NEW YEAR'S MESSAGE - Onwards down the path for a better Jamaica
PRIME MINISTER - Honourable Portia Simpson Miller
Like the golden rays of warm, Jamaican sunshine bursting over our majestic Blue Mountains, a new year has dawned. The new year brings with it new hope and possibilities for our individual lives, our families and our nation.
Each new year provides a time for reflection. In this time, many of us reflect on the joys and disappointments, on the mistakes and achievements of the past year. It is also a time in which we step into a new season, and take hold of new opportunities to make greater strides for our families, our beloved country, and ourselves.
Let us reflect together.
We can all accept that 2014 was a challenging year for many Jamaicans and a tough economic year for our country.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you, the Jamaican people, for the sacrifices you made during these difficult times. We have laid the foundation, and we are turning the corner towards a sustained path of economic growth and development.
I wish to express a special word of gratitude to our public servants, who continue to make significant sacrifices in the interest of the Jamaican people and the country. I also thank our farmers, manufacturers, the private sector and workers in every sector, whose collective efforts ensured that the country registered growth, especially in the areas of agriculture and tourism.
My fellow Jamaicans, despite the setbacks, shortcomings and challenges, the Bible teaches us that in everything, we should give thanks. Therefore, as we forge ahead in this new year, we are thankful for the wisdom gained from the past. The challenges we faced in 2014 must be teachable moments for us, helping us to be grateful for the blessings we have in our lives, and transporting us beyond setbacks towards future successes.
I thank The Almighty for sparing us the significant ravages of major natural disasters during 2014. We are indeed a blessed nation.
Today, I am grateful for the many achievements of our country - real accomplishments, which serve as foundations for our work towards a better future for all.
On the economic front, we recorded significant achievements during the past year and met our targets under Jamaica's Economic Reform Programme supported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The country successfully passed its sixth consecutive performance assessment by the IMF Board.
The visit during the year of the heads of both the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank) signalled the international community's respect and growing support for Jamaica's discipline and success in implementing the painful but necessary economic reforms.
The economy grew by 1.8 per cent between the middle of 2013 and the middle of 2014.
The confidence indicators showed that business confidence was higher in 2014 than in 2013.
Inflation remained stable and low.
Our job-creation efforts while still not enough, assisted in reducing unemployment overall, as well as among youth and women.
We welcomed new investments and built new infrastructure, including opening the Linstead to Moneague leg of the North-South Highway.
Jamaica's greatly improved ranking from 94 to 58 in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Report is proof that as a country, we are making steady progress. Added to that, the reputable global Forbes Magazine last month named Jamaica as the best Caribbean country in which to do business.
As we look ahead with great hope and confidence, I am thankful for the coming together of various groups for the betterment of our country, through the Partnership for Jamaica. Although the Partnership faced challenges in 2014, we found new collective commitment through dialogue, respect and understanding. That is the Jamaica we must always strive to be. We may not always agree, but the Partnership has shown that the Government, civil society, trade unions and the private sector remain committed to working together in 2015 to advance the interests of the people of Jamaica.
As we resolve to achieve greater levels of investment, economic growth and job creation in 2015, the Government that I lead is also committed to preserving the social gains and the programmes to protect the less fortunate.
We are thankful for the opportunity to have expanded the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, and pursued the poverty-reduction programme, the Inner-city Basic Services Project, the Rural Economic Development initiative, the Economic Housing Programme, sugar transformation, education transformation, education sector reform, early-childhood development, and several other initiatives.
Many Jamaicans were proud to have received their land titles this year under the various programmes designed to expand ownership.
Between January 2012 and December 2014, 1,070 property owners across all 14 parishes received land titles through the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing.
There are some 40,000 additional titles now at various stages of being processed by the ministry. I have given instructions for this to be fast-tracked in 2015 so that more property owners can get legal proof of ownership.
We are committed to this activity because we understand that land and home ownership is a powerful path to prosperity for our people.
… I am personally grateful to the people of Jamaica, who, throughout 2014, continued to be my source of inspiration.
… In this new year, I give the commitment that our Government will continue to be faithful to the prudent and transparent management of the affairs of Jamaica.
We will continue our economic-reform programme with a focus on creating a more robust environment for business expansion, job creation and higher levels of economic growth. With the recovery in agriculture and lower fuel prices, growth is projected at around 2.1 per cent for the financial year 2015-2016.
This year, we will continue to give focused attention to the country's vital physical and economic infrastructure, including road repairs, advancing construction of the North-South Highway, and efforts to privatise and expand the Kingston Container Terminal port and the Norman Manley International Airport. The start-up and conversion of more efficient, less expensive energy production plants to boost growth potential and jobs,will be high on the national agenda. The Government will also continue to support private capital investments in order to expand hotel and other construction activities.
At the same time, the Government recognises that social infrastructure must also be improved. This includes greater attention to the expansion of reliable water supply systems in more communities of rural Jamaica.
As we step into a new year, I pray for God's guidance for the Government and the people of Jamaica.
Call to action
My fellow Jamaicans,
I urge all of us to let this year be a positive year for Jamaica.
Let our thinking be shared, unselfish, creative and focused on possibilities.
Let us seek out, identify and grasp the opportunities, even those provided by the challenges we face daily.
Let us recognise that in every challenge lies a seed of opportunity waiting to be watered and cultivated.
Out of adversity can emerge innovative ideas to create significant value and wealth for our people and our country.
This year, let us all dig deep into our reservoir of willpower, strength and determination.
This cannot just be an individualistic pursuit. Let us invest in, and bring to life, our potential and the potential of others. This is my challenge to each and every one of us on this the first day of a brand new year.
… Let us live together as one family, shaping the future for a better Jamaica!