- The Government secured an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to help stabilize the country’s economy.
- The Cabinet produced a budget for the 2013/2014 financial year that cut expenditure, and put the country in a better position to negotiate an IMF agreement.
- The Government in March signed a three-year agreement with public servants to restrain wage increases for the 2012-2015 contract period.
Led by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, the Government made significant strides in taking the country forward in 2013, despite the many challenges it faced.
It was a year during which the Government secured an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help stabilize the country’s economy; secured important foreign investments and bilateral economic agreements; passed several critical pieces of legislations; upgraded several health facilities across the island, thus improving the delivery of health care; provided employment through the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP); improved the housing stock in the country; empowered Jamaicans by handing out thousands of land titles; and expanded the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), to assist the poor and vulnerable, among other achievements.
At the beginning of 2013, the Prime Minister led her Cabinet in a three-day retreat from which they emerged with an even stronger resolve to pursue the imperative of economic growth. At a post Retreat Press Briefing on January 14, the Prime Minister informed the nation that the Cabinet focused on several major areas of critical importance to the country, including the IMF negotiations; advancing the growth and development agenda; pursuing public-private partnerships and job creation; and social protection for the most vulnerable.
CRAFTING A BUDGET
Following the retreat, the Cabinet then produced a budget for the 2013/2014 financial year that cut expenditure, and put the country in a better position to negotiate an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with the IMF.
PROJECT MONITORING COMMITTEE
Cognisant of the tight fiscal space within which the government is operating, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of a special committee, headed by Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies, to monitor all Government projects, to ensure that they meet their targets.
The Government in March signed a three-year agreement with public servants to restrain wage increases for the 2012-2015 contract period. Mrs. Simpson Miller praised the civil servants for their sacrifice and for putting the country first, noting that the restraint was critical to the country’s Economic Reform Programme (ERP), and a necessary precondition to securing an agreement with the IMF.
In return, the public servants were granted a number of concessions, including an extension of the reduced interest rate for National Housing Trust (NHT) mortgagors to 2015; a 15 per cent reduction in peril insurance charges from September 2013 to March 2017; and access to contributions refund due from 2014-2017, instead of a credit to their mortgage account.
Office of the Prime Minister Year in Review Audio
HISTORIC SOCIAL PARTNERSHIP
To further strengthen the base for fiscal prosperity, Mrs. Simpson Miller in July signed on behalf of the Government, a three-year Social Partnership with the private sector, trade unions and civil society groups. It was the first ever signing of a social partnership agreement in Jamaica.
Under the agreement, the groups reaffirm and recommit to the principles of social dialogue and partnership; and resolve to embark on a programme for Jamaica’s stabilization, growth with equity and sustainable development through a social partnership, initially over the period 2013-2016. Priority areas of focus for the first three years include fiscal consolidation; adherence to the rule of law; ease of doing business; employment creation; and energy diversification and conservation.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING SOLUTIONS
The Prime Minister reiterated Government’s commitment in providing access to affordable housing solutions for the most vulnerable. In response, the National Housing Trust (NHT), an agency under the OPM, in collaboration with Food for the Poor and the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), rolled out First Step Homes.
Some 132 starter homes were provided under the project for low-income earners and NHT contributors, who earned up to $7,500 per week. Beneficiaries received a starter unit that can be easily converted into a two-bedroom home, with living and dining quarters and bathroom. The first set of 74 First Step homes was developed at Hampden in Trelawny.
A further 48 homes were made available under the Innercity Housing Project and 63 serviced lots were also provided in Nashville, St. Mary and in Westmoreland.
PERTH, LONGVILLE AND HELLSHIRE
The NHT also invested approximately $677.5 million in its first major housing development, in Manchester. Located at Perth on 592 acres, the Prime Minster officially handed over serviced lots to the first 25, of 245 beneficiaries in Phase 1 of the development, in March.
The agency also spearheaded a project at Longville Park in Clarendon, where Mrs. Simpson Miller handed out the first set of keys to beneficiaries of the Longville Park Phase III Housing Scheme. Approximately 882 families benefited from new housing solutions constructed at a cost of $4.8 billion.
In October, the agency invited customers to use the online system for the first time, to apply for benefits in the Hellshire Phase 4 housing development, where 184 housing solutions became available.
During the year NHT contributors benefited from an increase in the loan limit, which moved from $1.5 to $2.5 million for purchasing serviced lots.
