Ten years and counting
P.J Patterson is the Prime Minister of Jamaica. The People’s National Party, which he leads, has just achieved a fourth successive term in office, an event unprecedented in the island’s history. Here the leader of the Jamaican member party of the Socialist International reviews his government’s record after a decade in office.
I committed myself very early in life to the cause of helping the political and social advancement of my country and have always felt that it is through the proper exercise of political power that one is able to achieve justice. Over the past ten years we have striven to create a better quality of life for the people and have demonstrated that the political process is the best vehicle through which to work for their betterment.
Fully cognisant of the mission of his generation to advance the process of economic independence, the government has made a priority of placing the Jamaican economy on a truly stable foundation and well on the way to attaining economic growth that is sustainable.
I readily admit that the process of economic reform and institutional strengthening has not been without its pain and sacrifice, but I also know that the exercise was both necessary and worthwhile.
Our mission has been to build a bright future for Jamaica and Jamaicans on a solid foundation that can withstand external and internal economic shocks and the ravages of natural disasters.
Education is the key to individual opportunity and national development and has remained the principal pillar on which we have sought to build an edifice of social justice. This has been based on his unshakeable belief that the level of economic development in any country is invariably related to that country’s investment in the development of its human resources. As the country approached the 21st century there was intensification - a quantum leap - in the sphere of education, which featured:
• Emphasis on Basic School education improvement for an early start in life.
• The most revolutionary programme of primary education ever undertaken in the history of Jamaica.
• Massive extension of educational opportunity at the secondary and tertiary levels with far-reaching physical plant upgrading and curriculum modernisation and improvement.
Our administration continues to be committed to fighting against poverty and its ills and giving practical support to its belief that if the nation is to achieve the desired progress, at all times people must be put first.
In addition to the Possibilities Programme, which is giving street children a new lease on life, the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, launched in 1996 has spent over Ja$1.3 billion on social and economic projects for the benefit of close to one million Jamaicans.
We have re-introduced the National Youth Service, implemented the Jamaica Values and Attitudes programme, created the National Youth Policy and provided training for young people through the Special Training and Employment programme.
With the country’s foray into technology-based enterprises, we have opened up a new world of knowledge and unleashed opportunities for Information Technology training for young people at the low, medium and high ends of the sector.
During the decade 1992-2002, Jamaica made the greatest strides in the development and use of science and technology in the nation’s history. This resulted from the bold new approach we took.
There has been significant movement towards electronic-commerce, e-government and electronic administration and management of plant operations in the bauxite/alumina industry, as well as in the preparation of a clean voters’ list.
The Government has always been fully committed to the fight against the abuse of and illegal trafficking in narcotics. Today, I want to leave no one in any doubt of our political will and to pledge my on-going leadership to prevent drug use, and drug trafficking, and to halt narcotics production in this beautiful island.
Although the international community has rightly joined forces in a mighty assault against this deadly menace, there continues to be a renewed determination on the part of the perpetrators to shift their operations to more vulnerable areas as they become more sophisticated in their criminal activities. We need a successful anti-narcotics strategy for the entire hemisphere.
For us to go forward, we demand the allocation of adequate resources as well as the joint and cooperative effort between the principal market destination and all the other nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. All our nations, bar none, have to improve our response capabilities substantially. The peddlers of death will not quit until they have been totally defeated on the battlefield.
Governments of the Caribbean are summoned not simply to keep pace, but to get ahead of those who seek to corrupt and destroy our respective countries. In order for us to do this, there must be an investment in training. It is the best means of annihilating the enemy which confronts us all.
I want to reiterate my resolve to spearhead that fight and my firm determination that Jamaica and the Caribbean must emerge victorious.
We are grateful for the support in cash and kind received from the United States, the Dublin Group and other external sources. We have committed considerable success in curbing narcotics trafficking in and through Jamaica.
Indeed, Jamaica has seized increasing amounts of cocaine. One is not sure whether that is a good thing or a bad thing in the sense that what it means is that there is a determined effort by the dealers to use every route that is possibly available for exploitation.
As a country we have demonstrated our resolve in many other ways: we have adopted a wide range of legislative and administrative measures; we are involved in several bilateral and multilateral programmes to promote joint actions with other states and the wider international community; in particular, we have initiated and cooperated with the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom in a number of bilateral programmes. These are yielding commendable results; we are strongly committed to continue and intensify these efforts, because we are only too well aware that success in containing, and eventually eliminating, the drug menace is intimately bound up with our economic survival.
Country profile: Jamaica
Population: 2.5 million
Prime minister: Percival James Patterson
The drug problem affects the yam farmer, the worker in the apparel sector, the hotel employee who depends on a thriving tourism sector, the coffee grower, the entertainer who seeks to perform in foreign lands, the Jamaican travelling abroad. But it goes far beyond the economic sphere. Indeed, it goes to the sanctity of life itself.
Our recognition of this phenomenon has led to the current re-organisation of our national firearms and drug intelligence centre. The outstanding successes to date provide the impetus for us to keep on forging ahead. It has not been an easy battle, but we must continue to fight resolutely on many fronts and, believe me, we intend to win.
Money laundering is not yet a problem in Jamaica. But we must have in place the necessary legal tools to prevent its arrival to our shores. We have introduced a Money Laundering Bill as a companion piece of legislation to the Forfeiture Act. This is aimed at drug traffickers and the wider panorama of other economic crimes.
Over the past decade we have spearheaded a multilateral foreign policy that has been responding to the dynamics of global change, yet where possible influencing the pace, direction and nature of globalisation. Jamaica’s successful bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council for the period 2000-2001 with support from Governments from all geographic regions speaks volumes of the high esteem in which Jamaica is held around the world.
The free trade agreements which are in progress with our Latin American and Caribbean neighbours could add momentum and facilitate the convergence towards a Free Trade Association of the Americas. Many of the trade provisions in the successor Lomé Convention will have to be consistent with those in the FTAA and all of these agreements will have to satisfy compatibility and conditions with the World Trade Organisation.
If we succeed in our endeavours, we can look forward to a network of mutually supporting trade and economic agreements that would provide for the CARICOM countries greater market access and economic cooperation arrangements than we have had in our entire history. I must emphasise that this will require very hard work and unprecedented collaboration between government, the private sector, organised labour and the other social partners. All are involved, and all must contribute, if we are to secure the desired outcomes.
The negotiations will not only involve the reduction or removal of trade barriers. They must also deal with other barriers to trade which today are often more important than tariffs. They must encompass rules of competition, intellectual property, trade-related investment measures, financing, and the increasingly important area of services. Linked to that is the mobility of labour to allow greater movement of persons and teams in order to deliver services to on-the-spot users. In our own situation, and as small and very vulnerable economies, we would naturally wish agreement on appropriate waivers, exemptions and transitional provisions, so that our economies can successfully make the full adjustment to regimes of free trade.
I feel that ten years of government and leadership has been crowned by some solid achievements and true public service.
Signed articles represent the views of the authors only, not necessarily those of Socialist Affairs or the Socialist International