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Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller says there should be protection for countries that are unquestionably at a disadvantage, such as small and vulnerable island states, those with heavy debt burdens, minimal natural resources and those seeking to recover from real shocks.

Giving an overview of Jamaica’s financial situation, the Prime Minister said because the country is deemed “middle income,” it cannot take advantage of debt relief initiatives and concessionary financing destined for low income countries.

“Our reliance on imported oil is severe and with every upward movement in the price externally, our economy is impacted negatively,” Mrs. Simpson Miller said in a speech delivered by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, at a luncheon organised by the Canadian Club of Toronto, on October 24.

“We live under constant threat of natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and droughts, in their various extremes.  We are made more vulnerable to external shocks and developments, and they have been occurring with more frequency and strength in the past several years,” said the Prime Minister, who shortened her visit to Canada and returned home, as a result of Hurricane Sandy, which impacted the island on October 24.

Highlighting where Jamaica stands today after 50 years of independence, Mrs.  Simpson Miller said the country’s infrastructure rivals many in the more developed parts of the world.

“We have reduced significantly our reliance on primary products and embraced the realities of a technological and information age with Information Communications Technology (ICT), Agro-Processing, Manufacturing, and new and creative service industries, among the areas we are developing,” she said.                                                                        

Turning to crime, the Prime Minister said that, “we are not pleased with this aspect of our country’s reputation, and we cannot allow miscreants to hold us hostage.  We will not tolerate antisocial behaviour of the depraved kind and our country will not be a haven for criminals.”

The Prime Minister thanked Canada and other countries for the assistance given to strengthen police capabilities and the justice system.

On the matter of tourism, Mrs. Simpson Miller said it is an integral part of the economy and vital to Jamaica’s development.  The country continues to hold its own in this sector, welcoming over three million visitors in 2011. 

Jamaica’s world-class products such as Appleton Rum, Blue Mountain Coffee and tourism brands, like Sandals and SuperClubs, are reminders that Jamaica has the ability to compete globally, noted Mrs. Simpson Miller.  The task for the next 50 years, she said, is to build on Jamaica’s unique identity as a global cultural superpower.

“I am happy to remind that Jamaica is the very country which has defied every limitation of its size.  We have produced phenomenal achievements in areas of the arts, music and sports.  We gave the world Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley, Louise Bennett and of course, Usain Bolt,” she said.

 President of the Canadian Club, Alison Loat, said the 115-year-old Canadian Club of Toronto is Canada’s pre-eminent public affairs platform, with a mission “to connect Canadians with world-class leaders and news makers.”

The audience included former Prime Minister of Canada, John Turner; Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Canada, Her Excellency Sheila Sealy Monteith; Jamaica’s Consul General to Toronto, Mr. Seth George Ramocan; and Ontario Minister of Consumer Services, Hon. Margarett Best.

Minister Nicholson accepted a portrait of Prime Minister Simpson Miller painted by two young artists of Jamaican heritage, Camille Lauren and Quentin ‘Vercetty’ Lindsay.  

 

CONTACT:   CAROLYN GOULBOURNE-WARREN (TORONTO)