The agency also contributed to the country’s economic reform programme by agreeing to pump $11 billion per year over four years to support the IMF programme.
TOPS IN CUSTOMER SERVICE
The NHT also demonstrated good customer service, walking away on July 11, with the Prime Minister’s Trophy for the Best Customer Service Entity (multiple locations). The competition’s award for Best Customer Service Officer also went to the NHT, with Amy Thame, Customer Service Representative in the Trust’s Call Centre, copping the award. Additionally, four staff members, Marjorie Douglas, Dennis Simpson, Ryan Campbell and Nickole Howden, were specially recognised for customer service excellence.
ACCELERATED LAND TITLING
The Prime Minister continued the push for an accelerated land titling programme in 2013, noting the Government’s firm commitment to put thousands of land titles in the hands of Jamaicans. For 2013, some 5,000 titles were targeted to be handed out through the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing.
Mrs. Simpson Miller was on hand to personally present some of those, starting with 50, to Jamaicans from across the island under a special debt forgiveness programme called the Jubilee ‘50 for 50’ Housing Initiative. She also presented titles to 70 residents of Ebony Park Housing Scheme, in Toll Gate, Clarendon.
RECAPITALISATION OF JDF
As Minister of Defence, the Prime Minister led the charge for a safer Jamaica in 2013. Mrs. Simpson Miller has also ensured that the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) receives the necessary support to bolster its response capacity. In December, Cabinet approved a five-year recapitalisation project for the JDF, which will see it replacing obsolete and mainly unserviceable V150 armoured cars in its fleet. Under the project, the JDF will acquire 12 Thales Australia Bushmaster armoured personnel carriers (APCs) used in internal security deployments as well as pre and post disaster response.
The Prime Minister also broke ground for the Lathbury Barracks Development Project, which was commissioned at Up Park Camp to provide increased housing. The four-year $1.7 billion project involves building several multi-storey accommodations to house more than 1,400 soldiers; offices; stores and multi-purpose rooms.
FALMOUTH STATION COMPLETED
The JDF collaborated with another agency under the Prime Minister’s portfolio, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), to complete construction of the Falmouth Police Station in Trelawny at a cost of $272.8 million and funded through the PetroCaribe Fund. The Prime Minister opened the facility on March 6.
IMPROVED ATTRACTIONS UNDER UDC
The UDC continued its programme of improving attractions under its portfolio. The Dunn’s River Experience was enhanced by the recent addition of two nature trail tours to the world famous Falls Climb. The tours became operational during
October 2013 and provide other options for those persons who may not wish to, or who are unable to climb the falls. The Corporation has also, in consultation with the Craft Traders, redesigned the flow through the Craft Market to facilitate a smoother, more enjoyable walk through of the Park.
UPGRADING OF OCHO RIOS FISHERMEN’S VILLAGE
The Corporation is moving ahead with plans for the upgrading of the Ocho Rios Fishermen’s Village with the aim of transforming it into a premier facility for entertainment and dining. The Corporation shared concept plans for the project in a consultation session with the fisher folk and other stakeholders in November.
In an effort to strengthen the resilience of Hellshire’s coastline to withstand stronger storm surges and hurricanes, some 20,000 square metres (2 hectares) of mangroves were restored in an area adjacent to the Fort Clarence beach. The activity is a collaborative effort between the UDC and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), through its Government of Jamaica, European Union and United Nation Environment Programme (GOJ/EU/UNEP) Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project (CCADRRP).
UDC INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES
The UDC invited the business community to take up various investment opportunities available in St. Ann and downtown Kingston. Projects being offered on the market include the development of 8.9 acres of property on the Kingston waterfront, dubbed the Festival Market Place and Food Bazaar; as well as the Caymanas Estate, St. Catherine. One investor, New Era Homes 2000 Ltd., has taken up the invitation though its Caymanas Country Club Estate Housing Development, which was officially opened in October.
ROAD SAFETY A MUST
As Chair of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), the Prime Minister sought international support for making the local traffic environment safer. Speaking to the UN General Assembly, she joined the call for road safety to be an integral part of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goal framework. She also noted that Jamaica remains guided and inspired by the main Decade goal of reducing the projected level of road fatalities by 50 per cent by 2020.
As the nation observed World Day of Remembrance For Road Crash Victims in November, the Prime Minister renewed the call for every Jamaican to recommit to the national imperative of road safety and offered words of comfort to members of the public who have lost loved ones through crashes.
The Road Safety Campaign was boosted by the awarding of the prestigious Prince Michael International Road Safety Award. The award named for Prince Michael of Kent, who arrived in the island in April and helped put the issue of road safety in the limelight.
ROAD SAFETY ACT
The draft for the new Road Traffic legislation was completed by the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and has been forwarded to Cabinet for consideration.
To strengthen international cooperation, even as she pursued national development, the Prime Minister responded to invitations from Heads of Government and participated in meetings and summits. These also allowed her to explore opportunities for foreign direct investment, tourism growth, expanded trade and technical and cultural co-operation.
The Prime Minister participated in the 8th summit of the Petrocaribe Energy Agreement in Nicaragua, to secure the gains made in the Petrocaribe Initiative. She promoted Jamaica’s rich investment climate at the Association of Caribbean States in Haiti, and at the 34th Caribbean Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, where she also met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In May, the Prime Minister visited Ethiopia for the 50th anniversary of the African Union, held bilateral talks with leaders of four African Countries and the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry. As a result, Jamaica and Tanzania are exploring educational and sporting collaborations.
Jamaica also had significant returns from Mrs. Simpson Miller’s mission to the Asian Continent. In August, the Prime Minister travelled to China where agreements were signed to fund the island’s Major Infrastructure Development Programme, the building of two infant schools and a feasibility study on the Confucius Institute.
The island also received a US$16 million grant from the Chinese government, to carry out several projects. Mrs. Simpson-Miller also used the opportunity to woo Chinese investors to the island. She met with the heads of several top companies, including China Communications Construction Company (CCCC); Huawaei, and several others.
Similar investment opportunities were pitched to Japanese Investors when the Prime Minister went on a three-day working visit to that country in November. There she met with Marubeni, the 40 per cent owner of the Jamaica Public Service Company, and Nippon Light Metal, the company currently exploring pilot studies on the extraction of rare earths from extraction of red mud.
In November, the Prime Minister visited Brussels, Belgium where she met with President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso on November 26 and addressed the opening plenary of the European Development Days forum. She also addressed the Women In Parliaments (WIP) Global Forum in the European Parliament on November 27, where she was seen as an inspiration by hundreds of women from around the world, some of whom had no representation in their own Parliaments. Jamaica was honoured for its role in the empowerment of women, in particular for closing the gender gap in terms of women, who work in public administration.
The Prime Minister paid respects, on behalf of the nation, by attending funeral services for two leaders who the country held in great esteem, former Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, in March; and Former South African President, Nelson Mandela, in December.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in September, the Prime Minister urged the international community to unite in their efforts to end human trafficking, a issue of growing concern.
She participated in the unveiling of a monument to the victims of slavery at the UN, which she described as a great and fitting tribute to “our African ancestors” who paid for “our freedom with their lives”.
Mrs. Simpson Miller also told world leaders at the Assembly to take a stand and act in a manner that will not just fulfill the 2000 Millennium Declaration, but will also provide a meaningful and far reaching development framework to benefit all nations, as the many millions around the world living in poverty and inequity, need a clear message of hope.
HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT
In pursuit of the goal of developing human capital, the Prime Minister announced that two workforce colleges were to be formed by the HEART Trust/NTA, complementing the two established in 2012.
Through her Foundation, 80 young people were awarded scholarships to pursue tertiary education.
An additional 60 were given access to vocational training and internship during a project launched in May in Majesty Gardens.
A total of 179 outstanding Jamaicans, who have contributed to nation building, were officially recognised at the National Honours and Awards ceremony on National Heroes Day, Monday, October 21, on the lawns of King’s House.
45 GET PM YOUTH AWARDS
Forty five outstanding young persons were recognised on March 24 at the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards for Excellence, an initiative which highlights the achievements of young Jamaicans between 15 and 24 years of age.
MEDALS OF APPRECIATION
The Prime Minister also presented Medals of Appreciation to 40 teachers from across the island, in recognition of their service to education. Taking note of the educators’ involvement in their respective communities, she noted that the recipients of the Medal of Appreciation for Education bear testimony to the fact that education does not begin and end in the classroom.
A further 79 Jamaicans were presented Medal of Appreciation for Service to Jamaica in an event that formally closed the celebrations to commemorate Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of Independence.