenging global environment.
Mr. Speaker, barriers to world trade are diminishing. Jamaica’s ability to improve the standard of living of its citizens depends on its ability to respond to these forces.
As global competition intensifies, preferential treatment will become a thing of the past, and it is important that Jamaica increases the competitiveness of its goods and services and the skills available in its workforce in order to survive the tide of global competition.
Over the past 5 years, reports have shown that the United States, Singapore and Canada have been the most competitive economies. Jamaica has slipped 18 places, from 52 in 2001, to 70 in 2005.
Although countries like Mauritius and Trinidad and Tobago have slipped in the competitive ranking, they have still maintained a ranking of 10 and 20 places respectively, above Jamaica.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security, in the context of these changes, will have to reposition itself to be more responsive. A necessary and sufficient response is to assist our country to improve its global competitiveness and productivity.
The Government of Jamaica is committed to productivity improvement as a significant and important strategy to accelerate and sustain economic growth, international competitiveness and improvement in living standards.
That is why Mr. Speaker, for the first time the Jamaica Productivity Centre is being equipped to effectively carry out its mandate.
In this fiscal year $30 million dollars have been provided, an increase of two hundred per cent (200%), over last year’s provision.
This budget will ensure that the centre has staff and the required technical expertise to facilitate improvement in productivity levels, in each and every sector of the economy.
In addition an Advisory Board of influential and respected leaders, headed by Mr. Joseph A. Matalon has been appointed to lead the process.
Critical areas of focus for the Jamaica Productivity Centre will be: Public Education and Awareness Productivity Measurement Benchmarking and Best Practices Productivity Advisory Services Productivity Training
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