Note the special significance of the occasion – this being my last address to the annual gathering of the Diplomatic Corps, before demitting office as Prime Minister.
We have commenced 2006 with renewed determination to urgently confront the serious challenges which still occupy our attention; but one which gives cause for hope that the modest gains in the quest for collective peace and security will become more firmly anchored on the platform of genuine progress in the global partnership for development.
Relations with the Diplomatic Community:
Recall the distinct pleasure as Prime Minister, over the past 13 years, to have received, and engaged in mutually rewarding discussions, at varying stages with, Heads of Missions both resident and non-resident. These exchanges, in most instances, have gone beyond mere courtesy calls, in laying the basis for:
The exchange of visits at the level of Heads of State or Heads of Government.
The initiation of programmes for the expansion of trade and investment ties as well as other areas of bilateral cooperation.
The exploration of new areas of technical cooperation directed at our national development priorities.
The expansion of South-South cooperation and the strengthening of North-South dialogue aimed at securing the foundations for the realization of a genuine, resource oriented global partnership for development.
Bilateral Relations Highlights:
Jamaica’s bilateral relations continue to occupy a most prominent place in the country’s foreign policy, with the recognition that the efficacy and strengths of these relations have supported Jamaica’s development efforts over the years.
During the past year, Jamaica has maintained, and in some cases expanded bilateral ties with its traditional partners. In addition, we have forged new relations within and outside the region. Our bilateral relations benefited significantly from increased cooperation with our partners in the South, as we entered into a new phase of harnessing South-South cooperation.
Against this background, my visits to China, Brazil and Chile last year have amply demonstrated not only the mutual significance of our relations in actively pursuing bilateral trade, investment and cooperation in a range of areas. They reflect the positive impact of South-South solidarity in the pursuit of shared goals.
Let me highlight a few of the bilateral initiatives which have significantly contributed to the country’s economic prospects over the past year.
One such initiative is the PetroCaribe Agreement with the Government of Venezuela. I was pleased to have hosted the historic signing of the Initiative in September last year, a tangible realization of South-South cooperation. This augurs well for the economic and social advancement of the region, whose global competitiveness is negatively impacted by increasing oil prices and the volatility of oil.
It will enable Jamaica and other CARICOM countries to access oil from Venezuela on deferred payment terms.
The Agreement will allow us to establish a fund from which we will be able to undertake social programmes that are consistent with our development objectives.
In the face of the negative implication arising from the review of the EU sugar regime, Jamaica has undertaken a number of initiatives to diversify the sugar cane industry by developing value-added by-products, including the production of ethanol. We have received significant technical assistance and support from the Brazilian Government in these efforts during the past year, including potential investors from Brazil’s private sector.
We recorded achievements in improving the infrastructure of our tourism product and are today reaping the rewards as a result of significant investments from Spain. This year, Spain is expected to become Jamaica’s largest source of foreign direct investments.
Express confidence that this year we will see many of our bilateral initiatives bearing fruit. Jamaica will continue to be pro-active in the pursuit of the further strengthening and where necessary, revitalization of its bilateral links.
Caribbean Court of Justice
For Jamaica, the CCJ will have competence to consider only trade disputes that may arise within the context of the CSME. At this stage therefore, the Court will not replace the Privy Council as the final Court of Appeal, and will be limited to the resolution of conflicts emerging from trade differences. We anticipate that these developments will greatly enhance the effectiveness of the conduct of trade within the CSM.
Cricket World Cup 2007
The hosting of Cricket World Cup 2007 (CWC07) in the Region will mark a signal honour for the Caribbean and one occasion on which we will ensure that the world receives the hospitality for which we have become famous.
Preparations are well underway for the staging of the event and a number of meetings of immigration, customs and security officials were held during the course of the year. It is my firm belief that Jamaica and the region will provide adequate security and facilitate the smooth movement of all players during this period.
Construction of stadiums has commenced in all territories hosting matches. Much appreciation needs to be extended to the People’s Republic of China for its invaluable assistance in this effort. For Jamaica’s part, ground was broken at Greenfield in Trelawny, where the opening ceremony for the CWC2007 will be held.
Association of Caribbean States (ACS)
Recognise the Association for its ten years of service to the people of the region, its contributions to the corpus of knowledge on regional issues and a unique forum for dialogue and policy coordination among all the states of the Greater Caribbean, without prejudice.
Welcome the renewal of commitment by Member States at the 4th Summit held in Panama last July to addressing and expediting its work to achieve its objectives set in Trade, Transport, Sustainable Tourism and Natural Disasters.
Having participated in other Summits of the ACS, I am pleased to see the interest of Member States in maintaining the integrity of the Caribbean Sea for the full use of all in the future and encourage all concerned to protect and preserve this vital resource.
Hemispheric: Organization of American States (OAS)
Jamaica continues to participate actively in the Councils, Committees and Working Groups of the Organization of American States in fulfilment of its mandates. We are aware of the continued engagement of the OAS in coordination with the UN in Haiti.
Summit of the Americas
The international trade agenda continues to present daunting challenges for developing countries and small economies in particular, at the hemispheric level.
