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Several critical agencies were placed under the umbrella of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), with the formation of the new Government in September last year.
These include the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ); the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN); the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA); the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF); the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA); Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM); the Real Estate Board; the Jamaica Fire Brigade; the Earthquake Unit, the Meteorological Department and the National Land Agency (NLA).
This is part of the thrust in leading the charge to create a framework for good governance, through, among other things, improved accountability. Of particular note is the abolition of the Ministry of Local Government and the establishment of a Local Government Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister. The major emphasis of the new unit is Local Government Reform, with Minister of State, Robert Montague, at the helm.
The advancement of economic and social development remained a priority for the OPM, with Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, endorsing the Vision 2030 Jamaica National Development Plan.
The plan is being developed with broad-based support across every strata of the society, with the PIOJ, in its role as the national planning agency, leading and facilitating this collaborative process. It incorporates support from private sector groups, civil society and the Diaspora.
At the launch of the Plan in November, Mr. Golding said the long term development strategy, which seeks to put the country in a position to achieve its full potential and achieve developed country status in just over two decades, is the beginning of a process that must achieve early in its gestation, a shared vision.
“There was a time when we made the mistake of believing that the vision and the plan to achieve that vision was the property of the Government, and various Governments have come to office believing that the mandate that they received from the people was sufficient authority to proceed on a plan. The mandate may give you the statutory authority to implement, but the mandate doesn’t give you the power to inspire,” Mr. Golding pointed out.
He said the attempt to engage as many stakeholders as possible, has been critical to the plan. However, he noted that it was important to engage others who are not a part of any formal group.
Mr. Golding stressed the importance of good governance, noting that the country faces a crisis of trust, where persons are cynical and skeptical of the process, and political institutions.
“It is not going to be easy to get them to be responsive to any direction, to any plan, to any vision that is outlined, unless we can give them reason, despite their own experiences and despite the cynicism, to invest trust once again in those of us who offer leadership and who occupy positions of authority in the country,” the Prime Minister said.
He said it was important for the vision 2030 development plan to place emphasis on the creation of opportunities, so that everyone, provided that they are prepared to work hard, would be able to enjoy a better life.
Meanwhile, Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, James Robertson, launched the two-day National Planning Summit in November, aimed at arriving at a consensus on the critical initiatives that will drive economic growth and sustainable development for Jamaica.
In his address at the opening ceremony, held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montego Bay St. James, Mr. Robertson said the Government is fully cognisant that in order for the country to move forward, teamwork, effective consultation with stakeholders, strong leadership and execution are fundamental.
He stressed that the way forward for the country is through sustained levels of economic growth to create jobs, reduce poverty, raise the standard of living and pay down the national debt.
“High levels of investment, local and international, are required for us to achieve that objective. If we are to attract that level of investment, we must create an economic and social climate that makes us the favoured nation for substantive, long-term and productive investment activity,” he said.
“We are here as leaders to agree on a shared national vision. We are here as leaders to define the strategies required to bring that national vision to life. We are here as leaders to further collaborate on the suite of projects and initiatives that will ensure delivery on broad strategic objectives. We are here as leaders to tackle the main challenges that have continued to stymie and bedevil the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of our Jamaican people,” the Minister said.
Also addressing the Summit, Director General of the PIOJ, Dr. Wesley Hughes, said that the main objective of the National Planning Summit, is similar to that of the Vision 2030 plan, which is to put Jamaica in a position to achieve its full potential.
“Growth of services at the global and national levels is what we have to focus on. We have to focus on strategic investment in human resources and our competitive advantages in specific service sectors,” he explained.
He cited tourism, the creative industries and sports, as areas that need increased focus, while employment and opportunities for youth development must be addressed. The event brought together a broad coalition of senior Government Ministers, under the leadership of Prime Minister, Bruce Golding; local and international private sector leaders, leading public sector representatives and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
A stronger Parliament also forms part of the good governance agenda, and as such, Prime Minister Golding, within the first month of assuming office, called for amendments to the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, to allow Members of Parliament who are not Ministers, to make statements during sittings.
Previously, only Ministers were entitled under the Standing Orders, to get up in Parliament and make statements to the nation.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister directed an 11-member Committee, to undertake a comprehensive review of the Libel and Slander Act, reiterating that the legislation should be updated to better allow the press greater freedom to present information that was important to the public.
“I am asking you to do what is a really difficult task, which is, how do you ensure that you open that window to the public, to know what is happening, to have the benefit of the information, without at the same time exposing individuals or corporate persons to unjust, unfair and malicious publication,” he told the members.
Mr. Golding urged the committee to draw from the experiences from other countries, to see how the rights of the individual can be harmonised with the greater public right to information in the modern age, and in particular, access to information. He also asked the Committee to examine the issue of whether there should be a higher level of scrutiny for public officials, than there is for the ordinary citizen.