The year 2005 is upon us. It brings many challenges. It also provides opportunities for us to complete the unfinished tasks that were started in 2004.

We are engaged in the planning and implementation of several projects that will bring great economic benefits to the country.

Projects that when completed will open up the country to improved transportation; affordable housing and a significant growth in our tourist traffic.

Employment creation and social progress, fostered by economic growth will redound to the benefit of all.

Highway 2000, the road network and vision of our Prime Minister, is well underway. So too, are the following, some still on the drawing board, others, under construction – The expansion of the alumina plant in Clarendon; The construction of many large hotels on the North Coast and a green field hotel on the South Coast and the refurbishing of several others; The expansion of the Cement Company’s operations; The inner city housing projects; And our membership in the Caribbean Common Market and Economy (CSME).

These are but a few of the programmes and projects in the pipeline; some already bearing fruit.

In the year ahead we must address the social agenda. The model community project in grant’s pen; the inner city housing project in Kingston ; the implementation of the expanded plan on education; improved health care; a reduction in crime are some of the items on the social agenda that must receive priority from all sectors.

The rebuilding of our towns that were at one time the envy of the western world, is demanding the interest, vision and restorative skills of our planners, architects and tradesmen.

Crime is a social problem that demands the involvement of every citizen. The police alone cannot manage the level of criminality in our society. They need help – help from each and every one of us.

Our success in the year ahead demands of us a commitment to working together to achieve our goals.

We must give our youth a chance in leadership positions to see what they can do. Let us help them to achieve their goals by adding our experience to their youthful vigour and enthusiasm.

At the political level, both of our major political parties are planning a change of leadership. We are about to witness the end of the careers of two outstanding Jamaicans – P.J. Patterson, our Prime Minister and Edward Seaga, our Opposition Leader.

Both of whom have rendered outstanding service to Jamaica and indeed, the world. We will miss them, but the baton passes on.

The leadership changes must be seamless, and should bring forward those – who by virtue of their character, experience and performance – have shown the capability of leading the nation forward. Let us set sentimental interests aside and vote for quality of performance.

Other changes must come in 2005 and those of us who have served owe a debt of gratitude to all who assisted us.

Those of us demitting office know that we have a great country, full of promise, and rich in heritage and talents. Skills abound and opportunities are plentiful. There are opportunities for the creative and hardworking.

Nothing in life comes easy. We must work for what we want. We must demand of our potential leaders – sound leadership by example at all times. We have been very fortunate to have had many good leaders in our midst.

Follow in the footsteps that they have left behind, add your own character and quality to them and dedicate yourself to hard work, with a strong commitment to achieving your goals.

We may be short on financial resources but rich in quality of the human resources and in the level of our ability to achieve. Let us use them well, remembering always not only our struggles and hardships but our history of achievements, and set out definitively to build on our great past.

Let us boldly venture forward together towards the progress that is rightfully ours.

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