As proof of her commitment to stimulate gainful employment for Jamaicans, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, on March 22, launched the much anticipated JamaicaEmergency Employment Programme (JEEP).
In her inaugural address at King’s House, where she was sworn in as Prime Minister on January 5, Mrs. Simpson Miller had assured that the programme will be carried out in a transparent and non-partisan manner, to improve critical areas, such as the infrastructure and the environment, which support economic growth.
The launch marked the start of the first phase of one of the employment creation initiatives, which Mrs. Simpson Miller said will see some 5,000 persons being engaged in various types of jobs across the island, in the first instance.
Some $4 billion has been earmarked for the programme and in the first phase, $10 million will be allocated to each of the 63 constituencies, with each Member of Parliament identifying projects to be undertaken.
Speaking at the event, which was held on Barbican Road in St. Andrew, the Prime Minister described the programme as one of the most "carefully constructed” initiatives ever undertaken by any administration.
She disclosed that phase one of the programme will entail activities to be carried out under the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme’s (JDIP) Routine Maintenance Programme. This, she further informed, will be undertaken in St. Catherine, Clarendon, Portland, St. Mary, and St. Ann.
Pointing out that JEEP is intended to relieve “the chronic unemployment situation in the short-term,” the Prime Minister assured that the administration is "looking ahead,” in terms of the prospects for long-term job creation.
Meanwhile, in January, the Prime Minister launched the Performance-based Routine Road Maintenance Project for the North Coast Highway, which will provide meaningful employment for some 700 persons from seven parishes.
The US$10 million project, which will be carried out over a two-year period, was made possible through partnership between the government and the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) financed Road Improvement Programme.
Persons selected for employment will benefit from preparation and training through the HEART Trust/NTA and the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), enabling them to perform quality work in the cleaning and beautification of sections of the 230-kilometre roadway stretching from Negril, Westmoreland to Port Antonio, Portland, as well as critical drains.
Meanwhile, the Government began initial discussions regarding Jamaica’s transition to Republican status, as stated by the Prime Minister at her inaugural address. The talks are being led by the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Department, spearheaded by a Ministerial Committee, which is to make recommendations to Cabinet before talks with the Opposition begin.
The same Ministerial Committee is also spearheading discussions for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to become Jamaica’s final court of appeal. The Justice Ministry and the Attorney General’s Department are also playing lead roles in these discussions.
In her inaugural speech in January, the Prime Minister also signalled the administration’s intention to establish the CCJ as its final appellate jurisdiction and “end judicial surveillance from London."
Meanwhile, in February, the Prime Minister announced that some companies had responded favourably to her call to play a greater role in the creation of employment in the country.
Addressing the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica (AMCHAM), at its first Speakers’ Forum Luncheon, held at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort and Spa in Rose Hall, Montego Bay, she explained that she had thrown out the challenge to the private sector, through the Jamaica Employ initiative, and already some companies had shown much interest.
“The programme, which calls on companies to employ at least one additional qualified Jamaican, holds great potential for meaningful job creation and economic development. I therefore encourage those who have not yet done so, to seriously consider becoming a part of the programme,” Mrs. Simpson Miller said.
Investment and economic advancement were among the priorities on the Prime Minister’s agenda when she declared the Jamaica Investment Forum at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, in St. James, opened on March 1, telling the 120 high net investors that her administration is employing deliberate strategies to restore Jamaica to a viable economic path as quickly as possible.
She told the forum that her Cabinet has set three major objectives: fiscal discipline and prudence; appreciable and sustainable economic growth; and protection of the vulnerable in the society.
The Prime Minister led Jamaica’s delegation to the 23rd Inter Sessional Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in Suriname from March 8 to 9, where the Heads discussed matters pertaining to the reform of the CARICOM Secretariat, community relations, crime and security, CARICOM enterprises, sustainable development, and the governance of West Indies cricket.
Mrs. Simpson Miller also held bilateral talks with Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and President Sebastian Pinera Echenique of the Republic of Chile.
Then in April, the Prime Minister participated in the 6th Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, where the Heads of Government of the 34-member grouping of the Organisation of American States (OAS), along with the United States of America and Canada, held discussions under the theme: ‘Connecting the Americas… Partners for Prosperity’.
Prime Minister Simpson Miller held meetings with delegations from several countries, and spoke on topical issues affecting Jamaica and other developing countries, such as globalisation and development, infrastructure for development, human capital for the knowledge economy, economic growth and natural resources, social development and the private sector. She also participated in a ‘Conversation with Heads’ on the issue of education and development.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter