Jamaica Prime Minister, Andrew Holness wants nationals to work “collectively and diligently towards creating the Jamaica we want in the next 60 years.”
In celebrating the island’s Diamond Jubilee, under the theme, “Jamaica 60, Reigniting a Nation for Greatness,” Holness told Caribbean Life in an interview that, at 60, “there must be reflection, introspection, contemplation and prospection.
“As leaders we must ask ourselves: Have we been good stewards of our nation? As citizens, have we been law-abiding, productive and creative? And as a nation, have we been doing our part to advance the welfare of the whole human race? What will our story be in another 60 years?” he asked.
The prime minister said Jamaica has accomplished much over the years, to include: Sustainable fiscal management and debt reduction across administrations; unemployment rate is at its lowest in Jamaica’s history and investments are increasing; Jamaica 60 Legacy projects to include the Montego Bay Perimeter Road Project, as well as improvements to the Donald Sangster International Airport; work has begun on the Morant Bay Urban Centre, along with the South Coast Highway Improvement project; work has commenced towards Jamaica becoming a republic; there have been record investments in Jamaica’s infrastructure and development; record number of impactful legislations passed or before Parliament to increase social order and protect citizens’ rights; billions invested in security forces; and billions invested in infrastructure development.
Holness — who created history in 2011, when, at 39, he became the youngest person to be elected prime minister of Jamaica — said Jamaica is currently dealing with several challenges.
“As a relatively young democracy we have accomplished much,” he said.
“However, there are areas in which significant work continues,” he added, noting the level of violence and disorder in domestic and public interactions; climate vulnerabilities; the need for greater economic diversification; geopolitical shocks with widescale local impact; recovering from learning loss; greater infrastructure development; and demand for more low-income houses.
The Jamaican leader said his plans for overcoming these challenges include passing a comprehensive framework of legislations to empower the state and the police to effectively treat crime and violence, while respecting the constitution and the rights of citizens.
He said this includes the passing of The New Road Traffic Act to deal with law and order on the roads.
In addition, he said he wants the implementation of a new scheme for dealing with proliferation, trade and use of firearms that is now in Parliament and will come into effect this year.
Holness said this new law will significantly increase the penalty for possession and use of illegal firearms.
In addition, he said there are a new Bail Act, an Enhanced Security Measures Act and a Revised Zone of Special Operations Act.
The prime minister said a review of the Sexual Offenses Act and the Domestic Violence Act will also be conducted “to ensure a robust framework to treat with such crimes.”
In responding to the demand for affordable housing and land for low-income earners, Holness said his government has redirected the NHT and HAJ to focus their efforts on affordable housing.
To counter the effects of learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to overhaul our education system to deliver the best results for children and for the country, he said his administration is implementing the recommendations of the Education Transformation Commission.
He said an oversight committee has been put in place to monitor the implementation of accepted recommendations.
“These are just some of the actions we have taken to address some of the more urgent issues,” Holness said. “Our economy is stable and growing, and we continue to attract investors while, at the same time, creating an environment for local entrepreneurs to thrive.
“We have a comprehensive plan, which we have been systematically implementing to make Jamaica a truly new, modern peaceful and thriving nation, which will be the place of choice to live, work, raise families, do business and retire in paradise,” he added.
“We cannot allow the current global crises of a pandemic, war, and inflation to dampen our mood,” Holness continued. “The government is mindful of the hardships our people are experiencing and, together with billions of dollars’ worth of intervention to cushion the effects of the global economic challenge, our celebrations must give hope, be meaningful and uplifting to our people.”
At the same time, he urged nationals to “tap into that Jamaican spirit of resilience, exercising wisdom and sound judgement as we navigate the difficulties in a way that responds to the needs of our people while, at the same time, safeguarding ourselves from economic ruin and setback based on poor management.
“Our actions now must consider the future and that of our children,” the prime minister said. “We must not make the mistakes of the past.
“I assure all Jamaicans, both at home and in the Diaspora, that we are making the best decisions for Jamaica, and these decisions will prove to be the right ones later,” he added.
Holness said: “As Jamaicans, we have not always made the connection between our economic and political choices and, for decades, we made political decisions inconsistent with good economic thinking, which have had disastrous social consequences.”
He said the perfect example is the build-up of the national debt over several decades, warning that it was “a time in our history we must never return to.”
The Jamaican leader said “God has given us the resources to overcome our challenges.
“We thank Him for guarding us with his mighty hands over the last 60 years,” he said. “We pray for His continued blessing and guidance in our affairs, as we look to a future of hope and prosperity.”
Holness is the first Jamaican Prime Minister to born after the country achieved independence in 1962.
In 1997, at 25, he was elected to the House of Representatives in Jamaica as a Member of Parliament (MP), representing the Constituency of West Central St. Andrew.
To date, he holds the record as the youngest elected MP in Jamaica. He is currently serving four unbroken terms in the House, giving more than 20 years of service as an elected representative.
Since taking over the leadership of the country in 2016, Holness said the focus of his government has been “sustainable economic growth and meaningful job creation”, together with a thrust towards Jamaica emerging as the first digital society in the Caribbean.