Jamaica se sumó a algunos del Caribe que apostaron por un cambio de gobierno y en las recientes elecciones dio a la oposición la oportunidad de regir sus destinos a la espera de mejoras socioeconómicas.

El 25 de febrero pasado, los habitantes de la isla terminaron con el mandato del Partido Nacional Popular (PNP) de la ahora exprimera ministra Portia Simpson-Miller y colocaron al Laborista (JLP, por sus siglas en inglés) al frente del Ejecutivo.

Esa fuerza desbancó al oficialismo al ganar por ajustado margen 33 de los 63 escaños de la Cámara de Representantes y su líder, Andrew Holness, asumió como el nuevo gobernante del país.

Algunas encuestas pronosticaron el triunfo del político, principalmente en los distritos marginales y entre la juventud, aunque la mayoría de los sondeos favorecían a la exmandataria.

Los analistas atribuyen la derrota de Simpson-Miller, única mujer que llega al poder en Jamaica, a las críticas contra su gabinete por corrupción y negligencia en el manejo de diversos asuntos.

Ahora el PNP -de tendencia socialista- ocupa la banca opositora con solo 30 puestos, o sea, 12 menos que los obtenidos en 2011.

Holness nació el 21 de julio de 1972 y es graduado de la Universidad de las Indias Occidentales en la especialidad de gestión.

Fue elegido en 1997 diputado de la Cámara baja y dos años después encabezó el comité opositor de Tierras y Desarrollo de ese órgano.

Durante su trayectoria fungió como titular de Educación y en octubre de 2011 asumió las riendas del JLP y se convirtió en el primer ministro más joven del país, tras la dimisión de Bruce Golding, quien renunció en medio del escándalo por la extradición del gánster Christopher “Dudus” Coke.

Pero no pudo revertir el bajo apoyo a su partido y perdió las elecciones de ese año frente al PNP de Simpson-Miller, la política más veterana de la isla.

En la reciente votación, Holness aseguró el triunfo del conservador JLP con una campaña de 10 puntos sustentada, especialmente, en iniciativas económicas que prometen impulsar el crecimiento y aumentar las inversiones extranjeras.

Con ese fin, se propone reformar el Gobierno, multiplicar las alianzas público-privadas, crear empleos, bajar los impuestos, adoptar un sistema tributario favorable para las empresas y promover la financiación de pequeños y medianos negocios.

Entre otros planes, también plantea la revitalización de los centros urbanos, la modernización de la infraestructura hidráulica, la digitalización de los archivos estatales, dar mayor facilidad a los trámites empresariales por internet y convertir a Jamaica en el Silicon Valley del Caribe.

Pero a Holness no le será fácil llevar a cabalidad su agenda de prosperidad, pues el país tiene una deuda externa del 113 por ciento con respecto al Producto Interno Bruto y, según la agencia crediticia Moody´s, está en riesgo de entrar en crisis.

Además sus políticas e iniciativas no deben discordar con el Fondo Monetario Internacional, que le exige a Kingston drásticos ajustes de gastos a cambio de préstamos para cumplir con las obligaciones públicas y el presupuesto.

Esa entidad firmó un acuerdo con la isla en mayo de 2013 para entregarle 932 millones de dólares en cuatro años, pero la isla debe introducir medidas de austeridad.

El mandatario laborista recibe una nación con 1,1 millones de personas que viven en la pobreza, el desempleo juvenil en el 38 por ciento y una alta tasa de criminalidad.

También tiene como reto mantener a flote la ligera recuperación económica que logró su antecesora Simpson-Miller, quien advirtió que desde la oposición no permitirá al nuevo Ejecutivo acabar con los logros de los últimos años.

De hecho, reconoció que la victoria electoral no era un “premio” y todo dependerá de mantener una gestión responsable y transparente para cumplimentar con cada una de sus ofertas.

Las elecciones jamaicanas estuvieron marcadas por una baja afluencia de votantes, pues solo participaron el 47,5 por ciento de los más de 1,8 millones de empadronados.

Bohemia

PM offers hope, pledges path to prosperity through partnership

JAMAICA’s ninth prime minister, Andrew Michael Holness, yesterday offered new hope to many Jamaicans as he pledged to lead the country on a path to prosperity through partnership with various stakeholders, including the private sector and the Opposition.

Holness, delivering his inaugural speech at his swearing-in ceremony at King’s House in St Andrew, said now more than ever the Government must lead, activate, empower and build real partnerships in order to achieve the vision of shared prosperity through inclusive economic growth and meaningful job creation.

“My dream is to fulfil your dream,” he told his audience, including the wider Jamaica watching on television. “We must create a Jamaica where there is hope and opportunity. Where we can encourage our children to dream big and be optimistic about their life chances.”

The solutions to Jamaica’s problems, he said, do not rest with government alone.

“The sum total of our potential exceeds our problems; our collective capabilities are greater than our challenges, but it is only through partnership that these capabilities and this potential can be seized, harnessed and realised for the good of Jamaica,” said Holness whose Jamaica Labour Party won the February 25 General Election with a wafer-thin one-seat majority in the 63-member Parliament.

The 43-year-old Holness, who was given his own mandate for the first time, having first taken the reins of power in 2011 when Bruce Golding stepped aside, said he was under no illusion as to the meaning of the mandate.

“We have not won a prize. Instead, the people are giving us a test. There is no absolute agency of power. This means that the winner cannot take all, or believe we can do it alone,” he told the large audience which included four former prime ministers — Edward Seaga, Golding, PJ Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller.

In what is viewed by many as one of his shortest speeches, Holness told the rapt audience that he is fully conscious of the magnitude of expectations and responsibility he has assumed, but is equally energised and optimistic about a prosperous future for Jamaica.

Recounting an incident on election day when he saw a young man carrying an obviously bed-ridden elderly man from a polling station where he had just cast his vote, Holness said the elderly man urged him to do the right thing.

“I stand here humbled by the awesome power of you, the people, and I commit to doing right by you,” he said.

Noting that the people of Jamaica did not vote in vain, Holness said they expect a Government that works for them and an Opposition that is constructive. This historic election, he said, delivered the smallest majority but also the clearest mandate – “fix Government!”

“With this mandate there is no majority for arrogance; there is no space for selfishness; there is no place for pettiness; there is no room for complacency and there is no margin for error,” he said.

Holness used the spotlight to acknowledge Simpson Miller, whom he referred to as the former prime minister instead of opposition leader as some had expected.

“Portia Simpson Miller has given long and dedicated service to the country and I believe the mandate is saying, we may not be on the same side of the road, but as much as possible we should hold hands in co-operation to overcome obstacles for the good of the country,” he said.

“I still believe it is a useful symbol of national unity for the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition to appear together in zones of political exclusions. I again extend the invitation,” he said, repeating an invitation he extended to Simpson Miller when he was first sworn in as prime minister in 2011.

Holness said he understands that the Jamaican people now want to see action in building trust and this is part of fixing Government. Everyone who will form the next Government, he said, must be seized of this expectation.

“From the politician making policy to the civil servant processing an application, we must act dutifully to fulfil our responsibilities. Trust requires the actualisation of our commitments,” he said.

Holness said he is energised by the expressions of willingness to work with the new Government in the interest of Jamaica. Noting that there is more hope than despair in the country, he said this creates a great opportunity to form partnerships for prosperity.

The new prime minister, who pointed to the fact that his wife Juliet will be joining him in Parliament, having won a seat in the election, said family is the ultimate partnership and his Government will focus resources on supporting families.

“By increasing the income tax threshold we will restore the economic power of households to participate in not only growing our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) but more importantly growing the general well-being of the society,” he said to rousing applause.

To enable this partnership to work, Holness said the Government will ease the tax burden, but urged Jamaicans to spend and invest wisely, and use the additional money to acquire a house for their family, or improve on an existing one and buy Jamaican-made goods.

“This is how we will increase local effective demand in housing, manufacturing and agriculture,” he said, adding that this is how Jamaicans can play a part in creating jobs while satisfying their well-being.

Meanwhile, Holness said his Government will continue its policy of tuition-free education and no user fee access to health care, which will enable Jamaicans to save in an education bond for their children’s schooling and in a national health insurance scheme.

He also committed to enhancing the social safety net for vulnerable families, and provide support for parents in crisis. However, he urged parents to be responsible and send their children to school.

“Our men must take care of their children, and couples must be responsible in having the children they can afford,” he urged.

