- The 2015/2016 session of Parliament began on Thursday, February 19, at Gordon House, with the traditional pomp and pageantry.
- It marks the earliest start to the country’s Parliamentary year and presentation of the annual budget, which normally takes place at the beginning of April.
- The ceremonial opening was highlighted by the delivery of the Throne Speech by Governor-General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen.
The 2015/2016 session of Parliament began on Thursday, February 19, at Gordon House, with the traditional pomp and pageantry.
It marks the earliest start to the country’s Parliamentary year and presentation of the annual budget, which normally takes place at the beginning of April.
The ceremonial opening was highlighted by the delivery of the Throne Speech by Governor-General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen.
On his arrival, the Governor-General inspected the Guard of Honour mounted by members of the Jamaica Defence Force, after which he entered the chambers of the House, accompanied by the Commissioner of Police, Dr. Carl Williams, and Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Antony Anderson.
Specially invited guests, including Permanent Secretaries from the various Ministries, and members of the Diplomatic Corps, also entered the House to hear the Throne Speech.
Members of the Senate were the first to take their seats inside Gordon House, followed by the President of the Senate, Floyd Morris.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Michael Peart, then entered the chambers, followed by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller; Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness, and Members of Parliament.
The Throne Speech, delivered under the theme: ‘Partnership for Development: Inclusive Growth…Expanding Opportunities’, outlined the priority programmes and policies to be pursued by the Government during the new fiscal year.
For the new financial year, focus will be placed on the development of the agricultural sector, where additional agro-park sites will be established in Western Jamaica and St. Mary.
There will also be emphasis on the energy sector with the development of a ‘smart grid’ and regulating provisions for the treatment of renewable and alternative energy.
Improving the quality of education will also be an area of priority, with the government embarking on a rationalisation programme of the early childhood sector, converting under-resourced basic schools into infant departments of primary schools.
The Government will also pursue an active legislative agenda.
Among the critical Bills to be brought is the Administrator General’s (Amendment) Act, to address the long standing problems of administering multi- generational intestate properties.
Legislation to establish a National DNA Database, which is critical to the modern investigation of crime, will also be coming to Parliament this year.
A Building Bill will also be brought to Parliament. This is aimed at improving the efficiency of the building approval process, and providing a framework for the effective management of the building industry.
The Sexual Harassment Act, which will provide the framework for securing the protection of persons at the workplace and in other institutions will also be brought to the House. Additionally, the long awaited Fishing Industry (Amendment) Act to facilitate better management of that industry will also be brought to the House.
Later in the afternoon, the Lower House had its first official sitting for the new fiscal year, where the proposed budget for 2015/16 and the Revenue measures were tabled by Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips.