PRIME Minister Andrew Holness on Sunday said his Government is committed to rebuilding the country from the “destruction of the decade of the ’70s which caused the greatest post-Independence flight of talent and skill and enterprise from our shores”.
“The recovery can look chaotic but I want to assure you that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is leading this transition and recovery. It will be done in an orderly, fair, equitable and efficient manner. A new Jamaica is emerging; a new political order is emerging,” he told the 79th annual conference of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) at the National Area in St Andrew.
Holness said that despite the naysayers, who seem bent on spreading a false narrative, the country is “doing well”, with a robust economy and decreasing debt.
In a speech littered with the usual musical inserts, blaring horns, bell-ringing, and loud cheers, Holness told supporters that the Jamaican economy is fiscally sound, with no new taxes imposed on Jamaicans since the JLP was elected to office in 2016.
“Our economy is still reporting growth — even after the disruption of production because of COVID,” he announced.
Holness further said that the national debt is going down and that Jamaica is the only country in the region which has accomplished that feat after COVID-19.
“It means we have more financial space to spend on the people of the country,” he said.
Holness further noted that the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in the country’s history.
Pointing to the brain drain of the 70s, the prime minister said, “I look forward to ushering in a new era where Jamaicans overseas will choose to return to Jamaica to make their investment in Jamaica.
“Our objective is to fulfil Vision 2030; and I believe it will happen in my lifetime and your lifetime that Jamaica will become the place where you choose to live, work, raise your families, do business and retire in paradise. Jamaica will be the place of choice,” he stressed.
He noted that while the conditions are not perfect now, this realisation is already happening, with Jamaicans overseas investing in the country.
“There are many Jamaicans… buying their second homes in Jamaica and there are many Jamaicans overseas who are investing in our stock market, so it is happening. But we want it to happen on a much larger scale where the talents and the skills that left us in the 70s can come back to Jamaica and feel safe, feel secure, feel a part of the society so that they can contribute to further building the Jamaica we all love,” he said to loud cheers.
In the meantime, Holness said the focus of the JLP Administration remains the working class masses of the country, noting that the mission is to “lift people out of poverty, to lift people up, to improve quality of life, to create opportunities, to create prosperity. We want to move people out of the working class and into the middle classes of the country”.
He said that the JLP-led Government seeks to provide employment for all ambitious Jamaicans, pointing out that the Administration has created more jobs than ever in the history of Jamaica.
He said the Government also believes in putting more money, through income, into the hands of Jamaicans — which is why the income tax threshold was raised to $1.5 million and general consumption tax was reduced by 1.5 per cent.
He said it is also for this reason the the Administration decided to undertake a comprehensive compensation review for the public service.
“It is an unprecedented realignment of remuneration for the public sector but this is part of our philosophy for looking out for the working class, for giving them more income in their hands so that they can determine how to spend it,” he said.