Madam Speaker, Members of this Honourable House, Jamaicans and friends joining us locally and overseas, as I rise to address the Nation in these Budget Debates for a 6th time as Prime Minister, we give God thanks for sparing our lives through the unprecedented travails of 2020 to see this day.

Madam Speaker, this is your second time occupying the Speaker’s chair. You have been even handed and judicious in the management of the proceedings of the House. Our Acting Clerk, Ms. Valrie Curtis is deserving of acknowledgement, giving excellent service to the House for 26 years. Parliament is attracting more viewership than ever before. How we conduct ourselves in language and mannerisms is under increasing scrutiny. Like it or not we are role models for the youth who are watching. We must not descend to the lowest level to make our representations; we can be strident without being obstreperous. The people look to their representatives for elevation, upliftment, and dignity. Madam Speaker, I know you will see to the maintenance of decorum in the House.

Madam Speaker, in the last election the people expressed confidence in the Administration and significantly increased the numbers on the government benches. We are also seeing more women being elected to Parliament than ever before, among them my wife Juliet who is entering her second term, so I can tell you with authority, that women MPs demonstrate a high level of compassion, patience, commitment and importantly, organization.  The Jamaica Labour Party made a concerted effort to recruit and position female candidates in seats and it is clear that the public approved.

Madam Speaker, we all agree that Parliament needs to exercise greater oversight of Government policy, however It is an incomplete view of Parliamentary Democracy which suggests it is only the Opposition by leading sessional committees, that keeps the Executive in check. The Backbench has an important role to play in leading the charge for oversight, particularly on the achievement of policy goals and targets in public bodies and agencies.

To this end, I have arranged training for the government caucus of new Members of Parliament in parliamentary governance, to be clear this is not being done with government resources and separate from the training routinely done for Parliamentarians.

It is evident Madam Speaker, that with 16 sessional committees and several ad hoc committees this building does not have the facility to properly accommodate a fully functioning Parliamentary committee system. Neither does the Parliament have the administrative capacity to support multiple committee meetings simultaneously. Nevertheless, the business of the Nation cannot be stalled, committees that are empanelled under the standing orders must start working on their subject matter and review materials, even if they don’t have hearings. By the end of June, I am mandating that all sessional committees must have at least one meeting, whether in person or virtually, given the COVID protocols.


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