Andrew Holness
Andrew Holness

The new prime minister, who is expected to name his cabinet next week, will take the reins of government for the next five years with a one-seat majority in parliament.

Andrew Holness
Andrew Holness

Holness led his JLP to victory in last Thursday s parliamentary elections, defeating the People’s National Party (PNP) led by former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller by 32-31 seats in the country’s 63-seat House of Representatives.

In his inaugural address, Holness said that he would be dedicated to “a government of partnership” and stressed that “the priority of the government is to grow the economy and create meaningful jobs.”

“To achieve the vision of shared prosperity through inclusive economic growth and meaningful job creation, now more than ever, the government must lead, activate, empower and build real partnerships. I intend to lead a government of partnership,” he said.

“Jamaica is geographically central in the Caribbean. My vision is to turn Jamaica into the center of the Caribbean, a center of finance, trade and commerce, technology and innovation, and the center of arts, culture and lifestyle regionally,” an aspiring Holness told the crowd.

The new prime minister’s ambition is obvious while the challenges he is facing are concrete.

During the past decades, Jamaica has experienced stagnant economy with an average growth rate of less than 1 percent annually. Currently, the country’s per capita income is the lowest among the Anglophone Caribbean islands.

In 2013, Jamaica struck a deal with the International Monetary Fund, under which the global financial institution agreed to inject some 932 million U.S. dollars into the debt-ridden economy in a four-year term.

In return, the Caribbean nation promised to cut government spending, freeze public sector wages and restructure public debts.

With these austerity measures in place, the Simpson Miller administration managed to bridge the fiscal deficit and put the economy back on the track of growth. But high unemployment, growing household cost and high crime rate remain.

The unemployment rate in Jamaica now stands at around 13 percent, with about 38 percent of young people without jobs.

Jamaica is among countries with the highest homicide rate in the world, according to the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime. It recorded 1,207 murders in 2015, up nearly 20 percent year-on-year.

To realize the “partnership for prosperity” which the JLP adopted as its campaign catchphrase in the election, Holness said he will stick to his promise and bring down the cost of household, but urged Jamaicans to stick to family ties and take their own responsibility.

“Our government will ease your tax burden, but you must spend and invest wisely, use the additional money to acquire a house for your family or improve the house you already have, or buy Jamaican-made goods,” he said.

“We will continue our policy of tuition-free education and no user fee access to health care. However, we will enable you to save in an education bond for your children’s education and ensure your healthcare in a national health insurance scheme,” he added.

Holness also made specific request to his nationals. “Our men must take care of their children, and couples must be responsible in having the children they can afford,” he told the sworn-in ceremony.

The request is basic but cannot be more pragmatic in Jamaica, a country where 90 percent of children are born out of wedlock and 50 percent of them do not even have their fathers’ name on the birth certificates.

“Our government commits to creating the environment where families can flourish and form communities from which every ghetto youth can be star. However, every family member must do his or her part by being personally, socially and economically responsible,” he said.

This is the second time Holness has held the top political office in the country, with his first term lasting for only a little more than two months, spanning Oct. 23, 2011 to Jan. 5, 2012.

Holness, born on July 22, 1972, was first elected as member of parliament in 1997 at the age of 25. He succeeded Bruce Golding as both leader of the JLP and the prime minister of Jamaica on Oct. 23, 2011, making him the youngest person to hold this office in Jamaica’s history.

Two months later, he and his party were defeated by the PNP led by Simpson Miller in the parliamentary elections in December 2011, which gained a large majority of 42 over the JLP’s 21 parliamentary seats.

Source; Xinhua

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