We happily welcome the clear vision of 2020, embracing this New Year for all; the potential and promise it holds and we give God thanks for sparing our lives to see yet another decade. We remember those who left us last year, like our former Prime Minister Edward Seaga and many other of our loved ones, heroes and benefactors.

We give God thanks for their lives and stand on their contribution to overcome the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of the New Year.

It pains my heart that many of our brothers and sisters, and our children were deprived of seeing 2020 due to violence. This is a social epidemic and requires national consensus around the use of emergency powers to bring the disease under control.

My Government is committed to bringing the murder rate down. The target set in the Social Partnership approximates the regional average of 16 murders per hundred thousand of population within the near term.

Unfortunately, there are those among us that appear to accept the high level of crime and violence as normal. Political disunity and gamesmanship over crime fighting and national security policy have real effects on our lives. Lack of support from the Opposition resulted in a break in the SOEs for the first four months of 2019, and an unusual spike in homicides in November, which meant that we ended 2019 approximately 3.4% higher in homicides than 2018 when we saw a record decline of 22%.

While the SOEs have been very effective when and where we have been able to use them, we have used the space they create to build the capacity of our National Security apparatus to respond to the current level of crime and violence in the society. This Fiscal Year will see, the largest allocation of JA$5.28 Billion dollars to equip the police force with cutting-edge technology to enhance their ability to detect, record, respond and prevent crimes in the society. This year, the JCF will receive the first set of purpose-built police cars fitted with tracking devices and onboard computers. The JCF’s radio and communication system is being improved, the long talked about electronic station diary will start implementation, and police stations right across Jamaica are being refurbished, or built a new.

Several administrative and operational improvements are being undertaken internally, greater emphasis and resources are being targeted at the investigative and intelligence capacity of the Force. While these transformational actions are not yet mature, already we are seeing the impact on the number and quality of cases being brought before the court to secure convictions. The police have over 13 major gang cases in various stages to come before the courts. Using the space created by the SOEs, the JCF and MOCA continue the long, hard and tedious work of intelligence gathering and investigations as they build cases and make arrests using regular police powers and conventional methods.

Your Government recognizes the importance of social intervention in breaking the cycle of violence and crime, particularly at the community level and we intend to spend significantly on intervening in some of the social conditions underpinning crime and violence. After more than 20 years of experience with social intervention programmes, the lesson learnt is that such interventions have to occur in parallel and coordinated with security intervention. The Zones of Special Operations were designed to provide a security environment within which social intervention could be maximized. The Mount Salem and Denham Town pilot zones have been a success and this year we will have resources in place to declare other areas as Zones of Special Operations. Ultimately, we will take back Jamaica from the criminals, community by community.

Jamaica’s high homicide rate did not happen overnight. In the decade of the 80s; 4,870 murders were committed in Jamaica, by the decade of the 90s this increased to 7,621 murders, and by decade of the 2000s, even with the formation of various special squads and units, murders skyrocketed to 13,418. This past decade, 2010 to 2019 has seen a reduction in murders to 12,698.

The level of crime we are now experiencing is over and above the capacity of our existing security apparatus to manage. While the crime and murder numbers have grown over the past 4 decades:
* successive governments have not increased the national security budget apace,
* or kept abreast with technology,
* or increased the number of investigators and other critical capabilities commensurately,
* or effectively controlled corrupt activity in the force.

It is only in this last decade that any serious policy and legislative reforms have been undertaken and certainly within this term that serious budgetary, manpower and technological upgrades have been made. All Jamaicans should take hope that with sound policy, programmes and plans we can reduce murders, but it will take a long-term concerted and united commitment to stick with the plan.

I am confident in our plan to secure Jamaica. For the first time Jamaica is engaged in building a National Security architecture fit for the times, that will deal with domestic threats, but will also deal effectively with our air and maritime space and borders, in addition to securing our cyber domain which is becoming more important as the world becomes digital. All of this cannot be done overnight or even in two years, it takes a year and a half to procure equipment, at least two years in some cases to draft and pass legislation, several years to train up a seasoned investigator and other skilled law enforcement operators. Much of this is now being done behind the scenes, and we will be intensifying our efforts to bring these reforms and investments more quickly to fruition to save more lives.

The disorder on our roads and in public spaces is now a national concern. Billions have been invested in improving our road infrastructure, which will improve connectivity, efficiency and comfort, but some among us are determined to breach all the rules of the road, disregard other road users and purvey carnage and chaos on our streets. Aside from a general socio-emotional improvement in our respect for law and order which comes from our education system and how we bring up our children, increasing the detection of violations, increasing enforcement, and securing swift convictions through the courts must be the area of focus for government policy.

The JCF has already established the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch which is still in its infancy but has been impactful. To complement their work, the government has decided to invest heavily in traffic management and traffic violation detection technology, and this year the traffic ticketing system and the enabling regulations for the new Road Traffic Act should be complete. Many more traffic offenders will be caught and ticketed and there will be no more amnesty for the foreseeable future!

Ultimately however, enforcement and technology have limits; whether in crime fighting or traffic enforcement. Our lasting peace and abiding order depend on how responsibly we act individually and as a people. We will never be able to have cameras and traffic police on every road to arrest every driver who decides to overtake a line of traffic in rush hour or speed dangerously on local road.

