JIS News

I trust that you had a happy and peaceful Christmas, and my prayer is that the New Year finds you in good spirits and with hope in your hearts.
This past year brought with it many changes and challenges. There were unprecedented national developments, particularly on the political landscape and spectacular performances by our sportsmen and women which made us proud. There were the sad moments, as families grieved for loved ones, some of them children, lost to violence.
There were signs of progress in many areas, from the record number of investment projects that came to life – to a tourism performance which outstripped all expectations.
Last year saw hundreds of Jamaicans moving into their own homes and hundreds more now have titles to land, providing them with new options for family advancement. Despite the teething pains, access to credit for micro and small business has received a significant boost and this year we should see greater vitality and expansion in this sector.
There is another encouraging development. Our relentless efforts to tame inflation produced very good results. This is important because a high rate of inflation means higher prices, which create the greatest hardship for those least able to withstand it. High inflation is a very cruel tax on the poor. The reduction of inflation to just over 5 per cent is welcome news indeed.
On the matter of crime and violence, there has been a twenty per cent drop in murders. But even one murder is one too many. We will intensify the fight against crime and violence with continued vigour. The government is committed to ensuring that the security forces are equipped to carry out this task. I call upon all Jamaicans to unite to support the security forces in this effort.
Jamaica is moving forward on many levels, but the work is by no means over. There are still many rivers to cross and I am encouraging everyone to find some quiet time to prepare spiritually and mentally for the year ahead.
This will be a momentous year. I challenge Jamaicans to summon up the finest qualities of citizenship and shoulder common responsibilities.
In March, we will have the opportunity to extend our warm Jamaican hospitality to the visitors who will be here for cricket world cup. Throughout the year, there will be activities marking the two-hundredth anniversary of the legislative abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, which ripped our African ancestors from their homeland and brought them here to work as slaves on sugar plantations.
The abolition of the slave trade was a significant development because it brought an end to the notorious middle passage and paved the way for the ending of slavery itself.
Even as these and other significant events take place, there can be no rest from the day-to-day work of building our country; of waging war on poverty, crime and violence and the other challenges that beset us.
At this time in our history, we need the commitment and energies of all the people, for national, community, and personal success. We must find a way to honour differences in our politics, religion, colour, class and other areas, without letting these differences divide us.
In this new era of global competition, pooling abilities and energies is the way of wisdom.
For each community, for the country, and for the region, we need our collective assets to stand up strong and be resilient in the world. There is wisdom in the proverb: a house divided against itself cannot stand.
We do not have to see eye to eye – to work shoulder to shoulder for the benefit of our country. This year, it is all for Jamaica, and Jamaica for all! Nothing must be allowed to divert us from the common cause of making the country in which we live the best in the world. I know we are equal to the task.
As a people, we are blessed with extraordinary creativity and courage. Guided by “true wisdom from above”, we can transform our country. Let this be the year of transformation, the year of coming together to make things better for all Jamaicans.
I am confident that 2007, with all the choices and challenges that it offers, will be a great year for our country. Let us resolve to live it in love – the richest of blessings that come from above.
Eternal father bless our land, guard us with thy mighty hand. I wish for all Jamaicans everywhere: peace, prosperity and personal fulfillment.
Happy New Year and God bless you!