PRIME MINISTER Portia Simpson Miller yesterday took the oath of office as prime minister for the second time in five years, and then told Jamaicans that her administration faces an awesome task in taking the country on the journey to development.
"The team which I am privileged to lead is just as conscious as I am of the difficult times that confront us on our journey," Simpson Miller said during her inaugural address at King's House in St Andrew yesterday.
Simpson Miller, 66, was presented to the country by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen at 4:27 p.m., sending most of the estimated 10,000 guests into a frenzy.
Noting that her administration would have to reverse the tide of increasing poverty, debt and unemployment, the new prime minister said the first order of business would be to "inform ourselves about the true state of the economy" and then act.
She also said her team would not be daunted by the challenges and called for all Jamaicans to ensure the country can navigate the choppy seas.
"In the global trade winds of change, we are not always at liberty to direct these winds but we must set our sails to pilot the good ship, Jamaica, through these turbulent economic waters to safe harbour," she said.
Last Thursday, Simpson Miller led the People's National Party (PNP) to a 42-21 win over the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), led by Andrew Holness.
Must earn trust
Yesterday, Simpson Miller said the mandate which her party got is a call to action.
"It is a signal from our people that we, the Government, must earn their trust. It also gives us the opportunity to ease the burdens and the pressures of increasing poverty, joblessness and deteriorating standard of living," she said.
Simpson Miller has pledged that on her watch, her administration would "reject governmental extravagance and be vigilant in eliminating corruption".
She said her administration would put the people at the centre of its policies. She also said her administration would pursue tight fiscal policies, reduce the country's debt-to-GDP ratio and maintain key macroeconomic fundamentals.
"We will do all of this while seeking to improve the social conditions of our people, including a serious reduction of the chronic state of unemployment in this country, particularly among our young people," the prime minister said.
In the meantime, Simpson Miller said her administration would be marked by greater openness in government. She said the Opposition would continue to chair parliamentary committees and that all such meetings would be opened to the public.
However, that is not all she promised about the way the Parliament would operate. According to the prime minister, her administration will "strive for more civil and respectful behaviour" in the legislature. She said her administration would seek to earn respect by the way in which members conduct themselves and the business of the country.
Cooperation and teamwork
The prime minister stressed the need for cooperation and teamwork and said she was extending her hand to everyone to work in the building of the country.
"I believe that today marks a critical turning point in our journey. You must believe with me and you must play your part in the process of transformation," she said.
Simpson Miller was first sworn in in March 2006 after P.J. Patterson stepped aside as prime minister. She left office just over a year later after the PNP lost the 2007 general election.
"In our political history, it is a rare opportunity to be given a second chance to lead. It is also a sobering experience. But, I have been strengthened by the experience of going through the first phase of the journey," she said.
Saying she has emerged like the steel in H.D Carberry's poem, 'It takes a Mighty Fire', Simpson Miller said she was a stronger person than five years ago.
"And, after being tested and tempered, I stand before you today, a stronger, better person, who is prepared to be of service to my country and people," she said.