“Creating A New Jamaica – Access To The Last Mile”

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege for me to address this Honourable House so close to the 100 day mark since my appointment as Minister to the portfolio of Science, Energy and Technology. It is fitting that I use the occasion of the last sitting of the House for this calendar year to outline the work that has been done to support the national response to COVID-19 and to speak to the forward agenda in building a more resilient economy.

Madam Speaker,
I crave your indulgence as I take a few minutes to remind this Honourable House of the enormity of the challenge that faces us as a nation and as a people in light of the COVID-19 pandemic:

• Globally, extreme poverty has risen this year – 2020 – for the first time in 20 years. The figures are staggering – an additional 88 to 115 million people have been plunged into extreme poverty this year and this number is expected to increase to 150 million by 2021 . Why is this data of particular importance to Jamaica? Precisely because more than three-quarters of the new poor are expected to be in middle-income countries like Jamaica;

• A UNESCO report has advanced that classes have been disrupted for 9 out of 10 children worldwide. This disruption has disproportionately affected poor and digitally illiterate families. Why is this data important? Because long term displacement from the education system will increase inequality for the poorest and the most digitally marginalized in our society;

• The International Monetary Fund in a special report: “A Year Like No Other”, has stated that national governments have taken 12 trillion dollars and 7.5 trillion dollars in fiscal and monetary actions respectively, in response to COVID-19. What is the import of this? Countries, such as Jamaica, face the prospect of increased fiscal deficits and public debt ratios because of increased spending and plunging revenues.

While Jamaica has not been the worst hit by the pandemic, our economy has declined by 10.7% for the January to September 2020 period when compared to the same period in 2019. And, while it is encouraging to see the signs of recovery, we need a whole of country approach to hasten that recovery and to help Jamaicans get back on their feet.

Madam Speaker, my point of departure is intended to confirm the position that has emerged globally that COVID-19 is the worst humanitarian disaster that has faced mankind. The speed and scale of the devastation has been mind boggling; the impacts on lives and livelihoods have been life-altering; and the disruptions to economies unprecedented.

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