As a small developing state, Jamaica is committed to supporting the Summit of the Americas process and the opportunity for dialogue on the important trade and related development issues, governance and social equity across the hemisphere.
While the discussions focussed on poverty alleviation as well as labour and employment issues, there was some consideration of the future prospects for the (FTAA) and its role in strengthening the process of hemispheric integration. The negotiations to conclude (FTAA) have remained at a protracted standstill. This is of some concern to CARICOM which regards the timely conclusion of an FTAA Agreement as a vital tool in the efforts to enhance living standards and improve working conditions for all persons within the Americas.
I am pleased to note that at the Summit, Heads reiterated their commitment to the achievement of a balanced and comprehensive FTAA Agreement and instructed Officials responsible for trade negotiations to resume their meetings during 2006, in order to advance the negotiations within the framework adopted in Miami in November 2003.
As Your Excellencies are aware, I had the distinct privilege of presiding over the Second South Summit, held in Doha Qatar in June 2005, as Chairman of the Group of 77 and China. This stewardship role which we assumed over the past year, has now concluded with the baton having been seamlessly passed on to the safe hands and inspired leadership of the Government of South Africa, as of 12th January, 2006.
Note that in Doha, the South Summit provided yet another forum and opportunity for advancing the development agenda of the developing countries.
60th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
As Chairman of the Group of 77 and China and Head of Jamaica’s Delegation I also participated actively at the 60th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2005 which assumed special significance given the High-level Plenary and Millennium Plus 5 Summit. This brought together more than 170 Heads of State and Governments – potentially the largest gathering of world leaders in history.
Quite appropriately, the main focus of attention of world leaders was the future of the United Nations and its role in confronting global problems in the context of development, collective security, human rights, implementation of the Millennium Declaration and Institutional Reform of the United Nations. Jamaica and its G77 partners had viewed the High Level Plenary as a unique opportunity to address the multidimensional nature of security and development, including issues relating to poverty, natural disasters, crime, drug trafficking, the illicit traffic in small arms and the rule of law
Therefore, with respect to the 2005 World Summit outcome document which was adopted by consensus, Jamaica naturally shares the general disappointment of the G77 with the development cluster of the document which gave less than adequate treatment and attention to the development agenda.
We nevertheless welcome the adoption of the document as providing an overall framework and a starting point, whose provisions demand urgent attention. Jamaica considers it indispensable that firm and decisive action is taken to advance the broad global agenda emerging from the Summit.
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) Valletta Malta 25th – 27th November 2005
Over the years, Jamaica has benefited tremendously from technical cooperation and other assistance from the Commonwealth, particularly in the area of capacity building, and we have enjoyed a special relationship with our Commonwealth partners. Not surprisingly, the issues of international trade, vulnerability of small states and the global development agenda, dominated the agenda of the meeting and were addressed directly by Heads at the Retreat.
Of particular importance to Jamaica and its CARICOM partners, as well as other Commonwealth ACP States, was the clear acknowledgement by Heads on the need for compensation to ACP Sugar producers, having regard to the adverse implications of the European Union Sugar regime reform measures.
It is important to address the problem of the digital divide. CHOGM’s theme: “Networking the Commonwealth for Development” was therefore timely and appropriate for a small developing country like Jamaica.
My government is convinced that digital processes empower people. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the advances in technology are useful only to the extent that they can be harnessed to improve people’s lives, otherwise we will stumble and fall in our journey on the information highway.
As a result, we have embraced the challenges and opportunities provided by the Digital Age and our approach to Information and Communication Technologies is a dual one. We view ICTs as a key tool for development, as well as an economic activity in its own right.
Millennium Development Goals
The situation in Jamaica in 2006 shows progress on a number of key social indicators. The Millennium Development Goals Report indicates that Jamaica is on track to reduce poverty by 50 per cent.
We are currently reviewing the National Poverty Eradication Programme. The intention is to strengthen the delivery and effectiveness of the programme. The Review will examine our own people’s perception of poverty and reflect the standards of well- being which are acceptable to Jamaicans.
Our strong commitment to education is reflected in the fact that despite the severe constraints of our debt burden we have been able to double the real expenditure in the education sector in the last 10 years. The transformation of our education system is a major priority for the nation.
In 2002, 96.4 per cent of the 3-5 years age cohort was registered in a developmental institution. The recently enacted Child Care and Protection Act and the appointment of the Children’s Advocate are major steps to protect and promote the rights of the child.
Efforts to promote gender equality and greater understanding of gender issues have been boosted by the development of a National Gender Policy. This has facilitated wide consultations with women and men. The Property (Right of Spouses) Act was passed and work in proceeding on a proposed legislation on sexual harassment.
The Education Transformation Team has reported that 80 per cent of ‘critical’ schools have been refurbished; 26,470 units of furniture delivered; 7,650 students participated in the summer literacy programme. Progress is being made to provide additional school places and toward that objective, 11 existing schools have been expanded and 8 new schools are under construction.
