Prime minister promises 28,000 posts to be created in next five years
Jobs aplenty are said to be on the horizon for Jamaicans with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller using the platform of her political party's 77th annual conference to announce the creation of at least 28,000 new jobs in the next five years.
Simpson Miller, who is the president of the governing People's National Party (PNP), said her administration has answered the call of Jamaicans for job creation by delivering 60,000 jobs under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) since taking office in January 2012.
JEEP offers short-term employment to Jamaicans and is the manifestation of a political promise made by Simpson Miller heading into the 2011 general election.
The promise of more jobs comes as Jamaica battles high levels of youth unemployment, which has been measured by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica at 38 per cent. The national unemployment rate is 13.2 per cent.
"I will be the first to tell you that the employment levels are not yet where we want them to be. There are still too many persons unemployed, including our youths," the PNP president said, though stressing that her Government was moving in the right direction.
Yesterday, the PNP president said her administration would "have a massive investment boom in tourism" with 6,000 rooms due to come on stream, which will create 10,000 jobs from construction, operation, and linkages.
Additionally, she said the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector will deliver 18,000 jobs in the next five years.
Simpson Miller, however, blew the trumpet of the PNP, using her hour-and-a-half-long presentation to chide the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) over its record in office and sought to assure Jamaicans that her Government has been managing the country's affairs well.
"We are fixing the economy. We are stepping up the progress. We are attracting foreign investments of US$700 million to secure a better Jamaica," Simpson Miller said as she gave party workers and supporters the charge to take the message of the PNP to all parts of the island.
Simpson Miller said many new jobs are now being provided through sectors such as mining, agriculture, tourism and construction. She said, too, that investment in renewable energy not only offers up the opportunity for jobs but will lead to a reduction in the cost of production.
"Let me remind the nation that up to September 2007, the PNP presided over an economy that was growing. The number of persons below the poverty line was less than 10 per cent. The unemployment rate was 9.6 per cent, the lowest in our history. The economy was growing. Jamaica had eight consecutive quarters of positive economic growth up to 2007," Simpson Miller said.
"The JLP took office in September 2007. By the end of 2011, the economy was in shambles, partially because of a global economic meltdown but mainly because of poor management. Their IMF programme was abandoned. The country was in a downward spiral. They presided over 14 consecutive quarters of negative growth. The country's debt ballooned to $1.7 trillion, and approximately 100,000 jobs were lost," Simpson Miller said.
"And that's not all ... because of their conduct, Jamaica was fast becoming a pariah in the community of nations. We must never go back there," she said.
The prime minister said that under her leadership, Jamaica's standing in the world has been restored.
"We have welcomed several heads of state and government to our shores. The president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, visited us in April this year. What a powerful testimony and affirmation from the world's largest economy that Jamaica is open for business," the prime minister said.
She also boasted of her Government's commitment to social protection, noting that $5.5 billion is being spent this year to protect the most vulnerable Jamaicans.
"How come we are doing all of these things and those who never lifted a hand to do what we are doing are saying we are doing nothing? I think you should shut your mouths and allow us to work in the interest of the Jamaican people," said Simpson Miller, who also signalled that a general election might be called early in the new year.
In giving the hint of elections in the air, Simpson Miller spoke about the record of the PNP in promoting infrastructure development across the island.
"We are completing the scenic North-South Highway to improve productivity and make travel for business and leisure easier. I look forward to the opening of the completed highway early in the new year. Oh, what a nice time that will be," Simpson Miller said.
"Comrades, take the word to the hills and valleys, streets and lanes, nooks and crannies. Talk about our achievements at the workplace, in the marketplace, at the bus stops, wherever you meet. Go tell it on the mountain, the great things our mighty PNP has done," Simpson Miller said while reassuring them that "victory, victory, victory is nigh".