One Jamaica, Powerful Together

The role of the Opposition

Madame Speaker, I wish to begin this presentation by saying a few words about the role of the Opposition at this time in Jamaica’s history.

Some people may be of the view that it is the business of an Opposition to oppose for its own sake. We on this side do not hold that view. A developing country such as Jamaica cannot afford that approach, when so much of the
success of our young nation depends on harnessing the national will to achieve our national goals. We must support actions which we agree with, and be willing to assist the Government of the day with proposals and suggestions that we believe can help to make Jamaica stronger. We say, Powerful Together.

On the other hand, it is our responsibility on this side of the House, to be constantly alert for infringements of guaranteed freedoms, or other abuses of power. We must be vigilant and strident in responding to maladministration and corruption, wherever it is identified. We must be rigorous in criticizing policies and actions which do not contribute to national development. And we must do these things with courage, and with our full commitment.

Our democratic system has brought us this far, without losing the freedoms and openness that Jamaicans hold dear.

It depends on the Opposition to strike the right balance between the two aspects of our constitutional role. I trust that, with God’s guidance, we will maintain that balance and continue to contribute constructively to Jamaica’s development.

Consensus in a time of deep national crisis Madame Speaker, this budget debate is happening at a time when our
country is deep in crisis. The pandemic has been allowed to get out of control, and the health care system is buckling as a result.

The economy is also in a tailspin, with negative growth of over 11% expected for this fiscal year. That is by far the largest contraction of the economy in a single year in Jamaica’s recorded history. Over 100,000 Jamaicans have lost
their jobs.

And the society is in a crisis. Crime is also out of control. People are being murdered this year at an even higher rate than last year. Domestic violence is higher than ever. And there is a general collapse of moral norms, discipline and behavioural standards, which as a nation we must address.

Madame Speaker, this is a time of immense danger for our country. It can also be a time of great opportunity. We should use the lessons presented by the crisis to reset the status quo, rather than just yearning for a return to the
ways of the past. We must identify new and better ways of tackling the challenges that impair our national progress.

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