Sat | Oct 21, 2017

Andrew's big plan - JLP leader outlines prosperity programme ahead of election

Published:Thursday | February 4, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness on the platform at a Jamaica Labour Party meeting in Gayle, St Mary, on Tuesday.

Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Leader Andrew Holness last night planned to present to Jamaica a 10-plank programme he promised would catapult the nation from "poverty to prosperity".

In an obvious strike at People's National Party Campaign Manager Dr Peter Phillips, the minister of finance and planning who has been named The Gleaner's Man of the Year, Holness "selected" working Jamaicans as his "Persons of the Year" for 2015.

He promised a rewarding package if elected to office on February 25.

"The Jamaica Labour Party is serious about growing the economy and creating jobs," he said in the text of a scheduled national broadcast. "We have the prosperity plan to grow the economy, create real jobs and improve your life."

He also promised to reform government and establish a Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation to ensure

that investments are rapidly facilitated.

Holness made a commitment to restore the Junior Stock Market "to grow equity financing for the expansion of small to medium-size businesses".

His party, he said, was committed to real reform of the tax system.

"This means leaving you with more of your income to save or invest," he said.

Apart from divestment of loss-making government entities, Holness promised to list on the Jamaica Stock Exchange state-owned enterprises, such as the Urban Development Corporation and Factories Corporation of Jamaica.

He has also promised to fix what he termed Jamaica's inadequate water infrastructure and make strategic capital investments in water.

Holness reiterated that his administration would reform the National Housing Trust, the Housing Agency of Jamaica and the Jamaica Mortgage Bank to expand affordable housing construction and reduce interest rates on mortgages.

The JLP leader spoke of the creation of a special council of investment ambassadors to seek out large investors across the globe and bring them to Jamaica.

"We will advance Jamaica as a digital society, including plans to digitise all government records and business processes to improve efficiency and accessibility," said Holness

Another element of his proposal includes revitalising and rebuilding town centres and cities.

"There is so much value lying idle in our real estate in blighted urban areas," he said.

In soliciting the electorate's support at the February 25 polls, Holness suggested one choice was to keep things as they are - stagnant with "no jobs; no economic growth; a broken health system; sliding dollar".

"But above all, a government that fails to protect its citizens, hold its officials to account, and inspire hope," declared Holness.

Charging that the Government points to passing International Monetary Fund (IMF) tests as the main reason to keep them in power, Holness said this means keeping things as they are.

He charged that after increasing taxes and suppressing wages, the Government now wants to charge fees for schools and hospitals.

"Don't be deceived, it is the hardship you endured as taxpayers and workers that passed the IMF test. You are my persons of the year."

Despite strenuous rejections to his claim by Phillips, Holness charged that the Government was calling the election before the new Budget is read.

He said the ninth IMF review indicated that if the Government maintains the current tax-and-cut strategy to pass the tests, tougher measures would have to be implemented to reduce the wage bill.

"For many, this means job cuts and more taxes," he declared.

"The Government must come clean before the election and tell the people what is the real deal, what are they hiding?"