Andrew's big day
- Holness advised to focus on IMF when he takes the reins next week
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
Come next Monday morning, when the country's ninth prime minister, 39-year-old Andrew Holness takes his seat at the head of the table to chair his first Cabinet meeting at Jamaica House, one urgent and critical issue is expected to occupy his thoughts - that of how to get the International Monetary Fund (IMF) standby reviews back on track.
His mentor and former prime minister Edward Seaga who himself had a tumultuous journey with the IMF in the 1980's says if Holness resolves the current issues with the fund he can find solutions to any other problem facing the country.
Asked yesterday by The Gleaner what should be the first order of business for Holness on Monday, Seaga said: "There is no choice. It's IMF, IMF, IMF."
Holness will take the reigns of power on Sunday when he is sworn in as head of government by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, the day Bruce Golding tenders his resignation, ending his four-year turbulent tenure in office.
Other issues important
According to Seaga, the other issues facing the country at this time are important, but cannot be compared with the IMF challenges which stand out as dominant.
"If he solves that one he can solve anything else," Seaga told The Gleaner.
The Gleaner also sought Seaga's views on whether Holnessshould make changes to the Cabinet bequeathed to him by the departing Golding.
Said Seaga: "I can't speak for him. He is the prime minister. He must make those choices. The fact of the matter is that he has major issues; he has to walk tenderly in the beginning to keep the right team together to do the job."
Last week, the IMF's senior resident representative in Kingston, Dr Gene Leon said the country was not moving fast enough to implement necessary reforms under the 27-month standby arrangement with the fund.
Speaking during a civil society summit at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston, Leon argued that the structural reforms that were mapped out by the IMF had not been done and the window of opportunity was closing.
Yesterday, Government members of parliament gathered at Jamaica House where they formally signalled their unanimous endorsement of Holness to succeed Golding.
Holness' elevation to the position of prime minister about 4 pm on Sunday will make him the youngest person to take the reins as head of government in Jamaica.
However, while Holness takes up his position as prime minister, he will have to await the formal approval of the delegates of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to take charge as party leader.
In the interim, Golding will remain as party leader until the delegates give Holness the nod at the party's annual conference in November or at an earlier date if set by the party.
Holness, who hails from Ensom City in St Catherine, was appointed education minister in September 2007.
He served as opposition spokesman on land and development from 1999 to 2002 and housing from 2002 to 2005.
The three-term MP for West Central St Andrew was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1997.
He holds a Master's Degree in Development Studies and a Bachelor's Degree in Management Studies from the University of the West Indies.
Throughout his career, he has been actively involved in the area of social welfare, serving as JLP representative to the Jamaica Social Policy Evaluation Project (JASPEV) and the National Poverty Eradication Board (NPEB).
Holness is married to Juliet and the couple has two sons.