I join you in welcoming the New Year 2014 with great expectations.
As we herald in the New Year and pause to reflect on the year past, let us give God thanks.
In the past year we have had proud moments in sports, entertainment and culture.
We must continue to build on these areas of strength and capitalize on the International brand value of Jamaica as a land of talent.
Last year we continued to face the disturbing situation of increases in major crimes, some of which were particularly gruesome and targeted pregnant women, children and the elderly.
There is a feeling of hopelessness, helplessness and frustration with the high crime rate.
Our business leaders have expressed serious concerns as this seemingly out of control monster threatens investor confidence in Jamaica and consequently investments, employment and ultimately the improvement in the standard of living of our people.
As one priority for the New Year therefore we must urge the government to address this major impediment which has many Jamaicans cowering in fear.
Crime must be treated as an epidemic on our social and economic systems.
Clearly there is a failure of leadership, a marked absence of meaningful strategic approaches and no demonstrable will to mobilize adequate resources for our National Security.
In my message last year I urged that we make a positive resolution to address at least four other areas of concern.
These areas remain just as relevant and urgent as they were last year.
First, we must increase our productivity and efficiency;
We pledged as we accepted the objectives of vision 2030 that we would create a new productivity culture. We are a long way from achieving this.
Second, the high cost of energy continues to be a major concern.
Government must fast track the build out of the new power facilities.
Corruption continues to destabilize our society. Jamaica is ranked among the bottom half of countries on the world corruption index and undoubtedly will remain there until the Government stops paying lip service to the anti-corruption agenda. Let us pledge to correct this for the New Year.
We must pay meaningful attention to education reform.
I have always maintained that education transformation is the key to empowering Jamaicans and improving the human resource input into economic, social and political development. Let us make this a reality.
Let us make 2014 a year of action.
The Opposition will continue to protect the interest and advance the hopes and aspirations of the Jamaican people.
May God bless all Jamaicans. Let us strive to make our country a better place to live, work, raise our families and do business.
Do have a happy, blessed and productive 2014.