However, if you decide to slow down and drive according to the rules of the road and wear your helmet, we can bring down the crashes for 2020, the life you save could be your own! We will never know where all the illegal guns are hidden, but someone knows and is afraid to speak. One day those guns could turn on you or your loved ones. Every Jamaican has a personal responsibility to obey the law, behave in an orderly manner and share information about the guns and criminals with the appropriate authorities or call Crime Stop. This can help to bring down the homicide rate, again the life you save could be your own.

Like our security infrastructure, there have been many decades of under investment in our health infrastructure. I have toured some of our hospitals and clinics and seen first-hand the discomfort of patients and the strain on staff, particularly when there is an upsurge in illnesses as is the case with dengue.

The government is now steadily increasing investments in our health infrastructure to better serve patients with over $10B of investments planned for health facilities and over $3B dedicated to rebuilding the Cornwall Regional Hospital. We have spent approximately $2B on dengue control through environmental clean-up programmes in communities, and various public health interventions including purchasing 40 new pickups which will be deployed island-wide to conduct more regular fogging. However, like security, our health requires our personal responsibility and action.

Dengue is transmitted by a mosquito that breeds in our domestic surroundings. While the government has increased the collection of bulky waste that breeds the mosquito, only you can check the flowers vase to see if it has mosquito larvae in it. Only you can bore holes in the containers you discard around your house, the government cannot come inside you house everyday to see to it that water you store is covered.

We can give you the information but you have to act and take responsibility. In 2020, I encourage all Jamaicans to take personal responsibility for your health and security and fulfil your role as good citizens by cooperating with the authorities to eradicate the pests that threaten your lives. Let us know if you have breeding site near your home, allow the public health workers to fog your community, don’t stone them, likewise tell us where the guns are, tell us what you know about the criminals and together we will make Jamaica safe, secure and healthy.

Many great things happened in 2019, which gives me great hope for 2020. Let me see how many I can cover in the remaining few minutes:

Lowest Unemployment rate in the history of Jamaica (7.8%)
Longest period of Consecutive Growth in our History (19 quarters)
Record fall in our Debt to GDP ratio (93%)
Record low inflation
Introduced Special Procurement Incentives for medium and small enterprises
Removed the Minimum Business Tax
Reduced Transfer Tax from 5 to 2 percent
1.5 million Tax break for all workers
Successfully completed IMF Programme

Better Cancer care through new radiation facilities
Reduction in waiting times at DrugServe pharmacies

New Helicopters
New maritime patrol aircraft for the JDF
New Radar System
Doubling of the National Security Budget
You can now renew your passport online
New motor cycles for the police
Major investments in forensics and DNA

Record tourism arrivals (approximately 4.5 million)
Record US$3.8 billion in tourism earnings
Launch of the Tourism Workers Pension Fund

Launched the Drive Safe app
Commissioning of two new air traffic Control Towers
Implemented WiFi on buses
Completed the Pilot of LNG buses

A record over 400 roads resurfaced and rehabilitated
Mandela Highway, Marcus Garvey Drive, Ferris to MackField, Barbican, Hagley Park, Constant Spring Road and Three Miles Roads – all completed
Junction Road; South Camp Road being repaired
South Coast Highway Improvement from Harbour View to Port Antonio and extension of the East West Highway from May Pen to Williamsfield.
Over 12 Major Bridges repaired or currently under construction
Morant Bay Town Centre underway

Over 50 water facilities rehabilitated islandwide
Major upgrades and replacements of water and sewer mains within the corporate area
Reduced NWC water losses from over 60% to about 40% in the Corporate Area
A record 800 million dollars investment in rural water which
brought water to thousands of Jamaicans who never had it in parishes including Clarendon, St Elizabeth and St. Mary

A record over 27,000 new housing starts between the NHT and the HAJ

Local Government
16 new Fire units
43 new Garbage Trucks
Successfully completed the tyre removal pilot project from Riverton City and will shortly roll out the full project
Paid off the $9 billion dollar streetlights debt to JPS

Science and Technology
Free WiFi Hotspots across Major Towns
Wigton IPO – over 30,000 Jamaicans participated
Commissioned the largest solar plant in the Caribbean
New 194 Mega Watt JPS LNG plant in Old Harbour now commissioned

Banned single use Plastic bags
We have started planting 3 million trees
This month, we will be banning the use of styrofoam
Jamaica is a leader in the global fight against climate change
7% of Jamaica to be protected as part of the Cockpit Country

Improved School Feeding from 3 to 5 days
Comprehensively increased the suite of benefits under PATH

Increased maintenance Grant for secondary level schools
269 school canteens upgraded
Successful launch of PEP
Certified over 100 early childhood institutions

Labour and Social Security
Increased Minimum Wage
Increase NIS Benefits to Pensioners
Significant increase in overseas employment figures.

Culture, Gender and Entertainment
3 Shelters being prepared for abused women
Sexual Harassment Bill Tabled
First Entertainment Zone being renovated
Reggae Inscribed on the UNESCO intangible Cultural Heritage List for Humanity
Blue and John Crow Mountains now World Heritage Sites

Expansion of the Port of Kingston
New Cruise Shipping Terminal at Port Royal and the
Redevelopment of Port Royal has begun

Youth Engagement
Merger of HEART Trust, JFLL, NYS and the Apprenticeship Board to create a comprehensive and effective human capital development agency, the HEART Trust National Service and Training Agency.
Over 25,000 young people trained through HOPE
Over 3,000 trained through Jamaica National Service Corps under the JDF

And you get the picture…

So much done and so much more to do in 2020. ….

Jamaicans at home and abroad A Happy and Prosperous New Year

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