Fri | Jul 20, 2018

PM tackles growth and crime in Budget Debate today

Published:Tuesday | March 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

With a 16 per cent increase in the murder rate to date, compared with the similar period last year, Prime Minister Andrew Holness is expected to address national-security concerns in his contribution to the Budget Debate this afternoon. He will also point the way forward to stimulating economic growth amid the apparent abandonment of the much-talked-about five-in-four plan.

Already, Holness has declared a state of public emergency for the crime-ridden St Catherine North Police Division. It is believed that the prime minister will today ask his parliamentary colleagues for an extension of the initial 14 days to carry out extensive security operations targeting criminals in that division who have taken the lives of 48 people since the start of 2018.

Holness, who made the declaration at Jamaica House on Sunday, will provide the country with an update on the operation which, to date, has seen the detention of more than 60 people, including wanted men. The rampant criminality plaguing the St Catherine North Police Division is being blamed on a bitter internal feud between members of the Clansman gang.

At the same time, Holness, who spearheaded the policy that introduced the zones of special operations (ZOSO), might be challenged to comment on a resurgence of violent crimes in Denham Town leading to the deaths of, at least, three persons in less than a week.

These violent flare-ups have triggered increased tensions in the area at a time when the ZOSO was transitioning into the build phase. During this aspect of ZOSO, the Social Intervention Committee rolls out programmes aimed at improving the social fabric of the community.

On the issue of economic growth, the prime minister, who has portfolio responsibility for the powerful Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, is expected to answer Opposition Spokesman on Finance Mark Golding, who claimed the five-in-four target has been discarded.

"This substantial reduction in the Government's official growth forecast, in stark contrast to the imaginary five-in-four, demands an explanation from the Government. Sadly, none has been forthcoming. On behalf of the people, I ask again, was the five-in-four just a public-relations stunt, or was it a pipe dream?" declared Golding during his contribution to the Budget Debate last week.