According to Holness, his Government is committed to creating an environment in which families can flourish and form communities of social mobility from which “every ghetto youth can be star”. However, every family member must do his or her part by being personally, socially and economically responsible,” he said.

Speaking to the issue of partnership for growth, Holness said a priority of his Government will be to grow the economy and create meaningful jobs to rapidly and sustainably reduce debt.

Going forward, Holness said Jamaica’s development must rest on its ability to create propositions of value and attract investments to convert the value into wealth.

In this model, he said it is the private sector, whether large enterprises or small businesses, who are the main investors.

In such an economic partnership with the private sector, Holness said Government’s role, among others, is to ensure the rule of law, create a safe, secure, and fair environment for business, make markets where none exist, ensure transparency and access to information, and create an efficient and supportive public sector bureaucracy.

“In exchange, we want the private sector to unleash investments in the local economy. We want to see the return of the pioneering drive to create new industries, the entrepreneurial willingness to take risk, and the innovative insight to do things better,” he said, adding, “I am heartened by the signals coming from the private sector.”

Holness said he is not naive about the debt challenges the country faces and the need to maintain fiscal discipline, hence his Government will continue with the principle of joint oversight of the economic programme and performance.

“We recognise the importance of, and value our relationship with our bilateral and multilateral friends. These relationships have been critical in securing stability. We believe in preserving stability, but we must now build upon this in a productive partnership with them to achieve inclusive growth and job creation,” he said.

There are many more areas of partnerships, he said, which must be formally pursued for national development, but those would be evident as the Government is installed over the coming days.

In all these partnerships for prosperity, there must be co-ordinated effort and, Holness said, his role will be to ensure that Government is co-ordinated and strategically directed, decisions are taken quickly, targets are set, the nation is informed and everyone under his appointment be held to account for their actions.

Holness also spoke to the need for institutional reform and for government to improve its business processes and become more efficient as a regulator and a service provider.

“There is need for us to have a say in the fundamental institutions that define Jamaica, the rights we secure for our citizens and how we want Jamaica to be. We will give form to that voice in a referendum to decide on the constitutional matters and social matters,” he said.

Independent Jamaica, he said, must remove the culture of dependency from its midst.

“We must teach our children that there is no wealth without work, and no success without sacrifice. We must remove the belief from the psyche of our children that the only way they can step up in life is not by how hard they work, but by who they know,” he said.

He noted that Jamaica has to be more active in promoting civic responsibility, volunteerism and ‘giving back’, particularly among the youth.

“And we have to integrate the incredible talents and assets of the Jamaican Diaspora in local development. Too often I hear complaints from the Diaspora that they experience difficulty in giving to Jamaica. Giving should be easy. As part of our Partnership for Prosperity which includes the Diaspora, we will make it easier for you to contribute to the development of your homeland,” he said.

Jamaica Observer

Prime Minister’s address at swearing-in ceremony 

The following is the full text of the inaugural address by Prime Minister Andrew Holness at his swearing-in ceremony earlier today (March 3, 2016).

Partnership for Prosperity

Salutations

Your Excellencies, the Governor General, the Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen and Lady Allen

Leader of the Opposition the Most Honorable Portia Simpson Miller

Former Prime Ministers:

The Most Honorable Edward Seaga and Mrs Seaga

The Most Honorable PJ Patterson

The Honorable Bruce Golding and Mrs Golding

My fellow Jamaicans

Good afternoon.

I recognize that I stand here today only by the Grace of God. It has not been an easy journey to this podium, but earnest labour and fervent prayers conquer all. To God be the glory.

It is with a deep sense of gratitude, honour and humility that I took the Oath of Office moments ago, fully conscious of the magnitude of expectations and responsibility I have assumed, but equally energized and optimistic about a prosperous future for Jamaica. I pledge to serve the people of Jamaica faithfully, with all of my energies, all of my heart, mind and soul.

I stand here today happy to be representing the voice, vision, vote and victory of Jamaica.

We may have different voices and different votes on a similar vision, regardless of our differences, Jamaica was victorious at the General Elections. It is not perfect, but we can all be proud of the people, systems and institutions that make up our democracy.

Meaning of the Mandate

On the day of Election, I witnessed a young man carrying, cradled in his arm, an obviously bed-ridden elderly man from a polling station. I was touched by the sight. In the bustle of the busy school yard, as they passed, the elderly man pointed his ink stained finger at me and said, “Andrew, do the right thing!”

I stand here humbled by the awesome power of you, the people, and I commit to doing right by you. The people are sovereign and their views and votes must never be taken for granted.

The people of Jamaica did not vote in vain. They expect a government that works for them and by the same expectation, an Opposition that is constructive. This historic election delivered the smallest majority but also the clearest mandate: Fix Government!

With this mandate:

There is no majority for arrogance

There is no space for selfishness

There is no place for pettiness

There is no room for complacency and

There is no margin for error

I am under no illusion as to the meaning of this mandate. We have not won a prize. Instead, the people are giving us a test.

There is no absolute agency of power. This means that the winner cannot take all, or believe we can do it alone.

Leading Partnerships for Prosperity

To achieve the vision of shared prosperity through inclusive economic growth and meaningful job creation, now more than ever, Government must lead, activate, empower and build real partnerships. I intend to lead a Government of partnership. The solutions to our problems do not rest with Government alone. The sum total of our potential exceeds our problems; our collective capabilities are greater than our challenges, but it is only through partnership that these capabilities and this potential can be seized, harnessed and realized for the good of Jamaica.

Partnerships require trust, clear assignment of responsibility and an elevated sense of duty.

There is only so much trust that pledges and statements of commitment can buy. I understand that the Jamaican people now want to see action in building trust. This is part of fixing government. Everyone who will form the next government must be seized of this expectation. From the politician making policy to the civil servant processing an application, we must act dutifully to fulfill our responsibilities. Trust requires the actualization of our commitments. We will fulfill our commitments.

Our actions can achieve so much more if they are coordinated. We will bring greater coordination, rationality and focus to the role of government so that the objectives of partnership can be clear.

There is no doubt that significant numbers of Jamaicans have lost hope in our system, but I am encouraged that a far larger number maintains faith, keeps hope and continues to pray that Jamaica will grow and prosper.

I am energized by the expressions of willingness to work with our new Government in the interest of Jamaica. The sense of duty is alive and well. There is more hope than despair and this creates a great opportunity to form partnerships for prosperity.

Partnership with Families

You know, I am now joined in Parliament by my life partner Juliet. Family is the ultimate partnership. And that is why my Government will focus resources on supporting families.

By increasing the income tax threshold we will restore the economic power of households to participate in not only growing our GDP but more importantly growing the general wellbeing of the society.

Here’s how the partnership with families, and the working heads of households will work.

Our government will ease your tax burden, but you must spend and invest wisely, use the additional money to acquire a house for your family or improve the house you already have, or buy Jamaican-made goods. This how we will increase local effective demand in housing, manufacturing, and agriculture. This is how you can play a part in creating in jobs while satisfying your wellbeing.

We will continue our policy of tuition-free education and no user fee access to health care. However, will enable you to save in an education bond for your children’s education and in a national health insurance scheme your healthcare.

We will enhance our social safety net for vulnerable families, and will provide support for parents in crisis, but you must be responsible and send your children to school. Our men must take care of their children, and couples must be responsible in having the children they can afford.

Our government commits to creating the environment in which families can flourish and form communities of social mobility from which every ghetto youth can be star. However, every family member must do his or her part by being personally, socially and economically responsible.

I am sure Juliet will understand if I seek to build another partnership in Parliament. Leader of the Opposition, Portia Simpson Miller has given long and dedicated service to the country and I believe the mandate is saying, we may not be on the same side of the road, but as much as possible we should hold hands in cooperation to overcome obstacles for the good of the country. We have evolved without formal structure a very good partnership in education and we intend to continue our informal collaborations in this area and pursue other such areas of cooperation between Government and Opposition members.

I still believe it is a useful symbol of national unity for the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to appear together in zones of political exclusions. I again extend the invitation.

Partnership for Growth with Private Sector

The priority of this Government is to grow the economy and create meaningful jobs. In so doing, we will more rapidly and sustainably reduce debt. I am sure we all agree that much of Jamaica’s development has been achieved without growth, which has left us with much debt. This is unsustainable.

Going forward, Jamaica’s development must rest on its ability to create propositions of value and attract investments to convert the value into wealth. In this model, Government is not the main investor, it is the Private Sector whether they be large enterprises or small business. In the economic partnership with the Private Sector, Government’s role, among others, is:

To ensure the rule of law

Create a safe, secure, and fair environment for business

Make markets where none exist

Ensure transparency and access to information -and create an efficient and supportive public sector bureaucracy

In exchange, we want the Private Sector to unleash investments in the local economy. We want to see the return of the pioneering drive to create new industries, the entrepreneurial willingness to take risk, and the innovative insight to do things better. I am heartened by the signals coming from the Private Sector. I believe they have got the message about the partnership for growth and job creation. Now is the time for growth.

Partnership with international partners

We are not naïve about the challenges we face regarding our debt and the need to maintain fiscal discipline. This is why we will continue with the principle of joint oversight of our Economic Programme and performance.

We recognize the importance of, and value our relationship with our bilateral and multilateral friends. These relationships have been critical in securing stability. We believe in preserving stability, but we must now build up on this in a productive partnerships with them to achieve inclusive growth and job creation.

There are many more areas of partnerships that we must formally pursue for national development and as our government is installed over the coming days these will become evident.

The Role of the Prime Minister

In all these partnerships for prosperity, there must be coordinated effort. That is my role. I will ensure that:

Government is coordinated and strategically directed

Decisions are taken quickly

Targets are set

The nation is informed and that

Everyone under my appointment is held to account for their action or lack thereof.

Institutional Reform

There is a sense of expectation of change. It is not lost on me that I am the first of the Post-Independence generation to lead Jamaica. More than anything else we want to see Jamaica take its true place as a developed country in the next 50 years. The struggle is not so much political independence as it is economic independence. It is through our economic independence that we secure real political independence.

However, after 53 years of independence, there is need for institutional review of the Jamaican State both in terms of modernization of the institutions of the State, and the structure of the State. Government has to improve its business processes and become more efficient as a regulator and a service provider.

There is need for us to have a say in the fundamental institutions that define Jamaica, the rights we secure for our citizens and how we want Jamaica to be. We will give form to that voice in a referendum to decide on the constitutional matters and social matters.

Independent Jamaica must remove the culture of dependency from our midst. We must teach our children that there is no wealth without work, and no success without sacrifice. We must remove the belief from the psyche of our children that the only way they can step up in life is not by how hard they work, but by who they know.

As Prime Minister I have a duty to align our incentives and reward systems for those who work and follow rules. We must create a Jamaica where the man who plays by the rules is rewarded!

It is important that the citizens of Independent Jamaica have a sense of entitlement to good service from their country. However, increasingly this is not being balanced with a duty of ‘giving back’. Jamaica has benefited significantly from the civic pride and sense of nationhood that drove so many to give generously of their talent and treasures to build our great nation.

The spirit still exists, to a great extent, locally and in our Diaspora. However, we have to be more active in promoting civic responsibility, volunteerism and ‘giving back’, particularly among our youth. And we have to integrate the incredible talents and assets of the Jamaican Diaspora in local development. Too often I hear complaints from the Diaspora that they experience difficulty in giving to Jamaica. Giving should be easy, as part of our Partnership for Prosperity which includes the Diaspora, we will make it easier for you to contribute to the development of your homeland.

Jamaica is too rich in people and talent to be a poor country. With good governance and a prospective outlook, Jamaica, within a decade or less, could emerge as a booming economy and a prosperous society.

Jamaica is geographically central in the Caribbean. My vision is to turn Jamaica into the centre of the Caribbean. A centre of finance, trade and commerce, technology and innovation, and the centre of arts, culture, and lifestyle regionally. This is all possible within our lifetime. Despite any negatives, Jamaica still has a powerful and alluring brand amplifying our voice and influence in the world.

We cannot be satisfied with things as they are. My dream is to fulfill your dream. We must create a Jamaica where there is hope and opportunity. Where we can encourage our children to dream big and be optimistic about their life chances. We must create a Jamaica where our young people can find meaningful work. A Jamaica where you feel safe to live, work and raise your children. A Jamaica that is booming and investors and entrepreneurs can have a confident outlook on the economy. A place where we can retire and truly enjoy as paradise.

All of this is possible. We must start now. Time for a partnership. Time for action!

Jamaica Observer