Estimates from the JSLC 2004 show that 75.8 per cent and 80.5 per cent of students had full attendance at the primary and secondary levels respectively.
There is continued expansion in technical and vocational training. HEART/NTA reports increases in total enrolment in 2003/04 by 22 per cent particularly in the Commercial skills, Hospitality skills and Information technology areas.
There is evidence of increasing enrolment in tertiary education, by students from the lower income groups. (Anderson & Devonish 2004) This shows that education is still considered an important investment for social mobility and there is increasing access by the poor. This trend is facilitated by the wide range of foreign universities offering tertiary education in a variety of disciplines. In the field of health, our indicators have remained stable. The government continues to focus on healthy lifestyle promotions to address HIV/AIDS, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Priority of the National HIV/AIDS programme includes expanding HIV testing and the facilitation of universal access of HIV treatment. The prevention programme is being intensified to involve focus group consultations with the most vulnerable.
The Government of Jamaica and the donor community have been engaged in a process of donor coordination and harmonization to ensure the effective allocation of resources to priority programmes, reduce duplication and reduce transaction costs.
The efforts have resulted in an agreed Medium Term Socio-Economic Policy Framework for the period April 2004 to March 2007.
The Framework document that has been prepared is being implemented and monitored jointly by the Government of Jamaica, the donor community and key stakeholders. Social Monitoring systems are being encouraged as a way to keep focus on the commitments made.
In the area of governance, greater effort is being made to involve civil society in constructive dialogue and collaboration for policy development. Over 37 communities, the relevant agencies, official and the political directorate have been involved in a process to ensure the effective delivery of specific services to improve social inclusion of the youth. The dialogue has gone a long way in improving relations between communities and these agencies including the police.
The recently approved consultation code will facilitate a more systematic approach to involving civil society and getting their feedback on policy implementation. A comprehensive training and capacity building programme has been initiated by MIND and a number of officers have already been trained in these methodologies.
The last decade has been important in the search for good governance.
Never before has any government developed so many policies, drafted/amended so many pieces of legislation, established so many independent oversight bodies and brought so many diverse groups with contending interests together to achieve our objective of a more open, transparent, accountable and responsive Government.
Access to Information ActCorruption Prevention ActContractor General’s Act (amended)Establishment of National Contracts Commission in 1999. For the first time the recommendation for the award of contracts is published in press and on OC-G’s website. Office of Contractor-General strengthened to be more proactiveStrengthening of Auditor General’s DepartmentOpening up proceedings of Parliamentary Committees especially the PAC to media/publicCode of Conduct for Ministers of GovernmentElectoral reformComprehensive reform of financial sectorPrivatisation of mediaAccountability framework for Permanent SecretariesConsultation Code and
Citizen’s Charter to bring more persons to the center of governance and a Consultation Code to engage more persons in the process of decision-making.
These initiatives became a fundamental, a linchpin in the Governments quest for improving the quality of life of the Jamaican people through good governance.
The economic, social and physical transformation of Jamaica which I undertook in my tenure as Prime Minister required that the institutions of the state are strengthened and modernized. We have insisted on competitive tendering and transparency.
The value of contracts $4m and over exceeds $76b in the last three years. These involve projects in several sectors and industries including tourism, roads, the modernization of our ports, energy and the expansion of the bauxite industry.
The debate about good governance cannot be advanced without a critical look at how the conduct of business in entities, both national and multinational, other than state entities can result in “state capture” and exert undue (and improper) influence on both the effectiveness of government and the quality of governance.
The Proceeds of Crime Act, the amendment to the Public Bodies (Management and Accountability) Act and the review of the powers of the Public Service Commission would enhance our fight against corruption.
It is also time for leaders and the people of Jamaica to engage in dialogue about the financing of political parties.
Implementation of CARICOM Single Market
We have witnessed a defining moment in the history of our regional integration movement with the launch of the CARICOM Single Market. This represents one half of the equation which will ultimately be completed with the introduction of the Single Economy. While the Single Market is by no means the panacea for the trade and investment challenges being confronted by the region, it provides an enlarged economic space and affords a firmer foundation from which we can call upon all CARICOM nationals, together with our partners abroad, to seek to fully avail themselves of the very tangible trade and economic benefits that the Single Market offers.
Underline Jamaica’s hope and expectation that 2006 will see further momentum to consolidate the incremental gains made and the achievement of more significant progress in the collective efforts currently underway to implement the UN Reform measures as outlined in 2005 World Summit Documents including the MDGs. In this regard, the international community will need to redouble its efforts to ensure that in charting a more efficient and equitable international system, equally urgent attention should be given to the implementation of the development agenda. Such action should proceed in tandem with the other clusters currently being implemented relating to the recently established Peace Building Commission and the proposed Human Rights Council.
Finally to convey to all Heads of Missions and members of the Diplomatic Community, sincere appreciation for all the assistance and support provided to Jamaica during my tenure as Prime Minister, which the Government anticipates will be sustained, and in other areas strengthened for the benefit of all our citizens.
Note the special significance of the occasion – this being my last address to the annual gathering of the Diplomatic Corps, before demitting office as Prime Minister.