The 2012/2013 session of Parliament began Thursday May 10, at Gordon House, with the traditional pomp and pageantry, and highlighted by the delivery of the Throne Speech by Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir. Patrick Allen, at 11:00 a.m.
A small group of supporters who gathered at Duke Street cheered members of both political parties as they arrived.
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, Owen Ellington, 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 took their respective seats in Gordon House. This was followed by the arrival of the wife of the Governor General, Lady Allen and President of the Senate, Rev. Stanley Redwood.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Michael Peart entered the Chamber, followed by the Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller and Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness. Members of Parliament also entered and took their seats.
The Throne Speech was delivered under the theme: ‘Nation on a Mission’, and it outlined the priority programmes and policies to be pursued by the Government during the new fiscal year.
Some of the priority areas outlined for the 2012/13 financial year include: putting the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) into higher gear; creating an enabling environment to do business in Jamaica; job creation; increased production within the agricultural sector; energy efficiency; reducing crime and violence; improving the infrastructure; the economy and foreign policy.
During his presentation, the Governor General noted that in this Legislative Year, approximately 32 Bills will be passed, which would be about twice the average of the last few years.
Some of the critical Bills include an Act to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice as Jamaica’s final Court of Appeal; a Secured Transactions Act to overhaul Jamaica’s antiquated system for taking security over collateral other than real estate; and a new Patents and Design Act to provide a modern framework for investment.
The Governor-General also mentioned that the Government will commence the construction of more than 50 new infant schools. Improvement will also be made to the nutrition for preschoolers.
Focus will also be placed on heightening awareness about the issue of child abuse and neglect.
Later in the afternoon the House had its first official sitting for the new fiscal year, and the 2012/13 Estimates of Expenditure tabled by the Minister of Finance and Planning, Hon. Dr. Peter Phillips.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter