We welcome Your Majesties to Jamaica, an island described by Christopher Columbus on his arrival in 1494 as “the fairest isle mine eyes ever beheld”.We welcome you to this special joint sitting of our Parliament.
Your visit is historic as, although Jamaica was under Spanish rule for more than 160 years, yours is the first ever visit by the Crown of Spain.
The period of Spanish rule of Jamaica ended more than 350 years ago but it is memorialized in the place names and architecture of many of our towns and villages that were established during that period. Spain remains an indelible part of our history.
Spain and Jamaica have enjoyed constructive, engaged and mutually supportive relations for many years. Diplomatic relations were formally established in 1966, four years after our independence. In more recent times, Jamaica has benefitted immensely from assistance provided by the Spanish government and significant investment by Spanish investors.
We are grateful to the government of Spain for the technical and financial assistance it is providing us in improving agricultural technology, establishing modern food safety procedures, forestry development, Spanish language and hospitality training, the preservation and enhancement of our cultural heritage and the refurbishing of the Spanish Town Hospital which Your Majesties will visit tomorrow.
Spanish investment in the hotel sector over the last 8 years has resulted in the construction of 10 new hotels comprising more than 5,000 rooms representing a total investment of almost US$1 billion. It has had a significant effect on our economy. More such investments are currently underway or at an advanced planning stage and over the next 5 years it is projected that an additional 4,300 rooms will be constructed at a capital investment cost of US$1.5 billion.
The privatization of the management of the Sangster International Airport to a consortium including Spanish interests is a success story of which we can be proud.
We have sought to encourage this new wave of investment activity by the establishment of a double taxation treaty between Jamaica and Spain which was signed last year and a new air services agreement which will be signed this afternoon.
In recognition of the close collaboration between Jamaica and Spain, the Cabinet has given approval for the establishment of a Jamaican Embassy in Spain and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade is making the necessary arrangements for this to be done.We have every reason, therefore, to be appreciative of the gracious visit of Your Majesties to our island.
We admire the signal contribution Your Majesty has made in securing and strengthening the constitutional democracy of Spain. Your ascension to the Spanish throne in 1975 following a period of 30 years when it remained vacant heralded a new era for Spain. You skilfully guided your nation through a process of reform, democracy building and the establishment of a new Constitution.
It was not an easy process. There were many instances in which the transition might have been derailed. It was your steady hands, energizing spirit, commanding influence and unyielding commitment to the cause of the Spanish people that guided Spain through one of its most challenging periods. For that you have earned the love of the Spanish people and the respect of the entire world.
Your Majesties, you have honoured us by your visit and I thank you both most sincerely. May you have an enjoyable and memorable stay in our island.

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