In opening this debate on the 2012/13 Budget, I am mindful that my presence here is first of all a mandate from my constituents in East Central St Andrew who continue to show their satisfaction with the representation they receive by returning me to Parliament. They remain an invaluable and irreplaceable source of support, love and inspiration.
Let me pay a well deserved tribute to Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller for her leadership and for the confidence she continues to place in me as a member of the Cabinet with responsibility for an extremely critical portfolio.
I must place on record my appreciation for the support of my colleague, Minister Horace Dalley, who shares with me the responsibilities of an extremely demanding Ministry; the Financial Secretary and the staff of the Ministry of Finance and Planning for their unwavering and professional support; and my personal staff for their patience and commitment, particularly in those difficult moments which come with the territory.
I would also like to recognize the contribution of the staff in the departments and agencies which underpin the work of the Ministry; and in particular the leadership and staff of the Bank of Jamaica and the Planning Institute of Jamaica, STATIN, indeed all the agencies for their invaluable assistance in the budget preparation process.
Mr. Speaker, I want to express a special word of thanks to the thousands of well-wishers and supporters, who with their notes, their telephone calls, their letters, their BB and text messages and their prayers, offer goodwill and guidance.
Finally, let me use this opportunity to thank my family – my wife Sandra and children – one of whom has been bold enough (or foolhardy enough) to follow me into this Parliament. Words cannot adequately express my appreciation for their caring, advice, and love; without which I would not be able to withstand the vicissitudes of public life.
2.0 JAMAICA 50 YEARS ON
Mr. Speaker, this budget debate assumes special significance for the fact
that it is taking place in the year that we celebrate the 50thanniversary of our Independence. We have a lot to celebrate, for no one can deny the genuine progress that our country has made over these fifty years. We have sustained and deepened our democracy; we have created a more egalitarian social order by providing unprecedented access to education and training at all levels, the improvements to our healthcare system have made life expectancy in Jamaica comparable to that which obtains in the developed countries of the world. Our performance in housing construction and the modernization of our physical infrastructure is a source of national pride. Our Artistes and Athletes have stamped the imprint of Jamaican culture on the consciousness of the world.
Yet, for all these achievements, there are deficits on our national balance sheet. One major deficit is our failure to achieve sustained economic growth. Average income per person today remains the same as it was in 1973. Average annual growth rates have been 0.8% over the past 40 years. In other words, Jamaica has not fulfilled the economic mission envisaged by the founding fathers.
Unfortunately, to compensate for the weak growth performance over the years we have witnessed a build-up of an unsustainable public debt stock which now stands at J$1.7 trillion which constitutes an increasing
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