KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday January 7, 2013 – Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has acknowledged that while the record of her ruling People’s National Party (PNP) over the past 12 months “has not been perfect” her government came to office “at a difficult time” and has since restored trust, brought back respect and decency to governance while making important progress in some key areas.
In a nationwide radio and television broadcast on Sunday night, Prime Minister Simpson Miller said the mission of uplifting the population and working towards economic independence was challenged during the past year by the slippage of the Jamaican dollar.
She said that the Net International Reserves (NIS) also dipped, but not the country’s reserve of courage, determination and resilience in the face of the international economic environment and domestic challenges. Yet, our confidence in the Jamaican people has never been stronger.
“Our ancestors did not fight so gallantly; did not shed their blood for us to now capitulate to gloom and doom,” she told the nation, adding that despite the challenges, last year there were “concrete achievements”.
She said Jamaica successfully reduced the rate of murders, shootings, robberies and sexual offences. There was an 18 per cent increase in the recovery of firearms and a 14 per cent increase in the recovery of ammunition.
In relation to unemployment, she said the government supported JEEP programme surpassed the original phase-one target of 5,000 people and employed over 17,000 by July last year.
The Prime Minister praised “those employers who have heeded the call to employ at least one additional staff member, as part of this initiative and those who have expanded their businesses and created additional employment”.
She spoke of the developments in road rehabilitation and the millions of dollars spent in repairing the infrastructure and providing assistance to people affected by the passage of Hurricane Sandy last year.
She said an agreement with Cuba will see that country providing Jamaica with almost 500 additional health professionals including doctors, nurses, medical technologists and nursing tutors.
“In tourism, the January to November figures reveal that Jamaica earned nearly 1.8 billion US dollars, a three per cent increase over the previous year. Tourist arrivals registered a 2.3 per cent increase with 1.7 million stop-over visitors.”
But even as she announced the achievements over the past 12 months, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said her administration is “fully cognizant of the fact that social protection has to be anchored on a foundation of macroeconomic stability and economic growth.
“That is why we are moving apace with tax reform, public sector reform and pension reform. That is why we are making determined efforts to reduce our debt burden.”
She insisted that the government was pursuing sound macroeconomic policies, not as a condition imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but as the only way out of the country’s economic underdevelopment.
“We know that economic growth requires economic discipline, and we are prepared to exercise that discipline in the interest of our people,” she said, making no other reference to the IMF and the ongoing discussions between her administration and the Washington-based financial institution for a new Stand By Agreement (SBA).
But she told the nation that 2013 promises to be a year of “exciting economic initiatives” noting that the construction of the US$160 million north-south link of Highway 2000, an injection of more than US$200 million in the tourism sector with the construction of various projects including leisure hotels Riu Palace and Fiesta Phase Two as well as Shanghai and Marriott business hotels.
She said the Development Bank of Jamaica has put aside US$20 million for on-lending to investors to finance and support the construction of information and communications technology (ICT) facilities.
“This has the potential to create between seven and 10 thousand new jobs,” she said, adding that projects were also earmarked in the energy and construction industries.
“The Jamaica Public Service Company is slated to spend over 630 million US Dollars in power plant renewable energy projects,” she said, noting plans for the education and agriculture sector.
“In agriculture, we will create eight agro parks through public private/private partnerships. This will occupy over 8000 acres of land and the project will be completed over the next three years.
The agro-parks will go a significant way to deepening linkages in the economy, increasing domestic food production and help to reduce our one billion US Dollar food import bill,” she added.