Mrs. Diana Stewart, AMCHAM President
Mrs. Becky Stockhausen, Executive Director of AMCHAM
Mr. Isaiah Parnell, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy
Ms Lisa Hyde, US Consular Service
Members of the Montego Bay Business community
Ladies and Gentlemen
I welcome the opportunity to address you on the occasion of your Speakers Forum; it is also my pleasure to meet with members of the business community in this our Second City.
The American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica, AMCHAM, is a longstanding partner in promoting business, trade and investment between the United States and Jamaica.
AMCHAM’s interest however, has not been confined to business, but includes enhancing our social infrastructure and building the capacity of civic leadership.
I therefore must commend your organization, its dynamic leadership, and you the Members, for the enlightened role you have played and continue to play in nation-building.
I must also congratulate your Executive Director, Mrs. Stockhausen on being selected to represent Jamaica at the Global Summit of US Business Support Partners to be held in Washington.
This important Summit, being hosted next week by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is very timely.
We look forward to the outcome of its deliberations and the further strengthening of initiatives from which Jamaica can benefit through increased investment and business alliances.
I know on an occasion such as this, you would want to hear some of the government’s short to medium term priorities and what can be expected of my administration.
As we begin the journey to mark our 50th year of independence, we mindful of the trust and confidence which the Jamaican people have recently reposed in us.
Our country has made significant strides, from our origins as a colonial society, to where we are presently.
We have come a long way, but I readily admit, we have some way to go to satisfy the hopes, dreams and aspirations of our people.
This 50th anniversary is significant. It is not just a time for celebration, but of meaningful reflection.
It is an opportunity to chart a new course to a brighter, more prosperous future – a future that provides real solutions and tangible opportunities for personal development and economic advancement.
Ladies and gentlemen:
This process of achieving the full promise of our economy and society is a national effort.
It requires the resolve of all, and a strengthening of the relationships with our regional and international partners.
I can tell you, the approach of this administration in this process will be one of constructive engagement and active partnership between government and all stakeholders, including the private sector.
In emphasizing the importance of this new era of public/private partnership, I know AMCHAM has been a solid and committed partner, for over 25 years.
Today, I invite your renewed commitment and continued contribution to achieving the development goals for our country, through renewed partnership, increased investments, expanded business alliances and commercial activities.
Ladies and gentlemen:
We are living in a world that is undergoing major economic crises.
There are complex challenges all around.
Large, industrial economies and small, vulnerable ones, including ours, are being impacted.
This poses serious challenges for our nation, while imposing on us, major demands on how we manage the limited resources, achieve growth and empower our people.
I believe, now, more than ever, that the partnership which must exist between government and the private sector, is not just necessary, but must be placed on solid and lasting foundation.
However, central to this new partnership is confidence.
Confidence will come when you as business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs have a clear sense of direction.
That is one of the reasons we are moving to put in place a credible medium-term macro-economic programme with the International Monetary Fund, IMF.
The new agreement with the Fund will provide a measure of confidence to businesses, while offering some hope to the people.
Our goal is to grow the economy.
We are committed to balancing the books at the same time that we balance peoples’ lives.
Looking at the Euro Zone, in particular Greece, it shows that people, whatever their income level, will react violently if it seems that government is not taking their interests into consideration.
One of the best ways to do this is to put more people to work enabling them to take care of their families and restore their dignity.
A realistic and meaningful job creation programme with private sector participation is a major component of this strategy.
I have already thrown out the challenge to the private sector through the Jamaica Employ initiative.
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 am pleased that already some members of the private sector have not only expressed interest in, but have responded favourably to the proposal.
I encourage those who have not yet done so, to seriously consider becoming part of the Programme.
All I ask is for the employment of one additional qualified Jamaican to the workforce. If you can employ more, by all means, please do so.
The future of Jamaica and its sustainable development goal also requires economic reforms and the removal of impediments to economic vitality, investments and growth.
We are committed to implementing structural reforms, including the Public Sector Reform, Tax Reform, and Public Expenditure Management.
This transformative package of socio-economic reforms will strengthen fiscal discipline, accountability, transparency and service delivery.
Increased foreign direct investment is critical to realizing our goals.
As part of the government’s effort to attractglobal investment, we will next month, March 1-2, host the 2012 Jamaica Investment Forum, right here in Montego Bay.
This Forum will showcase critical investment opportunities in key growth sectors.
We have assembled a high level team of local and international speakers to share ideas and strategies on the way forward.
I impress upon you as business leaders and entrepreneurs to position yourselves to take advantage of the windows of opportunity that exist and others, which I am certain will emerge from this Forum.
As a government, we recognize that sustainable growth and development cannot be achieved at the exclusion of the small business sector.
We are committed to supporting the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, MSMEs, and will be implementing policies to foster an environment for the expansion and sustainable growth of this vital sector.
Deepening the existing partnership with the United States as our major trading partner is also critical.
Your organization is therefore not only well placed in this regard, but we will look to AMCHAM to assist in this process.
We further commit ourselves to working toward achieving the following broad objectives, namely:
· Improve the physical infrastructure, provide housing and protect the environment;
· Reposition the economy for growth through social and public/private sector partnerships;
· Strengthen social policy and engender the development of people’s lives through the provision of improved health care, education and cultural awareness, and
· Strengthen the processes of governance and service delivery.
Clearly, achieving these goals will call for us to implement programmes which will require strong private sector partnerships, as well as increased levels of local and foreign investments.
We are fully committed to creating the environment that supports this partnership, as we must chart our new pathway to progress together.
My message to you today is one of serious commitment towards:
– creating a dynamic and competitive environment for business and investments, and
– an environment for forging strategic business alliances, and capitalizing on the opportunities which currently exist.
The government looks forward to working with you and your team in exploring new initiatives to attract both local and foreign investments, and build business alliances which can create jobs and support Jamaica’s economic development.
We stand ready to work with AMCHAM in building this new partnership to our mutual benefit, and the future economic prosperity of our nation.
To paraphrase the charge from our first national hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey:
Up you mighty businessmen and women of Jamaica…
You can accomplish what you will.
Let us seize the opportunity presented by the occasion of 50 years of political independence, to chart this course to lasting economic progress and prosperity of future generations of Jamaicans.
Let us make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise our families and do business.
I have every confidence you will respond to the call.
May God bless your business endeavours with lasting success and prosperity.